THIS WEEK: In Aquaman/Green Arrow – Deep Target #1, the two titular characters get a new seven-part miniseries after spending a little bit of time on the shelf. Plus, DC Comics drops a pair of new horror tinged superhero stories.
Note: This piece contains spoilers. If you want a quick, spoiler-free buy/pass recommendation on the comics in question, check out the bottom of the article for our final verdicts.
Writer: Brandon Thomas
Artist: Ronan Cliquet
Colors: Ulises Arreola
Letters: Josh Reed
Huh. That was my reaction a few months ago when Aquaman/Green Arrow -Deep Target #1 was first announced. Green Arrow is one of my favorite DC Comics characters (I always really liked Robin Hood growing up as well), and he hadn’t had his own solo title in a few years, dating back to early 2019. In fact, the last new issue of Green Arrow hit in March 2019, an entire year before the pandemic, which may as well be another life ago.
Aquaman had been without his own headlining title for less time, and now the two characters were being paired together. The puzzlement came because I’d never really considered them as related characters. Arrows, after all, don’t really work super well in water, although surely Silver Age Oliver Queen had arrows that could defy those physics. The more I thought about it, however, the more curious I became about this strange pairing. DC Comics had, after all, felt a bit risk averse since the start of 2016’s DC Rebirth initiative, sticking to familiar rehashes of characters in ways we’d regularly seen.
All of that is to say that this week I came into Aquaman/Green Arrow – Deep Target #1 intrigued yet relatively clueless as to what to expect from this title. I’m happy to report now, though, that I enjoyed this book quite a bit. The first act — and really the entire concept — is predicated on a madcap twist (one that would have been right at home with the aforementioned Silver Age Ollie and his trick arrows), wherein some shanninigans have swapped Green Arrow with Aquaman. Details are so far scarce, but the two title characters here have essentially been Freak Friday-ed.
This type of pulp-evoking story setup, I think, is indicative of a trend I’ve been picking up on of late throughout DC Comics line, especially in the titles outside of Batman, Superman, and Wonder Woman. Creators seem liberated here, free to be zany in ways they maybe haven’t been in the past decade or so, when gritty and grim often ruled the day. That’s not to say all of these books are now disposable, filled with fourth wall-breaking one-liners that totally throw any sort of conflict or traditional storytelling conventions out the window.
No, there’s just a few hints of the fantastical woven into books that feel freshly-aware that this entire superhero idea has become increasingly absurd. Case in point, on page three of Aquaman/Green Arrow – Deep Target #1, our presumed goatee-ed bad guy shoots a baby t-rex with a pistol, before teleporting to parts unknown via some technology in space. This is part of the reason I read comics, the space in the margins to be totally absurd with narratives. If I wasn’t interested in an Atlantean getting swapped with the world’s best archer as a baby t-rex murderer lurks, I’d instead go off to read more literary fiction. Put simply, this book is built on that good comics #*@&.
Of course, it would all feel like a waste of time if the creators weren’t good at making comics. Writer Brandon Thomas increasingly feels like a looming star at DC, a versatile and surprising writer with a sense for ideas that hit the page and just work. Meanwhile, artist Ronan Cliquet teams well here with colorist Ulises Arreola to enliven the many (many!) big set pieces in this book, many of which are beneath the sea. And letterer Josh Reed remains a secret weapon in DC Comics (just pick up almost any Brian Michael Bendis-penned book).
There’s definitely room for this book to interweave more meaning and focus, as the best superhero creators are able to do with homages to zany Silver Age comics foundations (see most recent work written by Grant Morrison). I didn’t quite see something much deeper (not an intentional pun) in this first issue, but it’s not so superficial that the window has closed for this seven-issue miniseries to get there, or at least to get close.
So, if you’ve been wanting for new Green Arrow-headlined content like I have, this book is a must. It’s not going to be a new defining run on the character, but not every character needs that. Certainly not all the time. It is, however, a madcap and pulpy adventure story that subtly seems to promise the twists have just begun. And I’m glad something this odd and unpredictable exists.
- There are a pair of new monster-adjacent superhero comics out this week from DC Comics, starting with DC vs. Vampires #1, from writers James Tynion IV & Matthew Rosenberg; artist Otto Schmidt; and letterer Tom Napolitano. First and foremost, this is a relentlessly good-looking comic (Schmidt to me is supremely underrated), especially as it uses colors, from the blood red tinges of the vampire scenes to the green hints in all the Hal Jordan scenes. At its core though, this book is (so far) more of a conspiracy than a horror romp, and I like that choice. It’s certainly done really well here.
- The other superheroes-and-monsters comic this week, Task Force Z #1, is very different. Whereas DC vs. Vampires #1 is obviously and immediately out of continuity, this book is very much set within what’s currently happening in the wider Bat-comics line. It’s written by Rosenberg, penciled by Eddy Barrows, inked by Eber Ferreira, colored by Adriano Lucas, and lettered by Rob Leigh. It’s elevator pitch is that the villains recently killed in the attack on Arkham Asylum have been revived as zombies (but they don’t use that word!) and are now a Suicide Squad-esque strike team managed by the Red Hood, Jason Todd. That’s a great concept, and I’m definitely excited to see where it goes. This first issue maybe had a bit more setting up to do than I expected, but it gets to a good place by the end.
- Meanwhile, Robin #7 continues an absolutely excellent Damian Wayne run from writer Joshua Williamson, artist Gleb Melnikov (with Max Dunbar), colorist Luis Guerrero, and letterer Troy Peteri. A deadly tournament is a great concept for Damian, made better in this book by all the twists and also the idea that we’re on Lazarus Island. Williamson and Melnikov also continue to nail the tone on this book, making comics that are — simply put — a great time.
- Finally, Detective Comics #1044 is great and we should all treasure both Mariko Tamaki and especially Dan Mora.
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