Sometimes the best superhero stories are the ones that aren't actually about super heroics.
Bear with me on this one. Seeing Batman swoop in from a gargoyle or the Flash trap a bunch of rogues in a Speed Force cyclone is awesome. Comics wouldn't have survived as long as they have if we could get tired of that kind of action. But, if you'll allow me to mix some metaphors here, there's more to a balanced diet than just gadgets, punches and superpowers. Sometimes, you just need to let the people under the capes and behind the cowls do the heavy lifting for a change. No massive cosmic threats, city-wide panics, or thwarted plans of world domination necessary.
So, with that in mind, I'd really like to tell you about my favorite Green Arrow story of all time.
I'll give you a little background, but you have to promise not to hold it against me. I was only six-years-old when Oliver Queen was killed in GREEN ARROW #101, so I never knew the guy before that. Even when I was old enough and engaged enough to start reading comics in earnest, the whole idea of Green Arrow didn't really draw me in. It wasn't so much his fault, I just had my priorities, and those priorities were decidedly Batman-centric. I just never had time to take a detour from Gotham to Star City. When he was revived in QUIVER, I had no built-in nostalgia for him. Even that story was a little before my time—not to keep dating myself even more—so when I eventually picked it up, I liked it, sure, but it didn't strike any nerves. I didn't really "get it."
And then I discovered GREEN ARROW: THE ARCHER'S QUEST.
Here's the weird thing: It's only barely about Green Arrow at all. At least, it’s probably not about him in the way you'd expect. It's all about Oliver Queen, sure, but it's about Ollie as just a guy, as a friend, an everyday good person, an adoptive dad, a bumbling boyfriend…who also just so happens to put on a mask sometimes and be really good with a bow and arrow.
Set almost immediately after Ollie's resurrection (an event that, in real time, was about seven years in the making), Archer's Quest is a road trip story. There are superheroes and super-villains, some fights, some explosions, even some pretty big-name Justice League cameos. But by and large, it's just a road trip.
Here's the premise. We all know that death is a strange, complicated and frequently temporary thing for superheroes, so bearing that in mind, prior to his own untimely demise, Ollie built himself a contingency plan. He went to the immortal on-again-off-again villain, Shade, with a list of requests—a sort of super heroic last will—that in the event of his death, Shade would go around and collect up various artifacts from his life and make sure they didn't fall into the wrong hands or wind up weaponized against the people he cares about.
So, now that he's back in the land of the living, he has to go make sure to pick up whatever fragments of his old life Shade wasn't able to track down, and that's a process that leads him down an almost literal memory lane. The story functions as the perfect primer for everything that's ever mattered to Ollie's personal life—from his best friends, Hal Jordan and Barry Allen; to his adoptive children, Connor, Roy, and Mia; to his relationship to the Justice League and his romance with Dinah Lance. It's the cliff notes version of everything that make Ollie who he is behind the bow and arrow.
Turns out that was the key to getting me hooked on Green Arrow. Sure, trick shots and marksmanship are cool, his laundry list of villains and grudges are fun, his determination to fight against social injustice is inspiring, but realizing Ollie sits at the center of a huge web of deeply personal, incredibly long lived relationships and connections that reach all across the DC Universe? That's the piece I never knew I needed.
I don't want to make this book sound too sappy—it's not, I promise. Solomon Grundy is in it, so I mean, you know things get real. But if you're looking to access a part of Green Arrow history you may have missed like I did, for whatever reason, this is a great place to start.