Although this comic is "Green Arrow" #44, writer Benjamin Percy and artists Patrick Zircher and Fabrizio Fiorentino don't give the readers a single arrow zinging through the air, choosing instead to focus on the secret origin of Oliver Queen's dog. By the end of the issue, the dog doesn't have Ace the Bathound street cred yet, but it does set up trials and conflict to come.
The story around the secret origin mostly takes place in and around Pike Place Market in Seattle, but truly the setting could just as easily have been a corner of Gotham, Metropolis or Opal City. One scene utilizes the setting, particularly the famous fish flinging, but that scene is swiftly abandoned for a fortuneteller's shop. Ten pages in, the middle of the issue explores the dog's history before an action-packed final four pages. Percy doesn't dig too deep into Queen's persona or even his relationship with his dog in this issue, choosing instead to play the "aloof, conflicted crimefighter" card around an oddly mystic dog tale.
The art is solid and the storytelling is smooth with a wide variety of setting and subject to be detailed. Zircher essentially handles the framing sequence of this issue while Fiorentino draws the "Secret of the Wolf." The two artists work well together, using similar pacing, perspective angles and dense shadows. Zircher is afforded a wider opportunity for facial expressions, which he fulfills, but the best visuals in the entire issue fall in the final five panels of "Green Arrow" #44.
While Gabe Eltaeb's colors are mostly on point with the standard muted overcast Pacific Northwest setting, the amount of bloodshed in the issue has me wondering why blood is still mainly depicted as plastic or ketchup. Yes, the life-giving liquid has a shine to it, but it doesn't stay bright red on anything, save possibly paper or snow. In a comic with textures and patterns aplenty (including depth and heft to said snow), the saucy blood just becomes a gimmicky distraction as if to say, "Look how badass this comic is! It's got lots of blood in it!" Other portions of the coloring are less overbearing: the neon at the market is not too bright, the green shirt Queen wears waffles between olive drab and light green and even the Tarantula's togs are grounded in earthtones, but the blood? Red as can be.
"Green Arrow" #44 is a decent enough read, but anyone hoping to find the titular character doing anything remotely related to what one might expect Green Arrow to do is going to be a titch disappointed. Yes, every series needs down issues, and, yes, subplots and future plots need to be set up, but the center seems to be missing in this comic as it feels like a collection of subplot ignition points rather than an organic blossoming. With a focus on Oliver's relationship self-destruction, the origin of the wolf-dog and an appearance by Tarantula, this is a solid non-Green Arrow book. Maybe next issue will be a little more centered.