Judd Winick’s run on Green Arrow comes to an end with this issue. That may not seem like a momentous occasion given that this is only issue 14 of GA&BC, but when you take into consideration Winick’slong run on the Green Arrow solo series, this is the end of an era. 5-year runs on any character are pretty rare in comics these days. So, in addition to reviewing this individual issue, it seemed appropriate to reflect a little on Winick’s entire run on Green Arrow.
Winick is one of the most controversial creators in comics. There are readers who can’t stand his work and take every opportunity to complain about him. I’m not one of those readers. But increasingly, I can understand their point of view.
Winick’s Green Arrow run actually started off very poorly. Back in the days when Kyle Rayner was still Green Lantern, Winick and Ben Raab teamed up as co-writers for the horrendous GL/GA cross-over “The Black Circle”. When the crossover ended, Winick took up solo writing duties on Green Arrow while Ben Raab went on to drive Kyle’s solo book into the ground. Since most of the plot elements of “The Black Circle” stayed with Raab on Kyle’s book, I attributed the atrocity primarily to Raab and gave Winick a fresh start on GA.
Winick’s work on Green Arrow had its ups and downs. Sometimes the pacing would falter and things would drag on an issue or two longer than they needed to. Then, the plot threads would get hastily tied up. And sometimes the internal logic was somewhat suspect even by superhero comic book standards. There were also the usual continuity issues. I recall an issue which featured an appearance by Killer Frost. Winick clearly hadn’t gotten the memo about how her power worked.
Despite the flaws, I found Winick’s run on the solo Green Arrow to be consistently entertaining. When he was on top of his game, he was capable of really nailing the character interactions. Under Winick, Mia went through a pretty massive transformation into Speedy. He introduced the controversy surrounding her HIV infection. And even though it occasionally felt like a public service announcement, the progression usually worked.
Connor Hawke is one of the trickiest characters to write correctly. As created by Chuck Dixon, Connor was a man of peace who also happened to be one of the best martial artists in the world. His skill with a bow was impressive, but secondary to his hand-to-hand fighting skills. He had a mixed heritage and complex issues with both his parents. He was shy, naive and socially awkward. For a long time, even his sexuality was questionable. But he was courageous and uncompromising. Connor was always ready to lay down his life for his beliefs.
Most other writers wanted to write Connor like Ollie Jr. This was pretty much the opposite of the way Dixon had been portraying the character. So, I was relieved with Winick’s take on Connor. It wasn’t 100% true to Dixon. But few writers really got the complexity of Dixon’s take on the character. Winick preserved a lot of the core elements, even if he turned Connor into more of a big brother to Mia. By and large, it worked.
Winick’s run ends with a transformation for Connor. After reading this issue, I feel the invisible hand of editorial pushing the change. Following a long and preposterous story arc in which the Green Arrow cast and an unlikely assortment of guest stars chased Connor’s body across the world, we get a Connor who feels a lot more like a generic super hero than the complex character Dixon created.
Now Connor has holes in his memory. And the biggest hole centers on his time in a Buddhist monastery, the very experiences which once defined the character. All signs of the compex pacifist are gone. So are Connor’s archery skills. Odds are, you can shoot straighter than Connor now. (Isn’t it convenient that he no longer makes a suitable Green Arrow?) To compensate for his loss of archery, Connor got a new (and unnecessary) healing factor and a high tolerance for pain.
As a Connor fan, I hate the the changes. To me, it betrays everything about the character that made him special. What’s more, it was completely unnecessary. If DC wanted to make Connor give up the Green Arrow identity, there were easier ways to do it. Even under Dixon, Connor was a reluctant Green Arrow. He could have easily decided to create an identity for himself without having been turned into some kind of meta-human.
As I said before, I suspect Winick may have been directed by editorial to implement these changes, so I’m going to give him the benefit of the doubt with regards to this decision. Aside from featuring a plot development I hated, how was the issue?
Well, the execution was okay. The great strength of Winick’s run on Green Arrow has always been that he understands Ollie Queen. And Ollie’s reactions to Connor’s transformation feel genuine. (Although many members of the supporting cast seem to take it a little too well.)
Once Connor’s new status quo was established, Winick ended his run with what seems to be one of his favorite scenes to write; Ollie bedding Black Canary. I was always reluctant to see Dinah take back up with Ollie. Whenever she’s around him, her IQ seems to drop. All too often, she’s portrayed as a lingerie-clad trophy for Ollie’s heroism. The last couple of pages of this issue definitely had that feel for me. But, I couldn’t begrudge the characters their happy ending either.
I’ve been looking forward to the end of Winick’s run for some time now. Though I enjoyed most of his work on the solo Green Arrow title, this title was mostly a mess from the beginning. And the Quest for Connor story was almost unbearable. Now that it’s over, I look forward to seeing what a new writer can bring to the book.