Comic-Con 2012: “Arrow” review

We’re not in Smallville anymore, that’s for sure.

With Arrow, the upcoming small-screen interpretation of the DC Comics character Green Arrow, The CW is taking a page out of the Christopher Nolan playbook, forsaking any BAM! POW! ZAP! moments and going dark. Very dark.

Oliver Queen (Stephen Amell) is a vacuous, materialistic playboy who is heir to his family’s Queen Industries empire. He’s such a jerk, in fact, that he decides to take his girlfriend’s sister on a boat ride with him, and not just so he can show her the stateroom. But a storm at sea wrecks the ship, and Oliver is among the few survivors, along with his father, Robert Queen (Jamey Sheridan). The pilot is stingy — a little too stingy, if you ask me — about revealing what happens during the five years that Oliver is stranded on a deserted island, but he apparently learns some treacherous secrets about his family’s legacy that convince him he has to refocus his life and become a hooded crimefighter who intimidates evildoers (mostly of the corporate variety) with his expert archery skills.

When he returns to Starling City, he tries to convince everyone else he’s the same old tabloid whore while secretly advancing his superhero agenda. Yes, it’s all very Batman Begins, down to the old girlfriend (Katie Cassidy) whom he longs to be with but feels he must keep at a distance to ensure her safety. But Arrow is surprisingly decisive in its action scenes, and viewers who remember Smallville (on which a different version of Green Arrow actually appeared) may be surprised at how this Oliver Queen fully embodies that anti-hero archetype. His actions are just as ruthless as the villains, but they’re supposedly in the name of the greater good.

Those who know the comic, however, will remember there are plenty of dark places for Arrow to go. While Green Arrow has always been a second-tier DC character, its writers took him in a sociopolitical direction and had the character deal with many tough issues, most famously drug addiction.

Who knows if Arrow will go there, or even if it should. But those lamenting that the serious-minded superhero entertainment will fade along with The Dark Knight Rises might be happy to make Arrow its modest successor.