Anyone who has picked up a DC book in the last few weeks has seen the preview for the upcoming Green Arrow series. It’s technically perfect.
A woman runs alone at night through a moodily-lit, nearly-deserted city. A gang of men follow her. They’re wearing outfits that wouldn’t mark them as especially threatening in real life, but in comics are basically thug suits – black leather jackets and boots, with patches of their hair shaved. This type has been causing trouble for women in moodily-lit cities since the thirties, and will probably continue causing trouble for them in the twenty-second century.
The woman keeps running, coming to a wooded area. The men behind her shout crude, insinuating, but PG-rated threats, their intent unmistakable. Eventually one of them catches her. Escape is impossible. All is lost.
Suddenly, something knocks him off of her! A voice calls out in the darkness. Enter the hero.
Like I said, the technical perfection of the sequence is obvious. There is even some subtle detail work that clues the reader in on the state of things in the city. For example, the woman being chased runs right past a police station without even trying to go in. Clearly, the law isn’t being enforced in that city.
Don’t even pretend that that sequence, older by far than comic books, doesn’t draw in readers. It hasn’t stuck around because it’s useless. It’s a situation that is recognizable, horrible, and yet comforting, because any reader knows that it’s a set up for the hero’s entrance. There isn’t a doubt in anyone’s mind that the hero will make an entrance. It’s a set up for an iconic hero, and DC does well with iconic heroes.
The trouble is, it’s the set up for any hero. Any hero at all. You could paint over Green Arrow on the first splash page and no one would be the wiser. As previews go, this one is giving us a hero, but it isn’t giving us any hero in particular.
Some readers will have noticed that I’ve been struggling with the Green Arrow book for the past . . . ever. I think that if I could just accept that the book isn’t ever going to go in the direction I hoped it had, Robin Hood and his Merry C0-Heroes, I might just enjoy the solitary Oliver Queen in his urban forest. At the same time, throwing away every other Arrow in for this guy, who is interchangeable with any other hero in the DCU, it seems like a bad trade.