Batman In Print – Quiver (2003)

Quiver (2003) Written by Kevin Smith, Illustrated by Phil Hester

By Jonathan Kemmerer-Scovner

Oliver Queen, the Green Arrow, has been dead for years.  So what is he doing fighting crime, corruption, and the Black Manta in Star City, with no memory of the last years of his life?  Why does Etrigan the Demon want Ollie dead?  And who is Stanley Dover, the man helping Oliver Queen return to crime fighting while pursuing an agenda of his own?

When the Justice League is confronted with the unexpected and unexplained return of the Emerald Archer, they turn to the only man with the skills to solve a mystery that goes back years and crosses the lines of life, death and reality – Batman, the World’s Greatest Detective.

In April of 2001, DC resurrected the Green Arrow.  Written by Kevin Smith and penciled by Phil Hester, Quiver is a story deeply rooted in the continuity of the DC universe and the history of Oliver Queen.  In the introduction of the hardback edition, Smith says that Quiver is, among other things, “a Green Arrow story about second chances, and how bad-ass Batman is.”

Batman is a central figure in the comic, playing a major role in three of the ten chapters and getting some of the best lines in the book.  While some authors use action to drive home the nature of the characters, Smith draws on his experience with the movies and gives us some wonderful dialogue.  The banter between the Green Arrow and Batman is sharp, funny, and engaging and serves to illustrate the differences between the two heroes.

As the Bat-plane cuts through the night on its way to Star City,  Green Arrow says, “This Beats the Arrow-plane all to hell!”

“Arrow-plane.”  Batman deadpans.  “Haven’t heard that in years.  You retired it years ago.  Along with the Arrow-Car.”

“What about the Arrow Cave?” Oliver asks.

“Good lord man—did you ever have an original thought back then?” Batman responds, disgusted.

The Green Arrow started out as a Batman clone.  It wasn’t until the legendary team of Denny O’Neil and Neal Adams got hold of him in the late 60’s that Green Arrow began to acquire the personality that would make him a perfect foil for the Green Lantern in the landmark Green Lantern/Green Arrow stories.  Adams and O’Neil created a unique character quite different from the flavorless “Batman-lite” as the Green Arrow had begun.  However, the character eventually grew darker, most notably in the hands of Mike Grell during the 1987 Longbow Hunters arc.

Smith’s choice to bring back the O’Neil/Adams version of Oliver Queen creates a strong contrast between two otherwise similar heroes.  The Batman acts as Ollie’s straight man, and Ollie acts as the Dark Knight’s conscience, a role that the Emerald Archer often played within the Justice League.  With its strong focus on continuity, we can see how much Batman has changed over the years by observing how the Green Arrow interacts with him.

While Eisner-Award-nominated penciler Phil Hester does a wonderful job with the art (I really like his Spectre) I feel that the real artistic workhorse on this project was Sean Konot, who had the unenviable task of lettering Smith’s copious dialogue.  Konot does a remarkable job of giving just enough variation to the appearance of the speech bubbles that you can easily distinguish one character from another even on the most dialogue-heavy of panels.

Quiver has a lot to recommend it as a Batman story.  As promised, there is a lot of Batman being bad-ass.  Readers who only know Batman from his standalone books get to watch him interact with the other DC heroes, navigating the complex relationship he has with his peers in the Justice League and how it was damaged by the events of JLA: Tower of Babel.

The book’s biggest weakness is also one of its biggest strengths.  Quiver is anchored solidly to the DC Universe and its continuity.  Kevin Smith is a man who knows the intricacies of that continuity and he references it constantly.   If you are unfamiliar with the history of the DC Universe, it is very easy to become overwhelmed.  However, if you are looking for a good place to get your feet wet before diving into the deep end of the continuity pool, Quiver is an excellent place to start.

In order to prevent him from hurting himself or other members of the Justice League, Batman has just knocked the Green Arrow unconscious.

“Was that really necessary?” Superman asks.

“You’d prefer he blew out the window?” Batman asks, as he detaches an explosive from Oliver’s arrow.

“I would’ve beaten that arrow…” The Flash says under his breath.

“How long have you been skulking around here?” Wonder Woman asks.  She is obviously upset to find Batman lurking around the Watchtower.

“Long enough to hear that none of you could get past your cartoonish, slack-jawed dumb-foundedness over the situation and secure any answers as to why a man who we all KNOW is dead walks around articulating like a walking anachronism.”  Batman says.  He tosses the explosive to Superman. “Catch.”

Green Lantern quietly turns towards the Flash, saying “That is, by far, the most complex sentence I’ve ever heard anyone utter.”

The Flash replies, sotto voco, “Ten Bucks says he’s been hiding in the shadows for the last hour, just so he could come up with a put-down that classy.”

As Superman destroys the explosive, he asks Batman “And where do you think you’re going with him?”

With Oliver Queen slung unconscious over his shoulders, Batman responds “To get some answers.  Based on his rantings, I think an analysis is better served far from you people and the watchtower—don’t you agree?”

He begins to walk out the door carrying the Green Arrow, pausing for only a moment.  “And for the record, Wally,” Batman says to the Flash, “I came up with that mouthful off of the top of my head.”

There are nine and sixty ways of constructing a Batman story, and every single one of them is right.


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