Review: Green Arrow/Black Canary: A League of Their Own trade paperback (DC Comics)

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Four trade paperbacks ago (roughly fourteen issues of collected comics), Judd Winick ended Green Arrow and began Green Arrow/Black Canary. Since then, Winick has essentially told just one story, that of Green Arrow Oliver Queen's globe-spanning search to find his missing son Connor Hawke, also known as Green Arrow. That story ends in Green Arrow/Black Canary: A League of Their Own, which includes some pleasing ties to the Green Arrow mythos; more controversial I imagine is what seems to have been the intent of this long story, to remove Connor Hawke as Green Arrow and leave only Oliver Queen with the title.

Throughout Winick's run on Green Arrow/Black Canary, I've praised his use of the characters and settings of the DC Universe in demonstrating Green Arrow and Black Canary's central place among those characters. This continues in League of Their Own, with appearances by Batman and Plastic Man as well as a villain recently featured in Winick's Outsiders. Even better in this volume, however, is Winick's inclusion of longtime Green Arrow villain Shado. I hadn't considered that while Green Arrow/Black Canary has been a good DCU story, it hasn't been a terribly Green Arrow-centric story--but using Shado, even if her role could have been played by any of a number of other villains, at least gives the story a bit more relevance.

Ever since Green Arrow Oliver Queen's resurrection a few years back, there's been a surplus of Green Arrows with Connor Hawke. Winick wrote Hawke to great effect in the previous Green Arrow series, but "Team Arrow" never quite had the cache of the Green Lantern Corps. For a while -- per the DC Comics hype machine in full force during the early days of Countdown to Final Crisis -- there was every reason to believe Judd Winick might let Connor Hawke die during the initial events Green Arrow/Black Canary; I don't believe Winick disliked Hawke (in fact, quite the opposite), but I can see how two Green Arrows might not fit with DC's current trend toward having a one, true, iconic version of their heroes.

Instead, what we find at the end of League of Their Own is a Connor Hawke who's still alive, still a hero, still a martial artist -- in fact, even has some enhanced strength and healing factor these days -- but can't hit a target with an arrow even if it's standing right in front of him. In a move that's on one hand ingenious and on the other smacks of such silly weaknesses as vulnerability to yellow or wood, fans can still enjoy the adventures of Connor Hawke, but he'll never again be named Green Arrow because of said aversion to pointy things.

This is good, I think, if you were never all that crazy about Team Arrow, though likely a troubling trend. Whereas the writers didn't make the mistake of also calling Nightwing "Batman" when he first went out on his own, and the nature of the Corps allows Kyle Rayner to be called Green Lantern alongside Hal Jordan, Flash Wally West best be a bit concerned now that there are additional contenders for the Flash name.

I was concerned that Oliver Queen didn't have a place in the DC Universe when he was first resurrected; since that time I've grown to like the character very much. He's now in essence the One True Green Arrow, but with Judd Winick leaving the title, I wonder about the future of the character. I like Green Arrow, but how does the Green Arrow title differentiate itself from Batman or Manhunter, and how does it avoid the that lead to the former series' cancellation? These'll be things I'm watching when the new creative team comes along.

[Contains full covers.]

On now to finish Jim Shooter's run on Legion of Super-Heroes. Don't miss it!
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