Thoughts and observations on Green Arrow, classical liberalism, freedom, comic books and matters of social justice.

Monday, February 9, 2009

The Best Green Arrow Story Ever

In 2002, Brad Meltzer got together with Green Arrow artist Phil Hester and created the best Oliver Queen story ever told, The Archer's Quest. Encompassing issues 16-21, Meltzer's run focused on Queen's adjustment to life after coming back from the grave. And while admittedly this is a common occurrence in the comic book world each character adds their unique spin to this well worn tale.

More than just re-introduce himself back into his own life, Oliver must retrieve a series of personal belongings he left behind. These mementos of his mask wearing days could have been put together to solve the riddle of Green Arrow's identity and put any number of Queen's friends and loved ones at risk.

A simple enough premise, but Meltzer adds many thrilling touches to this quest; from the identity of the person Oliver Queen entrusted with his secret keepsakes, to the relationships that must be rekindled throughout Green Arrow's life, to the shocking (and I mean shocking!) revelation at the story's end that shows this character in perhaps the worst light he's ever been seen; a bold move by Meltzer.

The story begins with Oliver and Clark at Queen's grave site. Queen questions Clark who was at his private burial, and Clark (having also risen from the grave once) warns Oliver some questions are best left unanswered. What we discover is that a mystery man attended the funeral, and the investigation of this man's identity begins not only a thrill packed story, but one filled with laughs, character insights, and genuine pathos.

Oliver Queen's life is one of strained relationships and bad decisions coupled with his double life as a masked vigilante. While Meltzer does paint a picture of the daring rogue with a heart of gold, he is also a deeply flawed man who gives himself license at times to make horribly selfish decisions. While not always commendable, Green Arrow is consistently interesting in Meltzer's hands.

Plus, we get an exciting look at how resourceful Green Arrow can be as he goes toe-to-toe with one of DC Comics' most fearful villains, the zombie Solomon Grundy. But not content to merely pen a typical comic book fight, Brad Meltzer has the confrontation occur over the broken, and seemingly dead body, of Green Arrow's old teen sidekick Roy Harper (a.k.a. Speedy).

Some would argue Denny O'Neill and Neal Adams' landmark run is the best. And while it is perhaps the most important run, it does lag at times and O'Neill himself has critiqued Green Arrow's penchant for lengthy speeches. O'Neill and Adams' story comes in a close second behind The Archer's Quest.

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