Review by C.J. Bunce
It’s no secret that Green Arrow is my favorite DCU character. As re-envisioned in the early 1970s by Denny O’Neil and Neal Adams, he became less of a Batman knockoff and more of a completely separate and identifiable voice. Even early on with O’Neil and Adams, Green Arrow and Green Lantern were a mirror image of Batman and Superman. Superman tending to be the holier than thou determiner of right and wrong, and Batman more subversive, critical of the powers that be, cutting through everything to solve real problems, in a practical way. Green Arrow was influential, even in his first meeting with Hal in Green Lantern 76. Over the years Green Lantern, watcher and guardian of Earth, became more like Green Arrow, critical of the status quo. Green Lantern/Hal Jordan learned from Green Arrow/Oliver Queen as their relationship grew. But lately, especially with the recent Green Lantern movie, it’s getting harder to tell Hal Jordan and Oliver Queen apart, with Hal becoming more critical and brooding.
The DC Comics New 52 Green Arrow #1 came out two weeks ago. I read issue #1 quickly. Then I put it aside because I hate when reviewers, instead of reviewing what is in front of them, review what they wish was in front of them. Hence the delay. So I re-read it. And I still find it baffling.
I also read the one-shot issue Flashpoint: Green Arrow Industries, which seemed to be a lead in to the new Green Arrow. Green Arrow Industries has Oliver Queen as the head of some military industrial complex. He is Tony Stark from Marvel Comics’s Iron Man, and nothing else. Other than in the first Iron Man movie, I have never cared for Tony Stark. He is arrogant. He lives a life of privilege. Oliver Queen is not that guy–his back story is that he was a millionaire that lost all of his money. He is not the owner of Halliburton or of Stark Industries or of Wayne Tech.
Queen learned what is important is watching out for the little guy. The Flashpoint: Green Arrow Industries one-shot may be the most unexplainable, out of left field one-shots I have read. Right up there with the bizarre Green Arrow: One Million book from a few years back, but at least that book had some context. As expected, the New 52 continues with Green Arrow as this new leader of what is called Queen Industries.
The new Green Arrow is gadget happy. Oliver Queen has never needed to rely on gadgets to be a superhero. Like Batman, Green Arrow has no super powers. He uses his brain. He solves mysteries. Gadgets? That’s for Bruce Wayne. We like Bruce Wayne and his toys. Again, that’s not Oliver Queen, except for one thing: trick arrows. That said, the best Green Arrow stories leave out the trick arrows. They are an amusing gimmick that even Oliver Queen jokes about when using them. Oliver Queen doesn’t need a trick arrow with bluetooth technology that can be shot onto a boat and allow someone far away to control the boat via satellite. A nice idea for someone else? Maybe. Put that story in the next Batman arc. And Green Arrow also doesn’t need a Geordi LaForge-like visor. Green Arrow just wears a mask for disguise. He doesn’t need X-ray vision.
Neither is Oliver Queen James Bond. We love James Bond. But the two guys just are not much alike. Part of the problem may be that even JT Krul has acknowledged Queen’s new “globe-trotting, James Bond, high adventures.” Writers and artists who are not familiar with Green Arrow’s decades of character study and growth might think they are the same. And I think the guys rebooting Green Arrow wish they were writing Tony Stark for Marvel Comics.
Recent issues of Green Arrow have shown Green Arrow as a hunter. That makes more sense. Oliver Queen was inspired by Robin Hood, specifically the classic film The Adventures of Robin Hood, starring Errol Flynn. Oliver Queen can survive in a forest, like Robin Hood in Sherwood. And all he needs are arrows and a bow. Nothing else. No iPads or iPhones (called not-so-creatively qPads and qPhones in this issue). No Oracle-type helper constantly feeding him the latest tech data. Queen also knows how to adapt his carefully honed skills to the life of the urban cliff dweller.
Recent storylines had Green Arrow losing control because the baddies hurt his friend Roy Harper, formerly his sidekick Speedy, and killed one of Harper’s kids. Oliver Queen murders the evil Prometheus in revenge, and the Justice League gets on his case for not properly bringing Prometheus to justice. Like Batman over the years, Green Arrow issued some vigilante justice. That storyline was interesting and going someplace. The new Green Arrow is preachy and sounds like the old Silver Age Hal Jordan or Superman.
The new Green Arrow has no similarities to the O’Neil/Adams creation. It has no similarity to 100 issues of the Green Arrow as further refined by Mike Grell. It has no familiarity to the faithful ongoing adventures re-envisioned by Kevin Smith, Phil Hester, Ande Parks, Brad Meltzer, Judd Winick, or even the artist Jock. Fans of Green Arrow as interpreted by Cliff Chiang and Mauro Cascioli will not recognize the new Green Arrow.
So what is the audience for the new Green Arrow? I think I figured it out: (1) Readers who do not like Oliver Queen, or (2) readers who really liked his son Connor Hawke as Green Arrow. Or readers who like a stubbly looking hero like Wolverine.
After Queen supposedly died (in the last 30+ issues of the first ongoing Green Arrow series that started with the Green Arrow: Longbow Hunters mini-series), Hawke took over as Green Arrow, sometimes referred to as Green Arrow II. Hawke was purportedly written for a newer audience. I would understand the new Green Arrow series if only they referred to the new Green Arrow as Connor Hawke. The similarities are all there: Hawke has no Van Dyke beard or goatee like Queen had. Hawke had this more vinyl/leather looking suit, like the Green Arrow on Smallville wore, and like the new Green Arrow is wearing. Hawke had this ongoing grudge against one thing or the other. If this is where DC’s editors want to go, why not take Hawke along for the ride and give fans of Green Arrow our goateed hunter and partner to Dinah Lance and pal to Hal Jordan back?
Here is the new Green Arrow:
…and here is the more similarly drawn Connor Hawke:
If you take on a beloved character that has a 70+ year back story, you should be passionate about that character. DC Comics announced this month that JT Krul is no longer writing Green Arrow with issue #4. Good choice, JT. JT Krul has written solid Green Arrow stories before. His non-Green Arrow stories are also awesome, including his work on the new Captain Atom. So what happened? Was Green Arrow just an unfortunate casuality of mismatched post-its on the wall of the DC editors when re-assigning characters in the new DCU? Does anyone love this new Green Arrow? Will replacement writer Keith Giffen be given any latitude to fix the direction of the new Ollie? We can only hope. My guess is Krul was just hamstrung by new decisions of the editorial team. So far I have enjoyed the rest of the New 52 for the most part. “You can’t please everyone on everything” probably applies here.
Even if this series was not about Green Arrow–about some other new character with this plot–I think storylines that have used the reality TV storyline, as Green Arrow #1 does, televising anything and everything, are just tired. The Running Man did it and The Hunger Games did it again. Enough already.
And not to throw too many darts at the new Green Arrow series, but what’s with these new villain names: Dynamix? Doppelganger? Supercharge? About the only thing right about the new Oliver Queen is he is back in Seattle where he belongs.
Had DC changed Batman or Superman as they did Green Arrow, they would have lost a ton of readers. You can’t remove Batman’s cowl and his detective work or Superman’s cape and kryptonite and still call them Batman and Superman. Same goes for Green Arrow’s goatee and the essential elements of his character. You strip away the basics and it’s no longer the same guy.