Writer: Scott Beatty
Artists: Phil Hester (p), Ande Parks (i)
The book opens by looking in on Count Vertigo who we see is currently in the employ of the DEO, an organization that exists to police & gather information about the superhuman community. After seeing that Count Vertigo has some issues with Green Arrow, we see he uses the resources of the DEO to locate the current whereabouts of his old enemy. We then look in on Green Arrow who is in the middle of the ocean, and in a bid to get back to his roots, we see Oliver has himself dropped off, and after a rather harrowing encounter with a school of venomous jellyfish & a raging storm, Oliver is washed up on a deserted island. In bad shape from the venom, we see Oliver does have time to fashion a bow & about a half-a-dozen arrows, so when a vengeful Count Vertigo arrives on the island, Oliver does have a way to defend himself. What follows is a fairly short tussle where Count Vertigo is somewhat thrown by the fact that Oliver isn't fighting with trick arrows, as our villain gets an arrow buried in his right arm. We then see the two men tumble into the raging ocean, and Oliver has to rescue a drowning Count Vertigo. The issue ends with Count Vertigo walking away from this encounter with his priorities back on track, as he's come to realize how pointless his feud with Green Arrow really is.
I've been poking around the DCU for a couple decades, and as such I've picked up all measure of information about the place. I know who Count Vertigo is & what his powers are. I know about most of his backstory, and I followed the character with great interest during the time within the Suicide Squad, so when this element of his past is being discussed I can follow what's going on. I know what the DEO are, and what their function is within the DCU. Now I'm not overly familiar with the rivalry that exists between Count Vertigo & Green Arrow, but I do know why Oliver would decide to travel to a deserted island, as I've read his entry in Who's Who. However, Scott Beatty has decided that he's writing this story for fans like myself, who know quite a bit about the DCU, as he essentially offers the readers nothing in the way of explanatory text, and moves through the issue with a complete disregard when it comes to newer readers. Now there are times when I get a bit annoyed at writers who get too caught up in explaining story elements to newer readers, but since DC hasn't followed in Marvel's footsteps & offered up a text page designed to bring new readers up to speed, this is a necessary evil, that one can't simply ignore because you can't fit it in.
What makes it an even greater shame is that Scott Beatty spends so much time messing around with his deliberately vague buildup, and his purple prose that one can see how he had plenty of opportunity to explain the various elements that might puzzle new readers. There's also the simple fact that Scott Beatty takes far too long to getting these two characters together on that island, as the book is roughly two-thirds over before the two actually square off, and he decided to use the last four pages to resolve the various loose ends of the material, which results in a battle that lasts a whole four pages. Now four pages is still enough room to deliver a fairly exciting tussle, but apparently Scott Beatty isn't quite up to the task, as Count Vertigo takes one arrow in the arm, manages to unleash one blast of his power, before the two tumble into the ocean and the battle is over. Now I'm not asking for a long, drawn out affair, but given the amount of buildup this battle received the final product is quite disappointing. The book also has Count Vertigo coming to an understanding rather quickly, as one minute he's taken an arrow in the arm, and is ready to enter a fight to the death, but after his swim in the ocean he's made some amazing revelation about how utterly futile his hatred of Green Arrow is.
Having regulars Phil Hester & Ande Parks providing the art on this fill-in issue does maintain a nice sense of continuity, and I must admit that any time an artist starts to reach the two year mark on a title without the use of a single guest artist I have to say I start getting quite impressed by their commitment to the book, as well as their ability to meet the monthly deadline. Now this issue is a pretty solid character piece as we see two old enemies slowly moving toward an encounter with each other, and the art does a pretty solid job of playing up the idea that Count Vertigo is not Green Arrow's biggest fan, after it opens with a fairly impressive teaser sequence. The art also does some nice work on the scene where Oliver is making his way to his desert island, as his adventures in the ocean are nice & harrowing, and page seven does a particularly nice job of conveying the disorientating effect the ocean can have. The big event of this issue is also nicely handled by the art, even if the writing doesn't offer up much room for the action to play out, as one has love the chilling visual where Count Vertigo is revealed by that lightening flash. My only quibble with the art during this sequence is that when he's struck by the arrow Count Vertigo is given a woman's scream instead of a manly "AGRHHH!".
A fill-in issue, and following on the heels of memorable runs by Kevin Smith & Brad Meltzer, this issue doesn't exactly measure up all that favorably. However, while the book is geared toward readers who are well-versed in the DCU outside the pages of this book, overall the story managed to deliver a couple of fairly engaging moments, and the basic plot is fairly interesting. Having Oliver return to the deserted island that inspired his initial entry into the life as a costumed crime-fighter is a pretty solid premise, especially when one has an old enemy of Oliver's drop in to challenge the poor guy to a fight. However, the book wastes far too much of its time getting its players into position, and in the end we only get a halfhearted bout where Count Vertigo ends up looking like he couldn't fight his way out of a rain soaked paper bag. What this story needed was a quicker opening segment, or another issue to fully capture the promise of this issue's rather lengthy setup.
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