I read the first couple of issues of Jeff Lemire and Andrea Sorrentino's run on "Green Arrow," but between the day job and graduate school, I've fallen a little behind. Reading "Green Arrow #23.1: Count Vertigo," however, was not only an enjoyable experience but it also made me want to stop everything else and catch up on "Green Arrow." That, to me, is exactly what this month-long villains promotion should be doing.
You don't need to have read Count Vertigo's appearances in "Green Arrow" #22-23 before diving into "Green Arrow" #23.1; having not read those issues myself, I didn't feel lost or confused. Lemire is clearly of the school of thought that this will be the first issue of "Green Arrow" for a lot of readers, and I appreciate that he made sure it was easily accessible. "Green Arrow" #23.1 follows Count Vertigo as he returns to a formative place from his youth, and from there traces his life up to the present day. It's a genuinely dark story, one that shows the awful things that Count Vertigo went through even as you see how he shifted from an innocent boy to a psychotic adult.
What surprised me was how gripping this story is, from start to finish. Part of it is that Lemire gives Count Vertigo a strong voice. You can hear the frustration in it as he's a child in the Crius Hospital, and its eventual shift to arrogance and disdain as an adult. When he explodes at the other children in the hospital with his cry of, "You will not disrespect me!" it's such a perfect choice of words; not only is it a phrase that would normally not be said by someone of his age, but it says so much about how even then he viewed the world. This is a person who was told from an early age that he was the destined ruler of Vlatava, and the way he treats everyone around him just drips with that believed privilege.
It doesn't hurt that Sorrentino's art just gets better and better. He and colorist Marcelo Maiolo are turning out some amazing images in the pages of "Green Arrow" #23.1. The first view of Crius Hospital is breathtaking, with the sepia colors overlaid upon the lone building in the plain with the mountains off in the distance. It's a stunning drawing, one that brings in both beauty and a strong sense of isolation. His people look great, too. At the bottom of page 5, the echoing in the present day of "...okay, Momma," wouldn't have half as much impact if it wasn't for the haunted look on Count Vertigo's face. The darkened eyes, the stoic expression... it's unnerving, and deliberately so. And whenever Count Vertigo unleashes his power, I love that Sorrentino and Maiolo help make it feel disorienting by shifting the color palette and the starkness of the lines. It's as if the world has slipped out from underneath you, and that's exactly what Count Vertigo's abilities should do to its victims.
"Green Arrow" #23.1 is a huge success, and at the end of the day I feel like it's a template for future event tie-in books to follow. Lemire and Sorrentino have kept their book's narrative moving forward, while still providing a story that stands alone on its own right for new readers. Of course, they achieve both of those points while entertaining and engaging their audience. Once you read "Green Arrow" #23.1, just understand that you'll need to read all the other issues by Lemire and Sorrentino, too. Well done.