Green Arrow is a wildly underrated comic book character. Amidst DC cornerstones such as Superman and Batman, it can be difficult to compete. Oliver Queen has no superpowers and he’s largely seen as either “bow and arrow guy” or “rip-off Batman” (thank CW’s Arrow for that specific interpretation of the character). What makes Green Arrow so compelling, however, is his personality. Ollie Queen is a loud-mouthed, hot-headed, swashbuckling hero who speaks his mind and thinks with his heart. Additionally, Green Arrow is very politically and socially conscious of the world around him, standing up for the “little guy”. Armed with only his bow and a quiver full of fun trick arrows, Green Arrow stands against injustice on all levels. Most importantly, Ollie is a very flawed character. He makes mistakes like anyone else, and the consequences often come back to haunt Ollie and his loved ones. Yet Ollie keeps moving forward, trying to be a better person despite past mistakes.
Quiver, by writer Kevin Smith and artist Phil Hester is a great example of the flawed, yet well-intentioned nature of Green Arrow. Smith tackles the challenge of resurrecting Ollie, who had been dead for years at this point. In bringing Green Arrow back to life, Smith provides a perfect jumping-on point for both new and old readers alike. Not only does Smith take the Emerald Archer back to basics as a socially conscious hero, he also provides plenty of backstory on Green Arrow lore. Supporting characters, previous stories, and Ollie as a character are all given sufficient explanation for anyone who is new to Green Arrow. Quiver also acts as a springboard for future Green Arrow stories, such as Smith’s Sounds of Violence and other great, 21st century takes on the character.
From Ollie’s return as Green Arrow, the reader can tell that Smith simply gets the character. Ollie Queen re-emerges true to form: loud-mouthed and hot-headed as ever. Smith also provides several small moments of social justice, a trademark for the character. Of course, the mystery around Ollie’s return lingers throughout the narrative, as characters in the story and the reader are left wondering: how did Green Arrow come back from the dead? Moreover, Ollie returns in a strange form, as a version of himself from many years in the past. With no memory of recent events, Green Arrow must confront the mistakes that he has made over the years. Smith does an excellent job in presenting a closer look at Queen, a man who merely wishes to return to simpler times. The sentiment of nostalgia creates an immediate connection between Ollie and the reader, making a man who shoots boxing-glove arrows into a relatable human.
Returning Ollie to his past self also exemplifies a key theme of Quiver: returning to your roots. The whole narrative which Smith crafts displays Green Arrow in his old element: taking on corrupt men in power, teaming up with the Justice League, and reuniting with old flame Black Canary. All of the elements which make up the classic Green Arrow mythos are present through Ollie’s return to form. Conversely, Smith explores the hollow nature of this return as well. The very title, Quiver, expresses an emptiness. Ollie may have checked off all of his character boxes, but he is still missing essential bits of history. At first, the time which Ollie is missing seems to represent the worst of his life. It is the missing years, however, which complete Ollie as an individual. In simply embodying the best parts of himself, Ollie is not a whole person. Ollie’s return is also felt throughout the DC Universe, including his own supporting cast, the Justice League, and even characters such as Etrigan the Demon. Including a wide variety of characters in this story illustrates the sheer impact that one person can have on a whole world of larger-than-life characters. Even characters known as “bow and arrow guy” can make a world of difference to others.
Villains in Quiver are not very flashy and overt. Much of the conflict surrounding the narrative is the mystery of Ollie’s return. The biggest question, asking why Ollie is only a part of himself, acts as the central tension of Quiver. The lack of overt villains emphasizes the real enemy of the story: Oliver Queen himself. Throughout the story, Ollie must not only accept the life which he has lived, but in doing so, he must learn to live with his mistakes. Ollie struggles to witness his life experiences, including the loved ones he has lost and the loved ones he has hurt. Confronting his life holistically, Ollie must accept all of the flaws and consequences that come with being whole. Only through accepting the nasty realities of the past can Ollie move on with his new life. Of course, there is still room for smaller villains to show up here and there, such as Ollie and Aquaman fighting Black Manta. Several instances of fighting pimps, corrupt politicians, and drug lords also allow for some fun, light-hearted fight scenes .
Green Arrow’s supporting cast shines in Quiver. Characters such as Black Canary, Arsenal, and Ollie’s son, Connor, all show the impact which Queen has had on those closest to him. Furthermore, the perspectives of Ollie’s friends and loved ones give the reader a better sense of who the Emerald Archer really was before his death. Black Canary shows a love for Ollie, despite all of the highs and lows of their relationship. Arsenal muses on the lessons which his mentor taught him. Connor Hawke expresses regret about never truly knowing his father, despite taking up his mantle as Green Arrow. All of these relationships round out both the good and the bad that come with Ollie’s life. Additionally, new supporting characters are introduced, providing fresh blood to Ollie’s new life. Former prostitute Mia Dearden is inspired by Green Arrow, who saves her life near the beginning of the story. Mia embodies the “little guy” for whom Ollie stands, displaying Green Arrow’s significance on those he saves. Mia aspires to become Ollie’s new sidekick, which is indicative of the change which Ollie has inspired within this young woman. Major DC relationships are also highlighted well, including Green Arrow’s connection to fellow Justice League members Green Lantern, Batman, Aquaman, and many others. Each of these relationships is given a distinct quality, indicating the unique impact which Green Arrow has on each member of the DC Universe.
Phil Hester’s artwork is a perfect match for Smith’s writing. Hester is able to capture comedic moments perfectly, from physical gags such as the fire-extinguisher arrow, to long pauses during awkward conversations. There is a certain levity to Hester’s pencils which make Quiver such a fun read. Hester provides a great sense of movement in both action scenes and character interactions, making for some fun, fast-paced scenes. Despite the light-hearted moments of Quiver, Hester is also able to visually capture important moments in the story. Several double page spreads are used perfectly to highlight moments of awe and wonder. Furthermore, personal character moments are given appropriate attention, such as Green Arrow’s initial return, or the reunion between Green Arrow and Black Canary. A certain monumental yet tender nature is conveyed through these emotional scenes. I would also be remiss if I did not mention Matt Wagner’s gorgeous covers. Painted covers such as these are like classical portraits of comic book characters. Each cover gives off a traditional vision of beauty and elegance.
As fantastic as Quiver is, it is not without flaws. At times, Smith is very wordy in his use of dialogue. The excessive use of dialogue takes up much of the page, distracting from Hester’s artwork. While much of Smith’s dialogue can be funny and charming, at certain points the artwork can accomplish more than enough on its own. Along similar lines, the narrative can become pretty exposition-heavy, especially once Ollie’s resurrection is finally explained. Of course, given the nature of a resurrection story, some exposition is necessary. For new readers, the elaborate nature of concepts such as resurrection can be somewhat jarring. I would advise to simply endure the comic book logic, as the story moves along soon enough. Some of the DC characters also are not voiced very accurately, such as Batman, who can come off as a little too colloquial in his speech. Wonder Woman is also given an odd moment, greeting Ollie by passionately kissing him. Smith may not fully have a handle on the outer DC Universe, but this is still a Green Arrow story, so much of this can be largely ignored. Speaking of Green Arrow, there is a good amount of Green Arrow lore that I would have liked to have seen. Villains such as Merlyn or Count Vertigo would have added a great deal to the essential Green Arrow package which Smith constructs. Adding in iconic villains would give new readers a more complete conception of Green Arrow’s world.
Overall, Quiver is a fantastic starting point for Green Arrow. Smith and Hester do an amazing job at capturing Oliver Queen and his world. Ollie is a loudmouth, a hothead, and a very vocal social activist. Yet all of Ollie’s loveable qualities still come with his flaws. Ollie can be impulsive, childish, and stubborn, making mistakes that impact everyone around him. What Quiver exemplifies most of all, however, is Ollie’s willingness to confront his mistakes and try to be better. Whether Ollie is trying to be a better father, mentor, lover, or friend, he ultimately reconciles the good with the bad. From there, Green Arrow can move forward and be the swashbuckling hero who fights injustice at all levels.
In case you enjoyed Quiver, here are a few more recommended Green Arrow stories:
- Green Arrow: Sounds of Violence by Kevin Smith & Phil Hester
- Green Arrow: the Archer’s Quest by Brad Meltzer & Phil Hester
- Green Arrow: Year One by Andy Diggle & Jock
- Green Lantern/Green Arrow by Dennis O’Neil & Neal Adams
- Green Arrow: the Longbow Hunters by Mike Grell
- Green Arrow by Jeff Lemire & Andrea Sorrentino
- Green Arrow: Rebirth by Benjamin Percy
That’s it for this week! Thanks for reading! Feel free to share and follow this blog on Twitter @book_column.