Shiny Shelf

Green Arrow #19

By Jim Smith on 07 December 2002

WARNING! Contains spoilers!

We’re four months in Brad Meltzer’s six issue run now, and while the pace could never be called electric, there’s plenty happening in character terms. #19 sees Ollie and Roy breaking into the JLA watchtower to recover some of Ollie’s property and then doing much the same at the Barry Allen museum in Keystone.

Incidentally a caption in this ish informs us readers that this story ‘Takes place before JLA: The Obsidian Age’. What difference this makes is a mystery to me as I gave up that book just before the ‘Hunt for Aquaman’ began. It may well have been the world’s first Teflon comic book given the way my eyes kept sliding off the page, and while I seem to remember Ollie being in the last issue I looked at (I can’t honestly say read) my overriding memory is simply of him being written in a horribly caricatured manner.

Anyway, back to this book. Meltzer’s story has dealt with the practical aspects of Ollie’s resurrection in a similar manner to how Kevin Smith’s first year dealt with the ethical and ‘heroic’ implications of GA’s peculiar situation. Meltzer’s run has seen virtually the only non-James Robinson scripted appearance of the Shade in modern times (and very good it was too, I say speaking as a certified ‘Starman’ obsessive), a terrific 22 page fight with Solomon Grundy and much strong character and dialogue work.

This issue is no exception, much of it occupied by discussions between Ollie and Roy, Ollie and Kyle and Ollie and Wally. There are amusing juxtapositions (such as Ollie’s ‘Every one of ‘em is like a brother to me’ comment to Roy compared with a hesitant and awkward conversation with Kyle) but it’s the real depth of character that Metzler’s wrings out of the spandex crowd that remains this issue’s – this run’s – most compelling achievement. It’s like Marvel’s ‘Alias’ might be if Jessica Jones was still in the skin-tight lycra. Oliver Queen is a hero, yes, but here he’s also a lying, selfish, manipulative old git who honestly doesn’t give a flying boxing glove about how he tramples over his friends as long as he gets what he wants. Despite his above comment about the League he later tells Roy that friends are temporary, and that only family is forever. It sounds like a fair sentiment except when contrasted with Ollie’s previous comment about the League and linked up with the simple fact that Roy himself isn’t actually Ollie’s family either. By Queen’s own logic Connor should be the one hard-travellin’ with him right now, not Roy. Where do family and friends really begin and end for Ollie? For all his protestations to the contrary he’s still the slightly self-deluded, self-justifying guy he’s always been. It’s these kind of chinks in the armour that make Ollie such a compelling lead. Is he damaging his other relationships by trying to set things right with Dinah? Perhaps. If the devil is in the details then the character subtleties of this issue should be starring in some other book, one of the ones written by Mike Carey.

Meltzer is off this book in two months, to be replaced by Judd Winick. There was a time when six months on a monthly series would have been considered a fill-in rather than a full run, but times are a-changin. If the Big Two’s policy of hiring big talent (presumably at big bucks) for short periods of time and rotating teams on a virtually semi-regular basis is going to produce superhero comics of this quality on a regular basis, then I’m all for it.

However, as it’s also responsible for the imminent Ben Raab run on ‘Green Lantern’ I find myself very suddenly in two minds.

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