Sunday, May 7, 2017

Green Arrow and Arsenal: Reflections of Rebirth

Perhaps the two characters most effected by the events of DC Universe: Rebirth, and the “Rebirth” initiative in general, have been Roy Harper, aka Arsenal, and Oliver Queen, aka Green Arrow. Both suffered immensely during the “New 52” era (though both had moments of clarity, and in the case of Green Arrow, even scored one of the most critically acclaimed-runs of the era). Roy Harper was stuck with Jason Todd for his tenure and appeared as little more than a thug in most cases, while Oliver Queen toted around and tried to find his identity a bit too many times for anyone’s interest. When the “Rebirth” wave hit, both were given slight redesigns and new surroundings, and are much, much better for it.
The biggest signs of this are the critical successes of Titans, where Roy features prominently among his old teammates, and Green Arrow. Titans has been praised by fans ever since its release for finally getting back to the roots of the Titans, showing the team at their finest in the longest time. It’s difficult to say that there’s been a Titans book with this much positive buzz since Geoff Johns took over. Green Arrow has also been praised for reaching more into the politics of the world, both with subtlety and in an overt way; not to mention the reintroduction of Black Canary into GA’s life and the coming promise that Star City will return to the DCU.

But beyond that, it seems that Roy and Olllie’s changes have reflected the more positive take that the world of “Rebirth” has. It only seemed natural, then, that their inevitable collision in the pages of Green Arrow would reflect these changes.

During the “New 52” it was heavily implied, and in some cases shown, that Oliver and Roy had been partners for a time before they split up, having broken up over serious complications and issues. In the “Return of Roy Harper” story arc, spanning issues 18-20 of Green Arrow, readers finally discovered that the reason for the rift was the infamous decline into drugs that Roy Harper undergoes. But, their relationship had been a bit rocky beforehand.

“Rebirth” has done it’s best to mix the old with the new—updating old stories to fit what the “New 52” was going for. It hasn’t said no to many stories of the “New 52” quite yet; moreover, it’s accepted these changes. “Superman Reborn,” the recent crossover between Action Comics and Superman, showed the New 52 Superman melding with the “Rebirth” Superman, and the most recent arc of Action Comics at the time of this writing shows what his history has changed to. Without the need for melding timelines, it seems that “Rebirth” has done the same for the origins of Speedy and Green Arrow.

There was not much known of their relationship other than how it started and ended: well and then poorly. It was on rough terms, as there are small mentions of one another in their previous “New 52”/ DCYou titles, but they’re filled with spite and malice. Roy especially has disdain for Oliver and Oliver simply pities Roy. By the time “Return of Roy Harper” came along, it was necessary for them to come to either blows or an understanding. Naturally they would do both, but by story’s end there was also a natural compromise, albeit a thin one, that was broached.

The two reflect Rebirth both in their origins and how they carry themselves in this new era of the DCU. Their origin story is riddled with anger, frustration, and a need to discover who the other really is. In many ways, the “New 52” did just that in the pages of the comic and out. Outside the pages, creative teams were never a steady thing for many books. Green Arrow underwent five writers over the course of the 52+ issue run. So many books came and went in the early going. Justice League of America, the first one, was written by Geoff Johns for the first half and then Matt Kindt for the second. In the books, characters were developing or regressing to match the new tone that the editors of the company looked for. Oliver Queen and Roy Harper are no exceptions to that. Their origin stories there match the traditional ones, but the interpersonal relationship they had more matches with the tone of the New 52, creating a rocky relationship that could have ended on better terms.

With Rebirth, though, that origin was not changed but used as a catalyst for the two to actually grow up. Roy and Ollie both act notoriously childish when it comes to intimate things, or at least things they care about. In the case of “Return of Roy Harper,” Roy is the focus of the arc and must confront oil tycoons trying to step all over his old Navajo tribe’s lands. When Oliver arrives it only confounds the situation, but we learn that Roy doesn’t hate Oliver because of anything he necessarily did wrong, but just in his personality. Similarly, Oliver pities Roy for what he can be, not what he became.

When the two reconcile and finally come to terms with their past, they’re able to make an uneasy alliance, one that fans of Green Arrow and Arsenal have been waiting for since 2011. It’s similar to what the editors at DC had to do with some fans. Fans were angry, shown in the sales by the middle of 2016, and the editors had to do something. They took a risk and decided to forge this relationship with stained steel, and it’s paid off. While that has not quite paid off in the pages of Green Arrow, it is interesting to note that Roy featured prominently in Green Arrow #22, revealing that he’s around to help Ollie, but they’re not quite Facebook friends.

Still, there are seeds being sewn that will further the two’s paths back to where they were, or perhaps a better place. Not too many were happy about the fact that Roy lost his arm to a battle against Prometheus, and Oliver’s journey at the end of the Post-Crisis era was also a bit shaky. However, there were good things among the bad. Roy’s daughter, Lian, as well as Oliver’s return from the grave and return to the Justice League were accepted facets. While Oliver may not be returning to the League any time soon, we may soon see Lian Harper waddling around once more.

Cheshire, Lian’s mother, has just appeared in the pages of Green Arrow, where Roy is staged to make another return. It’s not too much to think that Roy and Cheshire will hook up once more and Lian will return. It’s inevitable, really, and would be a great way to bring her back. She wouldn’t have to return through a time hole or anything like that, and it would make sense. Time constantly repairs itself, whether Dr. Manhattan (or whoever is behind “Rebirth”) wants it or not. Lian’s life is part of the timeline, much like how the JSA and Legion of Superheroes are part of it as well.

Eddie Fyers and Malcolm Merlyn making their way into the pages of Rebirth, in somewhat traditional fashions, also paints and interesting picture for Green Arrow. Their returns are natural but also surprising, and new readers who would only recognize these characters from Arrow won’t be too jarred by their arrival. Over in Titans, it seems that Roy’s possibly trying to stitch back his crush on Donna Troy, a classic bit from old school Teen Titans. These advancements, though, are not out of nowhere, but take from established continuities, from the Post-Crisis world and the New 52, to build upon.

The lives of Roy Harper and Oliver Queen have been paved by mistrust and fighting but are returning to form in this new wave of positivity and hope. While it may not always be reflective, it’s interesting to note that in the darkest hour of Green Arrow’s life, there always seems to be something more coming to save him. Black Canary and Roy coming back have seriously helped this book pave the way forward. Roy’s time with the Titans has given him a new light for the fans that did not like him as much prior to June 2016. Their new lives are, in many ways, entirely reflective of the “Rebirth” initiative.

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