The Editor’s Notes is an opinion column allowing our writers to express their truest feelings about comic books, the comic book industry, and all that it inspires. The views expressed within belong solely to their author.
WARNING: The follow piece contains spoilers for the DC Rebirth Aquaman and Green Arrow series — particularly Aquaman #25 and Green Arrow #25. Do not read beyond the image below if you wish to remain unspoiled!
Green Arrow #25 and Aquaman #25 came out this past week and I realized that both books have a lot in common, beyond their being the latest issues in two of my favorite series. I’m not referring to the fact that both were promoted as double-size anniversary issues or as a good starting-point for new readers. I’m not even referring to the fact that both heroes premiered in the same comic and were created by the same writer! What I noticed is that both books shared a theme and deal with the general concept of an outlaw hero, but in entirely different ways.
A quick bit of background for those playing at home. The Rebirth Aquaman series has largely focused upon the King of Atlantis’ plans to improve relations between his kingdom and the surface world. Various factors have blunted Arthur Curry’s efforts, including his own people’s indifference to dealing with the world outside their own borders. Recently, Aquaman was deposed and replaced with a more isolationist king, whose first actions were to order the execution of the “surface-loving traitor” and to seal-off Atlantis from the outside world.
Things appear equally dire for Oliver Queen in Green Arrow. Framed for the murder of his secretary and nearly killed himself, Oliver discovered that his company was being used as a front for human trafficking and other unsavory activities by a criminal syndicate known as The Ninth Circle. With the assistance of Black Canary, whom he had started dating just before the frame-up operation began, Oliver has been fighting The Ninth Circle’s operations around the world. Faced with the revelation that his father had been a member of The Ninth Circle and informed of a prophecy which tied the fortune or failure of The Ninth Circle to a member of The Queen Family, Oliver elected to prove that masked men had no business deciding the fates of others and turned himself in to the police.
My chief issue with Benjamin Percy’s Green Arrow is that while I like the way he writes the characters, their actions often seem unnatural and only occur to serve the story Percy wants to tell. Oliver Queen’s surrender is a prime example of this. Ignoring Green Arrow’s status as the poster boy for the Chaotic Good alignment, it is completely unbelievable that Oliver Queen would surrender to a legal system he knows to be corrupt and out for his blood in order to prove that the system still works. Ollie is idealistic but he is not stupid! Better that he should have crashed the mayor’s speech in costume and unmasked, revealing himself to be the hero working to save the city in secret these past few months.
Strangely enough, it is Aquaman who seems more like Robin Hood in his comic. Aquaman #25 reveals that Arthur Curry has been living among the commoners in the ghettos of Atlantis, acting as a shadowy protector. We see him fighting both the corrupt officials working for the new king and the criminals taking advantage of the chaos sown by the new order.
Thankfully, there is a hero waging a similar war to protect the underclass of Seattle, but it is Black Canary – not Green Arrow! While this does play well off of Black Canary’s rebooted origin as a homeless youth who learned martial arts as a means of survival, it does serve to make Green Arrow look all the more selfish by comparison. Despite his protests about needing to prove that the system can still serve the people, Oliver Queen largely seems to be more concerned with clearing his own name than anything else. As far as priorities go, stopping slave-traders seems a more immediate problem than confronting a corrupt legal system.
Mera’s reactions to Aquqman’s apparent death seem equally unnatural and are the one point of Aquaman #25 I found objectionable. Whereas Black Canary responds to her lover’s uncertain fate by fighting, Mera retreats into herself and is spurred to rebellion only after receiving a magical message that Arthur is still alive. Granting that her and Arthur’s relationship has been the longer and more intense one, her meekness here still seems at odds with the fiery spirit she’s possessed in previous issues.
Another point these comics share is that they are not particularly subtle in their portrayals of their villains and the parallels to real-world politicians. Rath, the new King of Atlantis (and there’s a symbolic name if ever there was one!), literally builds a giant wall of thorns around Atlantis and speaks of making Atlantis safe for “true Atlanteans”. Compare that to Mayor Domini – The Ninth Circle backed politician now running Star City – who boasts of how he’s building a model of efficiency by decreasing regulation and local government power in favor of trusting corporations over people.
Despite my nit-picking, I did still enjoy both of these comics. I’d rate Aquaman #25 as the better written story, as my only complaint with it remains Mera’s uncharacteristic docility. Green Arrow #25 is not bad either, though I do wish Benjamin Percy had found a better way to set up a Hard-Traveling Heroes storyline than by arranging circumstances so that Oliver Queen travels the country fighting The Ninth Circle while his girlfriend(?) stays home and cleans up his mess.