Roy Harper has a history that stands unique among fictional characters, let alone comic book heroes. Orphaned at a young age, he was raised on a Navajo reservation in honor of his father’s actions, which saved many children. He would go on to become the single-father of a young girl himself – the result of a tryst with the assassin Cheshire while undercover on a mission. And he did all this while battling a heroin addiction and trying to clean himself up.
All of this was scrapped even before The New 52 reboot. Roy’s daughter Lian was killed off as part of the infamously horrible Cry For Justice mini-series. Roy also lost an arm as part of the events of that comic. Then Roy fell off the wagon and got back on “the horse”, becoming a super-villain as part of the equally despised Rise Of Arsenal mini-series.
It was almost a blessing when The New 52 came around and said none of this had ever happened. Unfortunately, it never did tell us precisely what HAD happened in Roy’s past beyond him having worked for Green Arrow at one point and having had a falling out with him years before joining Red Hood and Starfire to become The Outlaws. Given all that, one could argue that nobody has been more ill-served by DC Comics over the past decade than Roy Harper.
Thankfully, that seems to have changed with Green Arrow #18. While we don’t learn all of Roy Harper’s background, we learn enough to confirm that The Roy Harper of old is back in the fold. The action of the issue alternates between flashbacks detailing how Roy Harper came to be employed as Green Arrow’s “tech-support” and Roy’s return to the reservation he once called home to help the activists fighting against an oil pipeline being installed on their sacred lands.
While Benjamin Percy’s inspiration couldn’t be clearer, the parallel to Standing Rock is as befitting as it is timely. Some purists may balk at Roy’s tribal affiliation having been switched from Navajo to Spokane but it does help Roy better fit-in to the Northwestern United States setting of the current Green Arrow series. Despite the little changes, the Roy Harper we see here fits the classic mold far better than any take on the character in recent memory. If nothing else, the revelation that most of Oliver Queen’s trick arrows were designed by an over-enthusiastic teenager with a big imagination and no budget explains a lot.
I don’t know if the art team was intentionally trying to copy the style of regular artist Juan Ferreyra but I did blink a bit when I saw that the artist on this issue was Eleonora Carlini. I’m familiar with Carlini’s work, having enjoyed the many issues of Doctor Who: The Tenth Doctor that she’s drawn and the art in this issue looks different. That’s not a criticism – merely an observation. Maybe it’s due to the color art by Arif Prianto? Intentional or not, this book looks fantastic.
If you have yet to give the new Green Arrow a chance, this issue marks a wonderful opportunity to see what you’ve been missing out on. If you’re a long-suffering Arrow-head wishing for a return to the good-old-days when men were men with goatees, women were women in fishnets and a comic could be socially aware while still presenting a kick-ass action sequence or two, now is the time to come home. Either way, this book is a great read and one of the strongest titles of the Rebirth line.