We are given a peaceful scene of Green Arrow, Black Canary, Arsenal, Diggle, Emiko, and Henry enjoying a nice Christmas celebration in Ollie's forest headquarters. This is revealed to be a virtual reality simulation, and the story takes a stream of consciousness structure from here. We get snapshots, fantasies, and nightmares from Ollie, Arsenal, and Emiko as we get more and more lost before figuring out what is going on.
It's pretty weird that both the Green Arrow Annual and Aquaman Annual, released on the same week, give stories about fantasies and nightmares brought about by some outside force.
Its's also odd that this comic's timeframe goes back before Green Arrow #25 by the comics own editorial admission.
Unlike Aquaman, it's apparent from the get-go that something is amiss in Green Arrow. This is mostly due to the structure, which flows more like a dream in this comic as opposed to the coherent narrative of Aquaman.
As such, we get more of the raw ethos and pathos of our heroes, as we see what fuels them, what they are afraid of, and what they want.
Also, Emiko, justifiably, has a crush on Nightwing. She especially loves his abs, which are "like man-pillows I want to dream on" in her words. That's just beautiful. It makes me wish I had abs.
To continue the Aquaman comparison, this comic's finale feels more like a satisfied freeing of the characters than a painful liberation. There is a villain behind all of this. If you know Green Arrow, you can probably guess the culprit. I actually really dig this villain. Jeff Lemire did a lot of cools stuff with this character when he was on Green Arrow.
The ending oddly has more sympathy for the antagonist than the story beforehand did. I love this villain. They turn the weapon forcing our heroes to be lost in dreams back upon him, except it gives him/her better dreams than others had. His/her dreams are oddly decadent given the holiday spirit of the comic. Of course, that could be a jab at Christmas hypocrisy courtesy of writer Benjamin Percy. In any case, this gesture of goodwill does feel a little unearned by the story.
Eleonora Carlini provides the artwork for this annual, and it is some solid work to boot. There are a couple of especially good panels sprinkled throughout, but the overall work holds together too. Hi-Fi gives the color art, and his work is as effective as ever, giving this book some especially popping and eye-catching color.
The Green Arrow Annual isn't brilliant, but it is a solid read. It's got an interesting and dreamlike narrative flow, a classic villain, and solid artwork. It also takes a compelling dive into the psyche of a lot of its lead characters. It's main shortcoming is in it not doing enough with its premise. Regardless, I can still recommend it. Give it a read.