by Spencer Irwin and Michael DeLaney
This article contains SPOILERS. If you haven’t read the issue yet, proceed at your own risk!
Spencer: In the Justice League Unlimited animated series, Green Arrow isn’t recruited to the League for his skills with a bow and arrow, but for his conscience and candor. Indeed, in all the character’s best portrayals Green Arrow’s greatest strength isn’t his trick arrows, but his unflinching honesty, his willingness to stand up to (and get in the face of) absolutely anybody, and his “man on the ground” perspective. These qualities are at the forefront of Green Arrow 38, an issue where (outside of one largely symbolic image) Oliver Queen doesn’t fire a single arrow, instead saving the day simply by standing up for what he believes in.
This victory comes in court, where Oliver stands trial for the murder of Wendy Poole. Oliver uses the opportunity as a soapbox to show as many people as possible the truth behind Star City, Queen Industries, and the Ninth Circle. It’s significant that, despite being innocent (in fact, Wendy is alive and mostly well), Oliver doesn’t even try to defend himself. He dismisses his attorney and focuses solely on implicating the Ninth Circle instead of proving his innocence. He’s willing to go to jail if it means that the fat-cats and cultists who corrupted Seattle will do the same, and he nearly does — the only reason he walks free at all is because Wendy finds the strength to show up in court, rendering the trial moot.
The courage and conviction Oliver shows here is not only admirable, but incredibly powerful. It’s why the Ninth Circle tries to sabotage the trial, and why Ollie’s friends step in to help him. The Ninth Circle aren’t an enemy who can be taken down by fists or arrows, but only by the cold hard light of the truth.
If anyone understands that kind of power it’s Wonder Woman, but no one is more qualified to speak this particular truth than Oliver Queen. The Ninth Circle are intrinsically linked to the Queen family, and revealing them means revealing his own failings as well. Thankfully, Ollie doesn’t hesitate at all in doing so.
In fact, that’s Ollie’s other great victory in this issue. Not only does he land a massive blow to the Ninth Circle and free Seattle from their grip, but he also owns up to a lot of his harmful past actions, and that allows him to grow as a person, as a superhero, and as a public figure with the power to help Seattle.
I’ll ignore writer Benjamin Percy’s odd co-opting of alt-right/red pill terminology here and just focus on the sentiment, which is Ollie putting his money where his mouth is. He’s not “fake woke” — he isn’t just spouting off socially conscious buzzwords and signing a few Change.org petitions (the left’s version of “thoughts and prayers”) and calling it a day. Instead he backs his words and beliefs with real, tangible action, both in court and especially once he’s gone free and regained control of his family’s company and fortune.
That’s what really brings Percy’s Green Arrow run full circle. Oliver began this run convinced that Green Arrow was Seattle’s greatest hope. He poured Queen Industries’ money into backing Green Arrow’s activities, and it backfired; he didn’t fully understand the limitations of Green Arrow, nor of his money and its origins. Now, though, he’s learned that Oliver Queen has even more power to change Seattle for the better than Green Arrow, and that his money can do the most good in the hands of those who need protecting. He sets up free housing, homeless shelters and orphanages, funds the arts and jobs and better transportation and science that can change the world. Green Arrow isn’t gone — he’s still needed — but Ollie has learned through his many adventures and many mistakes how he can best help his city, the poor and downtrodden, and the world at large. He’s become a better man, a better hero, and a better “social justice warrior” because of it.
(This is another area where I wonder if Percy fully understands the context of some of the terms he’s using, as Oliver Queen is probably the only person alive who has ever fully and enthusiastically referred to himself as a social justice warrior. It’s not a bad thing to be, I suppose I’m one myself, but the term itself is really only used as a pejorative, and there’s been little interest in “reclaiming” it thus far.)
I appreciate Percy bringing Green Arrow back to his roots as a socially conscious, for-the-people kind of hero, and I hope future writers continue to focus on this aspect of the character — he’s just not Green Arrow without it. I’ll certainly miss Percy on this title, but I’ll miss Juan Ferreyra’s art just as much. His work isn’t just gorgeous and innovative, but always thematically relevant.
On this page, for example, I love how Ferreyra quite literally depicts the ground falling out from beneath Oliver’s feet. The underground has been a running theme in this run — it’s where the Ninth Circle’s hideouts and the Queen’s tomb have been — so Oliver falling further and further underground depicts not only his situation getting worse and worse, but him literally stumbling into greater and greater evil. I’m going to miss this kind of stunning work so much, and I hope to see Ferreyra on another title (hopefully a big one!) soon.
Michael, how do you feel about this finale? Do you think Oliver’s new social programs are a smart resolution to the conflicts surrounding money that have run throughout this entire run? What’s your take on how the Ollie/Dinah relationship shakes out in this issue? Any more thoughts on Ferreyra’s work? And what’s your take on that snazzy green suit Oliver wears to his trial? Between that and the goatee, how is there a single person in Seattle who doesn’t know his secret identity?
Michael: I will always give a pass to Oliver Queen looking exactly like Green Arrow as long as they keep that goatee on him. The goatee is synonymous with Green Arrow as far as I am concerned — I’d like the Robin Hood hat too, but I don’t think that’s coming back anytime soon. To be honest, the way that Ollie was pontificating to the court I thought that he was about to reveal his identity — something that has happened before in Green Arrow history. Another thing that was pointing me in that direction was the inclusion of the Justice League in Oliver’s grand performance. The Flash’s intervention could be excused as a typical “blink and you miss it” operation; the same with Batman’s stealthy intimidation. On the other hand Green Lantern, Superman and Wonder Woman’s assistance was very forthright and public. Nevertheless, Oliver Queen did not reveal himself to the courtroom and world.
But that Justice League cameo and Oliver’s suit — which I absolutely love — might not be intended to be taken so literally or seriously in-story. This is Percy’s grand finale on the book, so he’s taking the opportunity to make some grand gestures. Why not throw Oliver in a bright green suit? It makes him stand out in the courtroom after all. And the inclusion of members of the Justice League acknowledges the work Ollie made to redeem himself in the eyes of the League during the “Hard Traveling Hero” arc.
Contrarily, how crazy is a Superman heat vision-to-gavel ex machina? Was this Oliver’s plan all along, or did the League plan to help out on their own? After Flash and Batman intervene, Ferreyra draws Oliver with a smile that could be read as knowing satisfaction or confident surprise.
Compared to Wendy’s case-closing appearance — which he seemed to object to — Oliver is pretty non-confrontational about the League lending a hand. In fact, he continues on with his speech as if they’re not there, which leans more to the “all a part of the plan” reading.
Green Arrow’s inclusion in/acceptance from the Justice League is not the goal of Percy’s run but it is an important byproduct. Ferreyra underlines this point by showing the Emerald Archer giving his best hero pose side by side with the Justice League on the penultimate page.
The image shares the page with a similar one of Team Arrow, ready for action. Combined with Percy’s caption boxes, this page is a fine punctuation of Oliver’s Rebirth journey: Oliver has learned terrible truths about his family to make his own family (families?). I also liked the line “There are times when nothing significant seems to happen for years…” It’s probably not intentional, but I kind of read into it as how for many years a character such as Green Arrow can be so poorly utilized by a set of creators.
To answer some of Spencer’s questions, I don’t know if Oliver’s social initiatives are necessarily a resolution to the financial troubles of Seattle and the Queens but it is a start. Ollie has been trying to redeem himself and the actions of his family since Percy began writing the book, all building to his public confession/apology in the courtroom. The montage of good works we see near the end of the issue is him staying true to his word.
This page shows various people, locations and technological innovations that have been repurposed to help Seattle grow and thrive.
I’m not sure Oliver and Dinah’s relationship really takes much of a turn here, however. While Oliver does name his foster home after Dinah, I feel like the rooftop scene with the two of them in costume sums it up a little better.
The two lovebirds discuss what they’d like to be doing to celebrate Oliver’s victory in court and a the beginning of a bright future. However, they know that in this life “the trouble never ends.” Like the end of a James Bond film: “Green Arrow will return in Green Arrow 39.” It’s not the end, because it never really ends.
The conversation doesn’t stop there. What do you wanna talk about from this issue?