We have seen DC Comics present mature comic and graphic novels before, but usually they are under the Vertigo imprint and with characters not native to the DC Universe. They took a chance for sure with the three-part Green Arrow and Black Canary comic that takes place in the future. Titled Green Arrow: The Longbow Hunters, it shows Black Canary tied up and tortured. This miniseries from 1987 is controversial for sure.
The story begins with us seeing Green Arrow and Black Canary in a new home that they had just bought. While in bed, Oliver (Green Arrow) tells Dinah that he wants children. Dinah disagrees and says that she does not mind making children, but refuses to make orphans. This bums out Oliver something fierce, and it says with him.
Meanwhile, it is Oliver’s birthday and he needs to out and sharpen his skills while hunting down a serial killer who has been killing prostitutes. Simultaneously, a situation with drugs is in the works and a Yakuza assassin appears to murder older men who have not served during World War 2. She, like Green arrow, uses a bow to attack her prey.
Back at home, Green Arrow finds a note from Black Canary saying that she needs to go undercover to thwart a drug operation. Sensing that Dinah is in danger, he investigates to find Black Canary tied up and tortured with a hunting knife. He is shocked to see Black Canary naked with only a shirt on, while a heavy middle-aged man cuts it open. He teases a gang-rape while our mysterious assassin shoots an arrow right into him. Oliver cradles Dinah in his arms while she apologizes for missing his birthday.
Green Arrow: The Longbow Hunters is not only a great and unusual story from DC Comics, but has some impressive artwork as well. Written and illustrated by Mike Grell, panels are illustrated in what appears to be colored pencils. There are also some especially interesting panels of portraits done on gray-tone paper and applied with chalk and charcoal. His realistic art style adds an enormous amount of credibility to DC two characters who were never before portrayed so maturely.
Despite realism and shocking moments like seeing Black Canary tied up and tortured, Mike Grell’s Green Arrow: The Longbow Hunters made a huge splash. It was nominated for an Eisner Award, lead to an on-going Green Arrow comic book series and influenced the CW television show Arrow.
Be sure to pick it up.