Oliver Queen is back.
I’m going to pause to let that sink in for a bit.
Then again, if you’re reading this you most likely already know he’s back, because unlike me you’re not reading comics that were published sixteen years ago. For all I know, you may not have even known Oliver was ever gone.
Well, he was, but thanks to the wonderful Kevin Smith (whom I believe should be sainted for bringing Oliver back) he’s made a triumphant, dramatic return.
Cue the trumpets and fanfare.
This newest Green Arrow comic (the third run of such a story) opens on the fate of Star City without a Green Arrow to protect its streets. The standard corruption and crime is taking place everywhere, and as we see a man being attacked in an alley, his assailants are scared off by a strangely familiar man.
Dirty and disheveled, Oliver is taken in by the man he saved, an elderly gent named Stanley.
Itching to get back into the game, Oliver spends the beginning of the comic unmasking corruption and catching criminals with his own personal style. Of course, not all is perfect with his return.
Although Oliver is seen to be alive, we soon learn that he’s not quite all there.
There is a large chunk of time missing from Oliver’s memory, with at least a decade missing. This makes for more than one awkward encounter as he doesn’t realize all of the massive changes that have taken place.
At this point the story really takes off, with a lengthy explanation as to just how Oliver survived the massive explosion that vaporized his body.
The short story: he didn’t.
Oliver died in the crash, but we learn that just before his death, Hal Jordan sought to right his wrongs and visited Oliver in heaven, where Hal asked if he could bring Ollie back from the dead. Oliver agreed, but only if his soul could remain in heaven.
Essentially, a soulless Oliver Queen body was brought back to life, and that’s who we’ve been following the entire story.
It’s a bit out there, but it was wonderfully written, with alive-Ollie even traveling to Heaven (thanks to Hal/Spectre) to speak with his own soul.
Soul-Ollie doesn’t want to leave Heaven (who can blame him?) so he tells body-Ollie to go enjoy his life on Earth.
While all of this is happening, there’s a whole other plot revolving around a child-killer and a beastly demon, all which serve the purpose to draw Oliver’s soul out of heaven.
Oliver is tied to a table, and Connor is valiantly trying to save him from a horde of demons. He’s being overwhelmed though, and Oliver must plead with his own soul to rejoin his body to save his son. It takes some convincing, but ultimately Soul-Oliver does what’s right.
Oliver’s body and soul are reunited, and the father-son duo fight together until the demons are sent back to hell.
The comic essentially ends at this point, with Oliver officially returned from the dead (and back in the main continuity.) The story implies that Oliver and Connor will be spending some quality time together, getting to know each other again, as they happily walk off into the sunset.
I loved this comic even more than I thought I would. I have half a mind to drive to Red Bank, NJ (really only about an hour or two from here) and personally thank Kevin Smith for writing such a great Green Arrow story.
The story is just that good.
There is a lot going on in these ten issues, even more than I could possibly summarize in this post. What’s truly impressive though is how well the entire story flows together. It’s no easy task to figure out exactly how to bring a human character back from the dead, but Smith created a wholly believable scenario. If anyone would be responsible for Ollie’s return, it would be Hal, and seeing their reunion was quite moving.
Smith is clearly a comics fan, and has done plenty of homework. He makes plenty of references to the main continuity to easily place this story within a larger framework. There are references to Crisis on Infinite Earths as well as plenty of minor events throughout Oliver’s life. My favorite references though were those to Hard Traveling Heroes, one of the last points in time Ollie seems to remember, when he and Hal traveled the country, righting wrongs. I always appreciate when writers reference back to previously storylines, because it sets the stage for the comic at hand while also proving that the writer knows what the hell he’s talking about. Given how well this comic was written and how many references to past events were made, I’d say Kevin Smith definitely knows comics (yeah, yeah, I know, he owns a comic-book shop, what did I expect?)
This story was a brilliant reintroduction of Green Arrow, and provided plenty of context to appeal to new and old readers alike. Ollie’s past is laid out in a believable, non-summarizing format while creating a truly original way to bring back a dead character. I was plenty upset when Oliver died, and constantly wondered just how he’d be brought back. After all, he’s no Superman, so there are no metahuman abilities that could be exploited to explain his comeback. Smith’s use of Hal Jordan and his desire to do right by his old friend felt completely believable, no small feat given the entire subject matter of this story. It takes a skilled writer to pull off the “soulless body walking the earth while his soul resides in Heaven” story without feeling contrived, but Smith does it wonderfully.
Also, the comic makes an overt reference to “The Powerpuff Girls” at one point, and for that, Kevin Smith, I love you.