I'll be honest and straightforward here: Green Arrow has never been my favorite character. I bought "Longbow Hunters," I read Kevin Smith's run, and dabbled in Meltzer's run. I never ventured into Winnick's run, until Cliff Chiang joined Winnick for the launch of "Green Arrow and Black Canary". Even that didn't really do much for me, aside from the fabulous art from Chiang. Once he left, I stopped even looking at the book. So that brings us to this issue and the "Faces of Evil" tie-in.
As for the "Faces of Evil" brand being deposited on the covers of many of DC's January issues, I find it inconsistent and meaningless. In this case, we get a cover with Merlyn on it. Would it have been any less poignant to have Merlyn on the cover without the "Faces of Evil" banner? Isn't every month similar to this in its "eventness"? I mean, after all, shouldn't we be reading adventures about our heroes fighting their villains? I'm not sure why DC thought this might work, as a non-event event, but to me, it seems like a half-hearted effort.
This issue's "Face of Evil" has Merlyn (the archer, not the wizard) featured on the cover, so it stands to reason he'd be featured inside. And he is. Kreisberg wastes no time showing how terribly dangerous Merlyn can be, as he snuffs out four people in the first four pages. It's a deadly brilliant use of a potentially deadly brilliant villain. Aside from some growing subplots, the remainder of the issue focuses on the inevitable confrontation between Green Arrow and Merlyn (although with DC's ongoing exploitation of the color wheel, maybe we should call Merlyn "Black Arrow"). Kreisberg gets out of the way of choreographing the arrowfest, dropping high notes into the fight and letting Mike Norton work his magic.
Norton's magic is just that. After all, it cannot be easy to make an arrow fight seem interesting, let alone having to pace it all out and frame the sequence perfectly. Norton's art here is a visible shade grittier than his work has been previously, such as on the "All-New Atom." His storytelling is still great, but the figure work carries more of a Howard Porter quality than a Paul Pelletier sensibility. For Star City, it works brilliantly.
The subplots mentioned earlier are almost more interesting than the main story. Green Arrow and Black Canary (who by the way, feels more like an afterthought or a sidekick more than a partner) meet Lieutenant Hilton, a new badge on the Star City law enforcement scene. Kreisberg brilliantly portrays the awkwardness adults feel as they attempt to make friends in establishing Arrow's relationship with Hilton.
The other subplot, which will become the main plot in the next issue, is driven by a seeming stalker obsessed with Green Arrow. Her rationale for the obsession is delivered in this issue and her dedication to Arrow is just creepy. The next issue blurb throws out the moniker of "Poison Arrow" which immediately threw that dreadful ABC song into my head: "Who broke my heart? You did, you did. Shoot that Poison Arrow through my heart. . ." Ugh. Thank you Andrew Kreisberg.
All in all, this was a decent issue. The right mix of heroism, adventure, creepy stalkerness and burgeoning professional friendships. I would expect Kreisberg to play up the partnership between Arrow and Canary a bit more in future issues, since Dinah really only seemed to be there as an adjunct contact to Oracle and for the benefit of one well-placed sonic scream.
Check out the preview if you want a little sample of this issue.