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Thoughts on the New 52 and Green Arrow

By Scott Tibbs, October 3, 2013

I have picked up a few collections of the New 52 series published by DC. I am not a fan of universe-wide reboots and I think the DC Universe was better before Flashpoint resulted in the new universe. That said, several of the books I have read are quite good. There are good and bad titles, of course.

I'll start with one of my favorite characters, Green Arrow. I became a Green Arrow fan with Identity Crisis and I collected several volumes of the pre-Flashpoint Green Arrow series. (His battle with Dr. Light and Merlyn leading into Infinite Crisis was especially good.) Before I complain, let me say I am enjoying the books. The character is likeable and the stories are mostly well written.

Here is what I do not like. The old grizzled veteran is gone, replaced by a younger and "hipper" character. Oliver Queen is no longer a liberal activist - his politics barely enters the series at all, while it was a defining trait pre-Flashpoint. His friendship with Green Lantern has been wiped from history, and Roy Harper is a former partner instead of a former ward. The newest Speedy, Mia Dearden, is nowhere to be seen. Connor Hawke does not exist - at least not as an adult. The new Oliver Queen is far too young to have an adult son.

Basically, Green Arrow has been rebuilt from the ground up - he is essentially a completely new character. As a fan of the old character, this is not something I would have done. I wish DC had managed to keep more of his history. If DC can have three former Robins before Damien Wayne, they could have kept much more of Oliver Queen's history intact. Keeping Batman's history is no more cumbersome than keeping Green Arrow's history.

My biggest complaint is the villains in the first major story arc of Green Arrow. The concept for these new characters was interesting: Super-powered villains who attract followers on social media for what is essentially a modern-era snuff film. Green Arrow needs a good rogues gallery, and this had potential to create a new set of enemies for him.

The problem is that all of these villains are handled poorly, and the story suffers for it. Their powers are not explained, their backstory is not explained, and some of them are not even named. I had no idea who these characters were. It would have been far better to slash the roster of ten villains to a more manageable four or five and then explain who they are, what powers they have and how they got those powers.

The new Green Arrow is likeable, and his origin is very similar to his pre-Flashpoint origin. But because DC stripped away so much of what made Oliver Queen unique in the old DCU, he is more like a shadow of Iron Man in the Marvel universe. Hopefully DC will start to work the social consciousness of the old series back into the new series, especially if they could introduce Mia Dearden as a former prostitute with AIDS. There is a lot of potential with this character, so hopefully this will get better,

There are other books I enjoy, especially Earth 2 - though I am unimpressed with the Teen Titans. I do miss the old Justice Society, which was far and away my favorite series in the pre-Flashpoint DCU. I am curious if the Apocalypse that invaded Earth 2 is the same Apocalypse that invaded Earth 1 in the first Justice League story arc, and the two earths have already crossed. I am actually warming up to the post-Flashpoint DCU, so it will be interesting to see where my favorite characters are taken by the writers.

My main problem with the New 52 is it should have been a clean reboot of every character. Earth 2 is a perfect example of how to do a clean reboot correctly. But because DC kept some of the pre-Flashpoint history and erased other parts in the primary universe, it can be very confusing to figure out what of the pre-Flashpoint stories happened and which did not, and that is likely to require another "fix" at some point.