Thursday, May 16, 2013

Character Studies

Spoiler Edition

In Red Hood and the Outlaws 20, James Tynion IV delves deeper into Jason Todd's psyche, and therefore, deeper into his first story arc for the book. Having had his bad memories erased, Jason is a happy dude, but Roy isn't buying it, even after being shown the horrors of Jason's life, because as he says, they've all been through horrible times, which he's then reminded of by the little All-Caste memory stealing guy whose name is escaping me. Shown the memory of when Jason helped Roy out back in Jason's Robin days, Roy learns something new: that was the night Jason later learned his mother was alive, leading to the sequence of events resulting in Jason's brutal murder. But Tynion isn't done with stripping away the mental blocks our heroes have built up in their minds to protect themselves. Kori resists the attempt to reveal her secret, something apparently connected with her one-time relationship with Dick Grayson. But Roy does learn she'd been lying to him, that she wouldn't forget him if he wasn't there, that her emotions are even stronger than humans. And while Roy feels the one thing solid and dependable is falling apart, the team the three of them have become, we learn there is more going on than Jason denouncing his painful memories; the entire team is in deadly danger. Then Green Arrow is thrown into the mix, to lead into the RHATO Annual coming out in two weeks.

What I really liked about this, aside from Tynion's skill with dialogue and his feel for the characters, is how he's building on the earlier stories in the book. This might or might not be in any way similar to where Lobdell intended the book to go, but it fits, with one little hiccup. Ollie declares at the end that he needs to go rescue Roy again, but he didn't do a thing when Roy was about to be executed in Qurac. It was up to Jason, with Kori's help, to do the rescuing that time. I hope Tynion deals with that inconsistency in the annual. Why wouldn't Ollie help Roy then, but will try now?

Still, the transition from one creative team to the next is fairly seamless, which is how a change in creative team should be, and the art by Julius Gopez is lovely.

Nightwing 20 has Dick/Nightwing in Chicago, continuing in his hunt for the still alive Tony Zucco. Nightwing is not welcome in a city that has a serious distaste and distrust of costumed crimefighters, while Dick deals with some complications with the sublet he's staying in, introducing a new set of characters. It will be interesting to see if he ends up settling in Chicago for the long term or if he returns to Gotham City after this adventure. There isn't much character development here, mostly just continuing setup for the main action as Dick seeks info on where Zucco might be holed up. But it's a nice start for a change of direction for the book, while continuing with the theme of "it's personal" for Dick, first with the circus and Owls storylines, and now the hunt for Zucco, the man responsible for his parents' deaths.

Arrow (TV version)
Arrow ended its freshman season on a high note. This is a series that started strong, if not polished, slowly built up the tension and mythology, and despite a bit of slowdown to get in a lot of character bits and backstory, finished the season with a sorta cliffhanger finale that's as good as it gets in network TV.

The showdown between Arrow and Merlyn finally happened and it was a doozy. Malcolm Merlyn proved to be a formidable foe, both in archery and other physical skills, and his intelligent scheming. While Felicity Smoak talks Quentin Lance (why his name is Quentin is beyond me) through disarming the Merlyn's earthquake device, unknown to them, a second device is ready to go off. Which is does, leading to a death of a lead character (nope, I'm not gonna spoil that one), a death that should resonate through the second season.

The actors are an appealing bunch and the characters are fully realized. Merlyn isn't evil. He's just a man made bitter after his wife's murder who thinks his solution, to blow up the poor, unruly neighborhood called the Glades, is the only way to save the city he loves. That he's ruthless in that ambition, killing as he feels necessary, are acts he rationalizes with a cliched but plausible ends justifies the means defense. John Barrowman has been pitch perfect as Malcolm, oozing with charm and barking with anger as required, the emotion impossible to miss. Stephen Amell makes for a perfect Ollie despite not having blond hair, I can't imagine anyone playing Lance now other than the man brilliantly cast in the role -- Paul Blackthorne -- and Coltan Haynes as Roy Harper, despite not being a redhead, is wonderful. The rest of the cast shines, those playing characters from the comics and those playing original ones.

The show is told in two timeframes, Ollie's five years on the not-so-deserted island and current time. The first island year ends with Ollie killing with a bow and arrow for the first time, and the current year ends with the story threads being woven over the year coming to a head. Characters grow, change, and learn actions have consequences. And what the show was at the start, a story of Oliver Queen trying to right wrongs as per his father's last request, becomes something much more. As Ollie's mission changed, the show got stronger and more intricate. This is an Oliver Queen who could exist in real life.

What I most admire about the show is how they're showing respect for the fans of the Green Arrow comics while making the show fresh and exciting, with something for both fans and for newcomers to the character. Just the little references make the show fun, from Bludhaven to Ted Kord Industries. If you haven't given the show a try, and you love Green Arrow, you should. It's one of the best comics adaptations for TV, because it knows it's a TV show, not a comic or even a movie. The show embraces the format, working with TV's strengths to allow a long story to be told nearly in real time, while including shorter stories. For me, it's must-watch TV.

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