Before we get in to the nitty-gritty of this review, let us just put this out there: to us, Season 2 of The CW’s Arrow was one of the very best seasons of genre TV in recent memory. So, with Arrow: Vengeance set in and around that very same time period, could Oscar Balderrama and Lauren Certo’s tale live up to the high standards set by its televisual relative? Let’s find out.
To put it in the most basic of terms, Vengeance looks to tell the journey of how Slade Wilson, played so masterfully by Manu Bennett in Arrow, got from the island of Lian Yu to eventually ending up in Starling City. To fans of The CW’s Emerald Archer-centric series, we pick things up at the moment Oliver Queen and Slade do battle on “the island”; the same battle that resulted in Oliver taking the eye of his BFF-turned-nemesis. From that moment on, Wilson swears to himself that he will get his revenge on Ollie, with his plan to punish Starling City’s favourite son by targeting everything closest to him. That’s a narrative that we’ve already seen play out on Arrow, but here we get to fill in the blanks of just how Slade Wilson went about his task and how the puzzle pieced together in terms of Slade turning up to torment the present-day Oliver Queen.
Make no mistake about it, this is very much Slade Wilson’s story and he is indeed the star of the show, but that’s not to say he’s the sole focus of this tale. In addition to Wilson’s journey, we also get to see the TV characters of Summer Glau’s Isabel Rochev and Kevin Alejandro’s Sebastian Blood fleshed out and explored. We learn how Rochev was an intern at Queen Consolidated who quickly became obsessed with Robert Queen, and then we get to see the tormented and turbulent backstory of Sebastian Blood and his ascension to becoming the ominous “Brother” Blood. Together, the threesome of Wilson, Rochev and Blood all have their joint goals of causing chaos in Starling City, yet all also have strong enough motives and aims of their own that help prop up the story when these facets are explored singularly or even when simply used as supporting elements of the greater narrative.
To us, there has been no greater live-action depiction of a comic book villain than Manu Bennett’s Slade Wilson, aka Deathstroke. Where Rochev and Blood were concerned, however, whilst they were delivered well enough on the small screen, it was great to see so much attention given to them here, with them both painted in new lights and given added purpose as to why they acted how they acted in TV land. For Slade, though, we see his descent into madness, the Lian Yu-discovered Mirakuru swarming his system and changing him from loving family man to an obsessive, cold warrior who lives only for some semblance of misguided vengeance.
To fans of Arrow, this novel is simply a must-buy. Not only does it give you more of what you love, but it also goes above and beyond to provide far greater insight into some truly great characters, all whilst brimming full of Easter eggs and references that will put a smile on the face of longtime DC fans. It’s no stretch of the imagination to say that Arrow: Vengeance could essentially serve as a whole extra season of Arrow, such is the quality, depth, and remarkably strong storytelling of Balderrama and Certo’s work here.
When it comes down to it, Arrow: Vengeance unequivocally hits the bullseye.
ARROW: VENGEANCE / AUTHOR: OSCAR BALDERRAMA, LAUREN CERTO / PUBLISHER: TITAN BOOKS / RELEASE DATE: JUNE 29TH