by Spencer Irwin
This article contains SPOILERS. If you haven’t read the issue yet, proceed at your own risk!
Spencer: One of the biggest challenges for many people — but especially for straight, white, cis-gendered males — is realizing that not every story is your story. We don’t always need to be the center of attention, our opinions don’t always need to be voiced, our methods and plans aren’t always right, much less the best ones for everyone else involved. That’s certainly what Oliver Queen was reminded of in last month’s Green Arrow 39 as his attempt to help out the war-torn country of Rhapastan backfired on him. He never should have gotten involved at all, right?
Wrong. Ollie’s conscious is his best feature — his mistake wasn’t getting involved, but charging head-first into a strange land without truly understanding the problem and working with the locals to address the root causes. The people of Rhapastan didn’t need a savior — they needed an ally, and that’s exactly what Ollie becomes in Jackson Lanzing, Collin Kelly, and Marcio Takara’s Green Arrow 40.
Although Ollie does take down the young warlord Nothing in hand-to-hand combat, his role throughout this issue is otherwise solely a supportive one. Rescued by a young group of freedom fighters loosely modeled after American superheroes, Ollie follows their lead, training them to better use their weapons, helping them sharpen their skills, and helping them formulate and carry out a successful plan. He’s a hero, but not the hero. Last month his plan failed because he tried to charge in and single-handily save Rhapastan to assuage his guilt, without truly understanding the threat they faced; this month his victory comes because he steps back, listens, and supports those in Rhapastan already fighting for change instead of assuming he can fix all their problems just because he has money, trick arrows, and a Justice League ID Card.
This doesn’t mean that Ollie doesn’t play a vital role in the Vakhari Resistance League’s victory; they probably couldn’t have won without him. He also doesn’t give up on his morality just because he’s in a strange land — killing is still wrong, and he stands up to the League when they’re thinking of executing Nothing. But even then, he does so in a respectful way, and that makes his message more effective; instead of moralizing to the League himself, he sends a message to their parents and lets them moralize. The message is far more powerful coming from people who have grown up in the same situation as the League, and that’s why it gets through to them.
Ollie doesn’t take any credit for his role, either.
He’s learned his lesson about trying to commandeer other people’s stories, and in doing so, discovered what it means to be a true ally. It means helping others because it’s the right thing to do, not to look good, earn praise, or assuage guilt. It means taking a step back and listening to the people you’re supporting and figuring out how to best use your power and privilege to help them. It means remembering that this isn’t your story, and that you can take joy in the victories of others without making it about yourself. These are lessons every one of us can take to heart as we work to make the world a better, safer place to live.
The conversation doesn’t stop there. What do you wanna talk about from this issue?