This year marks the 80th anniversary of the debut of Green Arrow, one of my all-time favorite superheroes. We’ve already talked about who, exactly, the Emerald Archer is, as well as his various family members. Now let’s talk about where to find the best stories about him.[Note: Despite having been around for nearly a century, Green Arrow and his supporting cast have overwhelmingly been written and drawn almost exclusively by white men. While that’s maybe not a surprise for the first few decades of the character’s existence, by 2021 there’s no excuse. Do better, DC.]
Green Lantern/Green Arrow by Denny O’Neil and Neal Adams (1970)
Though Oliver Queen has been around since 1941, he didn’t really gel as a character until Denny O’Neil and Neal Adams got their hands on him in 1969, giving him a snazzy new costume, an aggressively outspoken personality, and a passionately left-wing political bent. In 1970, the new and improved Ollie began costarring in his fellow Justice Leaguer Green Lantern’s book in the hopes that a second green superhero for the price of one would boost floundering sales. Over the course of issues #76–89, the two heroes traveled the country in a pickup truck, trying to make sense of the social upheaval of the ’60s and ’70s, and tackling issues like racism, poverty, drugs, labor issues, political corruption, and environmentalism. Though these comics are obviously seriously dated now, half a century later, they’re still beautifully told, gorgeously drawn, and clearly heartfelt. There have been a million editions collecting these comics, but you can find the most complete collections here in hardcover and here on Kindle.
Green Arrow by Mike W. Barr and Trevor von Eeden (1983)
Green Arrow got his first solo outing in 1983 with this four-issue miniseries by Mike W. Barr and Trevor von Eeden, and it’s a delight. When a wealthy older friend of Ollie’s dies and leaves him the bulk of her fortune, Ollie doesn’t just have to navigate her resentful, squabbling relatives and his newly regained (and unwanted) status as a millionaire playboy — he also suspects foul play, and that he’s next on the chopping block. This is Green Arrow by way of Agatha Christie and it’s absolutely charming. It’s never been collected in trade that I know of, but thankfully it has been digitized and you can read the whole thing on Comixology.
The Longbow Hunters by Mike Grell (1988)
After GL/GA, The Longbow Hunters by writer/artist Mike Grell is probably the best-known Green Arrow story out there. This three-issue miniseries sees Ollie and his lady love Dinah Lance (AKA Black Canary) relocating to Seattle and trading in some of the more outlandish trappings of the superhero lifestyle (trick arrows, secret identities, supervillains) in exchange for drug trafficking rings, assassins, and serial killers. Though Grell’s complex character work and moody, painterly art are more genuinely mature than a lot of the “violent for violence’s sake” books of the grim ‘n gritty ’80s, this book does use sexual assault as a plot point, which is frustrating. You may want to skip over the worst of the violence and start with the ongoing Green Arrow series that spun out of The Longbow Hunters instead — still written by Grell but drawn by several excellent artists, beginning with Ed Hannigan. The first volume, Hunters Moon, still deals with sexual assault but from a perspective of recovery. I know this is “Where to Start” but listen, do yourself a favor and read all 80 issues of Grell’s run if you’ve got the time — you won’t regret it.
Arsenal by Devin Grayson and Rick Mays (1998)
Okay, okay, it’s not exactly a Green Arrow book, but I love Ollie’s original sidekick Roy Harper even more than I love Ollie himself, and this four-issue miniseries is an excellent introduction to the character. It’s a retelling of and update to his origin and a fun superhero adventure that delves deeply into his insecurities and fears while exploring his relationships with his daughter Lian, Black Canary, Connor Hawke, and the memory of Ollie, who was dead at the time. It hasn’t been collected, but you can read it on Comixology. (Please note, though, that from what I understand, the details of Navajo culture, religion, and language as depicted in this mini are well-intentioned but inaccurate at best.)
Quiver by Kevin Smith and Phil Hester (2001)
Ollie was brought back to life in the 2001 Green Arrow series, which begins with this arc. This was my introduction to the character and remains one of my favorite comics of all time. This is the Oliver Queen I love: a melodramatic, irresponsible old crank who never stops complaining — but who, at the end of the day, does legitimately have his heart in the right place. Plus it’s just a damn good story. The line that finally reveals the double meaning of the title still gives me chills. And if you enjoy “Quiver,” Smith and Hester followed it up with the second arc of the series, “Sounds of Violence,” which is also excellent.
Green Arrow by Jeff Lemire and Andrea Sorrentino (2013)
The New 52 Green Arrow series floundered considerably for the first year and a half of its run, but in 2013 Jeff Lemire and Andrea Sorrentino came on board with an epic plot line involving ancient weapons, secret societies, and most importantly, the debut of Emiko Queen, light of my heart. Despite the truly ludicrous amounts of archery going on, this doesn’t feel like any other Green Arrow story out there — it reminds me most of Iron Fist, actually — but it’s compellingly readable and gorgeously drawn. Give it a shot if you love epic world-building.
Green Arrow: Rebirth by Benjamin Percy, Otto Schmidt, and Juan Ferreyra (2016)
As a longtime Green Arrow fan, reading his 2016 rebirth series felt like coming home after a long absence. This fun, fast-moving run is an homage to the great Green Arrow comics of the past while simultaneously feeling fresh and new; a run that remembers Classic Ollie’s passionate political beliefs and actually applies them to modern current events. It brings back elements like the Ollie/Dinah romance and forgotten supporting characters like Eddie Fyers for the old school fans, while reinventing them to keep new readers from being lost. It even folds in some of the better elements of Arrow, like John Diggle and Moira Queen. It’s just fun. Read the whole thing, please.
Ollie doesn’t have his own book in Infinite Frontier, but he’ll be leading the Justice League starting with issue #59, out this March, as well as appearing in the upcoming Checkmate series. I look forward to him shouting at his teammates constantly like the crank that he is, and am crossing my fingers that he’ll soon have another solo book that I can add to this list!