Friday, October 31, 2014

Arrow S03 E03: "Corto Maltese"

Corto Maltese was originally the name of a late sixties European comics series by Italian creator Hugo Pratt about a sailor adventurer named Corto Maltese. Writer/artist Frank Miller liked it so much he used the name for an embattled South American island nation in his classic The Dark Knight Returns. Later in homage to that, it appears in the photography of Vicki Vale in 1989's Batman film. It was later brought into the DC Universe proper and was even mentioned on TV's "Smallville."

In the Arrowverse, Corto Maltese was first brought up waaay back in the first season episode "Lone Gunmen" as a place Deadshot was operating. Here, it is where Malcolm Merlyn has brought Thea Queen for training. Oliver is obsessed with finding her and is off to Corto Maltese, with Roy and Diggle in tow. Diggle has a second mission while he's down there however, checking on an operative named Mark Shaw who had gone dark.

Yes, the DCU is alive and well in this episode of "Arrow." Mark Shaw is just one of the people who has gone under the name Manhunter. Another would be Kate Spencer, who, still alive and active as Manhunter in the comics, died at the hands of one of Deathstroke's soldiers in last season's "Streets of Fire." Here Mark Shaw is not quite as heroic as in the comics, and ambushes Diggle. Anyone who knows Shaw's earlier Star Tsar and Privateer background, this shouldn't be a surprise.

While Diggle and Oliver are off playing spy with Mark Shaw, Roy does what they actually came to Corto Maltese for, he talks to Thea. He seems to get through to a little, but then Oliver tries his brand of pseudo-truth, which of course he tells her everything but. Just when you think Oliver has changed, has learned something... it becomes apparent he's the same guy he was years ago.

We also meet a very young Ted Grant, better known in the comics as Wildcat, Golden Age superhero and Justice Society member. Notably he taught many heroes to fight including Batman, Catwoman, and yeah, the Black Canary. Laurel comes to his boxing gym looking for a Tom Bronson, who in the comics is his son, his namesake, and a were-panther... but I don't think we're going there... Where we are going should be obvious however, Laurel will at last become the Black Canary.

Thea's training seems awful Batman-ish, but what can you do. John Barrowman is the perfect melding of father, mentor, and sociopath as Malcolm Merlyn, it is hard to dislike him. I want him to be Captain Jack, but I'm relishing him as Malcolm. In a nod to the comics, and the second Speedy, Thea is called Mia. Finally. I like it.

Shaw is making a deal with the ARGUS intel he stole with a man named Armitage. Sharp viewers will remember that Armitage supplied Malcolm Merlyn with the Markov device back in "Tremors." I love that Oliver was able to fashion bows and arrows from stuff in their hotel room. I wonder how much they'll be charging his credit card?

In the end, we get no real resolution to the Mark Shaw storyline. Does he go free? Go to jail? Extradited to ARGUS? If the answer was there, I missed it. Thea comes home with the boys, but Malcolm says he'll see her soon. Felicity takes some time off to go over to "The Flash" this past week, and Ray Palmer discovers Queen Consolidated was making high tech weapons. Laurel begins her training with Ted Grant after Oliver refuses to help her. And Nyssa drops by the Arrowcave looking for Sara.

Other DC Comics references include the executive assistant Ray Palmer assigns to Felicity, Jerry Conway. Gerry Conway was the creator of Firestorm, a character and comic that both "Arrow" and "The Flash" reference constantly, and also longtime writer of Justice League of America, a comic that regularly featured Green Arrow, Black Canary, and the Atom. There's also Coast City, home city of Green Lantern and Ferris Aircraft.

Next: The Magician!

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