The creative team turns a filler-arc into a sharp critique of the prison-industrial complex in the “Better Than” finale! Recommended Reading.
GREEN ARROW (2016) #42 “Better Than Finale”
Writer: Mairghread Scott
Artist: Matthew Clark
Inks: Sean Parsons
Cover Artist: Tyler Kirkham & Arif Prianto; variant by Mike Grell
Colorist: Jason Wright
Letters: Deron Bennett
Publisher: DC COMICS
What You Need to Know:
Oliver finds himself stuck in the middle of a metahuman prison riot with no backup. The question that looms is whether he’s enough of a real hero to handle the threat with nothing but his quiver?
What You’ll Find Out:
Oliver manages to hold his own against the Parasite long enough for the warden of Stryker’s to arrive with a serum that will sedate Parasite. Eventually, Oliver manages to deliver the serum, but the questions of humane treatment of prisoners, even metahuman ones, is the real story here.
What Just Happened?
After what felt like a slower start last issue, this issue simultaneously slows down and picks up the narrative pace. A two-part arc is difficult to manage, for sure, in the sense that the team must create a compelling and exciting enough start to lure the reader in while still delivering enough payoff for it to have been worth money to invest in a fill-in story like this one. As this issue developed, it became clear that, in the first issue, the lead was buried, in that this arc is a very intelligent commentary on the prison-industrial complex in the United States. Parasite is painted as a tragic figure, with powers beyond poor Joshua’s control that forced him into a lifestyle that necessitated his removal from society at large, though all of his actions started simply as a means of survival. Once that survival instinct finally started to fade to apathy, he was captured, imprisoned, and treated like an animal, merely furthering the tried and true trope of accepting the roles society casts for people. Treat a man as a criminal long enough, he will accept the role eventually. To position Oliver at the center of this tale at a moment when we see the return of a socially conscious Green Arrow was a stroke of brilliance by Scott.
My critique of Clark remains the same. It is clear he is exceptionally talented. Stylistically, I appreciate his character renderings, as well as the way he plays with perspective. The page layouts, however, become standardized in their lack of uniformity, thus bleeding the power of breaking frames for effect. Clark is far from a newcomer to the industry, and I greatly appreciate inventive page layouts, but I would caution, as I did with the last issue, on overuse without bearing a direct role in the narrative process.
Final Thought: What began as a filler arc turned into something special. With a few minor tweaks to pacing and framing, this arc could have been Eisner material. As it stands, it was very good and definitely worth a read!
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