Green Arrow 80th Anniversary 100-Page Super Spectacular #1 Review: A Pitch-Perfect Tribute to DC's Emerald Archer

Green Arrow’s legacy in the DC universe is a funny thing. Despite being one of the publisher’s most consistently published characters — and one of the few who survived the drastic reboots and remakes between the Golden and Silver Ages largely intact — he hasn’t always possessed the same prominence as DC's other mainstay characters. While a certain eight-season television series may have given a subset of fans their own set of preconceived notions about the Emerald Archer, the pages of DC Comics have proved that there’s much more to him that deserves to be honored and appreciated. Luckily, this week’s Green Arrow 80th Anniversary 100-Page Super Spectacular reveals that value, providing a dynamic, excellent, and heartfelt celebration of what sets Oliver Queen and his “Arrow fam” of family and friends apart from their surrounding superhero world.

As the title suggests, Green Arrow 80th Anniversary 100-Page Super Spectacular showcases a series of stories from across Green Arrow’s comics career. These range from the Golden Age escapades in Mariko Tamaki and Javier Rodriguez's “The Disappearing Bandit” to more modern adventures like Benjamin Percy and Otto Schmidt's “The Sympathy of the Woods,” and everything in between. While the stories range wildly in the eras to which they pay tribute, the characters they include, and the threats Green Arrow must face, they all capture the soul associated with this mantle and those tied to it.

As someone who has read more Green Arrow appearances than I care to count, one of the strongest elements standing out in the 80th Anniversary 100-Page Super Spectacular is how perfectly it captures so many different eras. Nearly every story feels like a comfortable fit amongst the particular run of comics to which it is paying tribute — something that isn’t always the case with retrospectives of this sort, which either sit in a nebulous point in time or rest on referencing a singular event. Obviously, much of this is thanks to having certain creators or entire creative teams return, as many installments feel just like previously-unpublished chapters of beloved runs, whether that is “The Sympathy of the Woods” for Percy and Schmidt’s Rebirth era, Mike Grell and Lovern Kindzierski’s “...Just the Usual Sort of Stuff” referencing Grell’s "Longbow Hunters" era, or Phil Hester and Ande Parks’ “Star City Star” pulling from Hester and Parks' run with writers Judd Winick and Kevin Smith.

But the stories that truly feel like a marvel are the ones with entirely fresh creative teams that still manage to expertly bottle the essence of the comics they’re acknowledging. “The Disappearing Bandit” kicks things off with Golden Age charm and eccentricities that initially gave Green Arrow and Speedy staying power, and Stephanie Phillips and Chris Mooneyham's “Who Watches the Watchtower?” captures Oliver’s dynamic with the “Satellite Era” Justice League in stellar fashion. Profoundly, closing out the issue — and taking the topic of Green Arrow’s legacy to a whole new level — is Larry O’Neil and Jorge Fornes’ “Tap Tap Tap,” a beautiful nearly-wordless tribute to the life of Denny O’Neil, whose Bronze Age run on Green Lantern/Green Arrow forever reshaped the character.

If anything, each story is a testament to just how much Oliver Queen and the Green Arrow mantle have evolved before readers’ eyes, and how many distinct places there are to fall in love with this character all over again. Amidst it all, there are some heartfelt and brilliantly crafted character moments for Oliver Queen, whether in an expertly-worded monologue or in an earnest exchange with another character. While all of the issue’s scripts are without flaw, “Star City Star,” Tom Taylor and Nicola Scott's “Punching Evil,” and Devin Grayson and Max Fiumara’s “Green-Man and Autumn-Son” all contained lines of dialogue that took my breath away.

Much of the standout dialogue happens to focus on Oliver’s supporting cast, all of whom are given some meaningful moments to shine. Even as Green Arrow is the special’s title, the issue also proves to be a multifaceted showcase of Black Canary. From “Punching Evil,” which subtly spotlights the early Bronze Age romance of Dinah and Oliver, to the decades-spanning canon of Ram V and Christopher Mitten’s “The Arrow and the Song,” what the two heroes mean to each other is put on full display. Nowhere is that the case quite like Vita Ayala and Laura Braga’s “Happy Anniversary,” a showcase of the pair’s domestic dynamic that proves to be an electrifying story about Dinah herself. Other members of the “Arrow fam” are given epic chances to shine as well, whether it be the deep dive into Roy Harper’s history in “Green-Man and Autumn-Son,” Mia Dearden getting her due in “Star City Star,” or Connor Hawke’s tenure as Green Arrow being appreciated in Brandon Thomas and Jorge Corona's “One.”

It’s no easy task to capture the aesthetic essence of eight decades in a character’s canon, but the 80th Anniversary special manages to do exactly that, with the help of some technical flourishes that could only be brought to life today. Rodriguez’s art and colors on “The Disappearing Bandit” perfectly embody the timeless silliness of Oliver and Roy’s Golden Age years (right down to bringing back the Arrow Signal), but with a level of craftsmanship that feels inherently modern. Mooneyham and Mike Spicer’s work on “Who Watches the Watchtower?” is also a standout, one that takes the familiar aesthetics of the Satellite Era and gives them an eccentric vibe that matches the one that Ollie brought to the team. Corona and Matheus Lopes’ work on “One” also brings a kinetic feel to Connor’s crusade, Scott and Annette Kwok’s work on “Punching Evil” is brilliantly rendered, and Braga and Adriano Lucas’ work on “Happy Anniversary” has now shifted my standards for art on a Green Arrow/Black Canary team-up, with one splash page that elicited a genuine gasp from me. The lettering work throughout the issue is also stellar, but Clem Robins’ work on “Star City Star” and Becca Carey’s work on “Happy Anniversary” are personal favorites of mine.

From start to finish, Green Arrow 80th Anniversary 100-Page Super Spectacular is an absolutely incredible reading experience, one possessing creativity, earnestness, and hope bound to stick with this hero and his readers for decades to come. A sense of love resides in every single panel—love for Oliver Queen and the characters in his orbit, love for the evolutions that readers experienced across his career, and a love for what the world of superhero comics is uniquely capable of accomplishing. This is easily one of the most rewarding Green Arrow titles printed in many years, and perhaps the single best modern anniversary anthology published by DC Comics. Whether you’re a die-hard Green Arrow fan or just seeking to dive into his comics stories for the first time, this special could not be a better place to begin.

Published by DC Comics

On June 29, 2021

Written by Mariko Tamaki, Tom Taylor, Stephanie Phillips, Mike Grell, Ram V, Brandon Thomas, Devin Grayson, Phil Hester, Vita Ayala, Benjamin Percy, Jeff Lemire, and Larry O'Neil

Art by Javier Rodriguez, Nicola Scott, Chris Mooneyham, Mike Grell, Christopher Mitten, Jorge Corona, Max Fiumara, Phil Hester, Ande Parks, Laura Braga, Otto Schmidt, Andrea Sorrentino, and Jorge Fornes

Colors by Javier Rodriguez, Annette Kwok, Mike Spicer, Lovern Kindzierski, Ivan Plascencia, Matheus Lopes, Max Fiumara, Trish Mulvihill, Adriano Lucas, Otto Schmidt, Jordie Bellaire, and David Stewart

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Letters by Andworld Design, Clayton Cowles, Tom Napolitano, Travis Lanham, Aditya Bidikar, Steve Wanda, Ariana Maher, Clem Robins, Becca Carey, Nate Piekos, Rob Leigh, and David Stewart

Cover by Dan Mora