Once upon a time, Oliver Queen died to save Metropolis… but you didn’t think that would last, did you? Your Major Spoilers (Retro) Review of Green Arrow #1 awaits!
Writer: Kevin Smith
Penciler: Phil Hester
Inker: Ande Parks
Colorist: Guy Major
Letterer: Sean Konot
Editor: Bob Schreck
Publisher: DC Comics
Cover Price: $2.50
Current Near-Mint Pricing: $10.00
Previously in Green Arrow: After being stranded on a desert island where he taught himself to survive with bow and arrow, Oliver Queen returned to civilization and became the vigilante Green Arrow. Starting out as a Batman-type, he eventually became the most progressive of 70s heroes before becoming an 80s-style vigilante, hunting criminals with broadhead arrows. By the end of the 1990s, he had discovered a heretofore-unknown son, Connor Hawke, who had joined him in the field, but lost his life to destroy a bomb that would have leveled Metropolis, leaving Connor as the only Green Arrow. That was 1994. Now, it’s 2001, and the Earth is suffering as the sun is being snuffed out by a Sun-Eater, and Superman and Batman have met to have a deep conversation about what it’s like to be cold, a conversation suddenly interrupted by Superman’s strange feeling that something left his presence… something small.
Those who remember Superman’s presence at Green Arrow’s death might be suspicious at this point, especially when the story cuts to Ollie’s grave, where Parallax (the possessed Hal Jordan, one of Arrow’s best pals) tries to make amends, leaving a mysterious body face-down on Oliver Queen’s grave. Flash-forward to New York City, where Roy Harper, Ollie’s former partner is in action, waiting to bring down a den of drug-dealers. As he stalks his prey, Roy ruminates on how often his life has involved waiting. Roy is always waiting to become a leader, waiting to come clean from his heroin addiction, waiting for others to respect him.
Thanks to the example of “The Old Man”, Roy realizes, he’s a better hero and a better man. It’s apparently “think about your dead friend” day in the DC Universe, as on the West Coast, Black Canary thinks about her long-time lover and partner, remember times both good and bad, both sexy and fighty-fighty.
While thinking about her lost lover, she also busts a KGB agent who has been running drugs and trafficking humans, working on getting her life back together after the mess that it became when Oliver died. She still misses him, though, and makes sure to tell her target’s wife to find a new man, a better man… a man like the one she lost. As for the aforementioned Connor Hawke, he, too, is thinking about dear old dad.
I remember when I first encountered this issue, and I think it was my introduction to Hester & Parks art, and it’s still a very impressive work on the artistic level. Their thick lines and incredibly well-defined facial features make every panel interesting, and all the characters are really good “actors”. They also excel in portraying grit and grime, which is really useful for our final page reveal, somewhere in the filthy alleys of Star City.
This issue is the first of a TEN-issue arc (because 2001 is the official post year of deconstructed story-telling) which would reveal that Superman’s sense of loss was actually Parallax stealing a little bit of Oliver’s essence or DNA or what-have you from his cape. You’d think he’d clean that more often. Jordan then resurrected his friend, reconstituting him without the last few years of his memories, effectively wiping out his time as a murderous vigilante, and the man he’s rescuing in that final panel ends up being a wealthy practitioner of black magic who wants to steal his body, instead leaving Oliver with his riches. Green Arrow #1 is a very positive example of an extensive, deep-dive retcon, setting the stage for the revival of a G.A. who resembles the Silver and Bronze Age versions without the baggage and also making the TV Arrowverse possible, with a well-written and well-drawn story to do it, earning 4.5 out of 5 stars overall. For my money, though, it’s the series that fixed Green Arrow by bringing back the boxing glove arrow (or at least the 40-oz-beer-can version thereof), and for that it will always be well-regarded and appreciated.
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GREEN ARROW #1
Smith's story has a lot of housekeeping to do to overcome the hero's death, but manages to pack the issue with emotion, incident and strong art, making for a truly inspiring relaunch.