Over the course of 40 comics, including an annual and the Green Arrow: Rebirth #1 special, Benjamin Percy was able to undo the damage dealt to Green Arrow as a series by years of generic story lines, poor characterization and general half-assedness. Percy restored the supporting cast and rogues’ gallery that had been absent for far too long, along with Oliver Queen’s romance with Dinah Lance and his connection to The Justice League. All this, and some fantastic artwork by the likes of Stephen Byrne, Otto Schmidt and Juan Ferreyra, made Green Arrow great again.
Sadly, Green Arrow #39 does not continue in that tradition. Indeed, it reminded me of the sort of comics that drove me away from my favorite superhero for a time. Like Judd Winick’s Green Arrow, this comic presents an entirely ineffectual Oliver Queen and attempts to promote Deathstroke as an arch-enemy to Green Arrow despite the utterly nonsensical nature of that conceit, particularly in the reality of Rebirth. Like Ann Noncenti’s Green Arrow, this comic presents a new villain who works better as a metaphorical construct than an actual enemy. Worst of all, it ignores everything done in the last 40 issues to restore Green Arrow’s support team, turning him into a lone wolf who must fight alone, though there is no good reason for his doing so.
These opening five pages set the stage, with Oliver Queen heading to the nation of Rhapastan to personally deliver humanitarian aid. The utter desolation of the region, we are told, is all the work of Deathstroke, whom Oliver Queen apparently had some dealings with in the past despite the two never meeting in the reality of Rebirth. With his friend Jonesy killed by a rocket (Don’t remember him? Don’t worry. Oliver’s old, dear friend just showed up for the first time in this issue.) and his ride home is destroyed, Oliver sets out to discover just what has happened in this war-torn city.
The culprit turns out to be Nothing – a warlord who has somehow gotten the populace to surrender their children into his army and embrace his nihilistic philosophy after the course of a week. This presents Oliver Queen with a moral dilemma – he can’t fight the children Nothing has turned into his front-line and he can’t inspire the people to rise up against their own families. What good is Robin Hood in a land where the people are content to be oppressed?
Jackson Lanzing and Collin Kelley’s story falls flat under the weight of their attempts at relevance and referencing a history best forgotten. With all his talk of working for Waller and bringing down Slade Wilson, Oliver’s dialogue here seems more like the Oliver Queen of Arrow, circa Season Two, than the smiling swashbuckler Benjamin Percy was writing a month ago. What’s stranger is that once Oliver changes into his Green Arrow costume, he is immediately addressed by some random peasant as “The Secret Fist Of The Justice League.”
Not much of a secret now, is it?!
The artwork is similarly lackluster and conflicted. I’ve never been a fan of Marcio Takara and his work here is an prime example of why I’m not a fan of his work. With sloppy pencils obscured by shading that looks like the ink got smudged during printing, this is one of the ugliest, most amateurish drawn comics I’ve seen in some time. Takara also seems unable to decide if Oliver Queen has the three-day stubble of Stephen Amell or the classic contoured goatee Oliver Queen has been sporting for several years in the comics. This confusion isn’t helped by the color art of Marcelo Maiolo, which renders Oliver Queen’s hair and beard as two different shades of yellow! Deron Bennett’s lettering, however, remains fantastic.
Green Arrow #39 does not negate Percy’s work on Green Arrow. It would be giving the creative team far too much credit to suggest they were even capable of that. Green Arrow #39 does stand, however, as a stark reminder of the sorts of comics that made DC Rebirth necessary in the first place.