OK, so while this review is a wee bit late, here it is. And hopefully, it will make you think about picking up this trade paper back.
Green Arrow: The Longbow Hunters is a game changing story for “Arrow” as is does something that had not been done with good old Ollie up until that point.
It made him a very believable character. Released in 1987, Longbow Hunters is very much the Green Arrow’s equal to 1986’s Batman: The Dark Knight Returns
Here is the plot summary of Longbow Hunters according to Wikipedia, and I will preface this with [Spoiler Alert]:
On his fortieth birthday, Ollie Queen relocates from Star City to Seattle, Washington, the home of his girlfriend Dinah Lance. He changes his costume and abandons the use of his trademark trick arrows for more traditional archery equipment. As Green Arrow tries to track down a serial killer, the Seattle Slasher, killing prostitutes in the area, Black Canary attempts to infiltrate a drug racket which may have ties to Kyle Magnor, a wealthy shipping magnate.
Oliver tracks the killer to the abandoned Seattle Underground section of the city, discovering that the killer is a disturbed ex-tunnel rat from the Vietnam War. The Slasher jumps Oliver and gets away to apparently kill again, but a mysterious female archer with an elaborate dragon tattoo on her arm shoots the slasher (as well as a passing motorist) before vanishing.
The archer is revealed to be Shado, the daughter of a Yakuza agent incarcerated during World War II, where American soldiers, including Magnor, forced him to reveal a major cache of Yakuza gold. Dishonored, the agent killed himself in atonement. When Shado comes of age, she is charged with killing those who dishonored her father and the Yakuza. The passing motorist she killed was one of those soldiers, who used the stolen gold to build a financial empire. Ollie tracks Shado down and fares poorly in the confrontation.
At home, Ollie hears on the news that the drug supplier Dinah had been investigating was found dead and mutilated earlier that day. Panicked, Oliver races to the dockside warehouse Dinah suspected the drugs were being distributed from. There, he finds Dinah tied up, tortured, and on the verge of death. Without hesitation Ollie kills her torturer, one of Shado’s intended victims, along with the others in the drug lab. After learning about what happened at the docks, Magnor warns his CIA contact, Osborne, that he wants better protection on their next deal. Osborne assigns weapons master Eddie Fyers to eliminate Shado.
After killing another target, Shado leaves a message for Ollie to meet her on Mt. Rainier where she intends to kill Magnor. Although Ollie initially tries to stop her, he notices Fyers aiming a sniper rifle at Shado and moves to subdue him, inadvertently giving Magnor a chance to escape. Ollie also confronts Osborne about the use of an Iranian arms deal to fund Nicaraguan Contras, mirroring the events of the Iran-Contra story which broke months earlier. Ollie confronts Magnor in his office. Ollie intends to frame him for the murder of the drug supplier, but Shado shoots the target through the window and kills him.
Green Arrow: The Longbow Hunters was nominated for a 1988 Eisner Award for Best Finite Series.
The series proved popular enough that DC Comics commissioned the first ever Green Arrow ongoing series, also written by Grell. The series ran for 11 years. Grell also wrote the official Post-Crisis origin of Green Arrow in Green Arrow: The Wonder Year.
My Review [Further Spoilers]:
Well, here is the skinny. I read the series, and it was awesome. No frills, just good, gritty, realistic action. Longbow Hunters is very much a story that changed the tone of the character, as Oliver Queen takes on the internal struggle of an aging hero that has lost a step here and there.
Couple this with the struggle with Dinah (Black Canary) as she reveals that she does not want to have kids as she does not want to create orphans, as she and Ollie are both superheroes, and as a result, they have an incredibly high mortality rate by nature of what they do.
Ollie, does also come to the conclusion that he was allowing his trick arrows to do most of the work for him, and feels that he has really gotten soft.
So there is a great story to be read, and as you can deduce there are many things in this story that has been part of the ongoing “Arrow” TV series.
To me though, there is something that really stands out above many of the comics of that era and that is the depth that this story really has. The story is a pretty easy read, but at the same time, the level of maturity would have placed it as a Vertigo title (if Vertigo existed at the time).
Violent, gritty, and dark in tone… the story really is accentuated extremely well by the artwork in the comic as well.
But I totally recommend picking it up, as it is in print yet again by DC (mostly due to the TV series being so popular) and I will tell you one more thing about this story. It upped the ante.
If I really had to do a comparison of this story to other comics that I have read, I would without question have to put it up there with Frank Miller’s work on Daredevil over at Marvel, and also with Dark Knight Returns.
I give this 5 out of 5 pints of stout on this one. Go and get it, and read it… read it now.