Green Arrow is one of those superheroes that people find it easy to connect with because of his beliefs. As someone who stands up for the little guy, Oliver Queen has dedicated his resources to making the world a better place with a bow and arrow. But it took him a long time to become the man he is, as Queen had to learn how to survive on his own two feet before becoming Green Arrow. Ollie’s transformation from frivolous playboy to hardened hunter is chronicled in Andy Diggle’s Green Arrow: Year One. The graphic novel contains themes of isolation, manhood, slavery and the power of nature against urbanisation.
The story kicks off with a young Ollie blowing through his money by going on trips around the world. He’s reckless, entitled and solely out for his own enjoyment. Trailing behind him is his bodyguard and confidante Hackett, who has to clean up the messes that Ollie gets himself into. After the two of them go on a boat trip, Hackett is revealed to be working with a human slaver called Chien Na-Wei. Hackett is able to overpower Ollie and throws him into the Pacific Ocean, unwilling to shoot him.
Ollie wakes up on a island in the middle of nowhere and he’s forced to fend for himself or die. Diggle goes into great detail to show the young millionaire’s struggle as he learns to adapt to his new life. There’s one scene where Ollie catches a raw fish and is so hungry that he takes a bite, only to throw up minutes later. Slowly, he begins to get used to island life and Ollie finds himself content for the first time.
“My world shrinks down to this belt of green shadow, bounded by the shore below, the ridge above…and everything becomes very simple. I hunt. I eat. I sleep. And nothing else matters. I live by the bow. Birds, fish, monkeys. The occasional small deer. Gradually I come to understand that I’m good at this. And I realise that for the first time in my life I’m happy. Really happy. Whatever it was that I was missing, I’ve found it. I don’ even think I’ve ever felt this…whole. This alive. I was supposed to die here. So either this is paradise or I’m born again.”- Green Arrow
Ollie’s peace is interrupted by the arrival of Chien Na-Wei’s men who’re enslaving the local population. Ollie comes face to face with Hackett, engaging him in a bloody brawl that leaves the Emerald Archer close to death. A local woman called Taiana nurses him back to health, though Ollie becomes addicted to the opium she uses. Armed with the new name Auu Lanu Lau’Ava/Green Arrow, Ollie goes to ground in order to get through his addiction.
Ollie’s fight to get clean is one of the most visceral parts of the graphic novel, brought to life by Jock. The scene is coloured purple, representing an opium haze within Green Arrow’s mind. The reader can see the agony on Ollie’s face. After he emerges, the sun is shining and Ollie is bathed in gold to indicate that he’s been purified. Jock’s art is impressive throughout the story, presenting sun-soaked beaches and gritty battles in vivid detail.
Green Arrow takes on Na-Wei’s organisation, which leads to a final confrontation with Hackett. In the surrounding chaos, Hackett is killed, with Ollie and Taiana helping the local populace to take back control of the island. The relationship between Green Arrow and Taiana is integral for Ollie’s development because she inspires him to fight for the little guy and use his money for good.
“All my life I’ve climbed over the little guy on my way to the top of the heap, and never gave it a second thought. But here, a woman with nothing risked everything to save me. I owe her more than just my life. I owe her my soul. And whether I live for another sixty years, or only six minutes I know I’ll spend the rest of my life repaying that debt.” – Green Arrow
Green Arrow: Year One is an exciting origin story that gives an insight into how Oliver Queen turned his life around. You can purchase it now on Amazon.