Nothing worthwhile is ever easy. But Benjamin Percy made it look effortless when he reunited beloved DC Comics ship Black Canary and Green Arrow in his current run of Green Arrow from last year’s DC Rebirth. Now collected in the trade paperback Green Arrow Vol 1: The Death & Life of Oliver Queen, revisiting Percy’s opening issues of the volume reveal how much, and also how little, it takes to restore lost canon.
Originally residing on different planes of reality — Oliver Queen, aka Green Arrow, lived on Earth-1 while Dinah Lance, aka Black Canary, resided on Earth-2 — the two met in Justice League of America #74 in 1969. Pitted against each other in a fight between the Justice Society and the Justice League, Green Arrow battled Canary one-on-one and subdued her with a trick arrow. Y’know, I’ve heard stranger meet-cutes.
Throughout the ‘70s, the two became a serious item and became a known pair in DC canon — until 2011, when DC’s continuity went nuclear in a reboot initiative called the New 52. All books, including Green Arrow, got new creative teams who sought to rebuild character mythologies from scratch (except for maybe Batman, who already had his full-fledged Bat-Family). Green Arrow and Black Canary became strangers, and they stayed that way, to the ire of their fans.
Last year, DC sought to restore as much of old canon as it could in DC Rebirth, including the romance between Green Arrow and Black Canary. It began in DC Universe: Rebirth #1, with the two stealing glances and yearning for something missing.
Percy hits the ground running in Green Arrow: Rebirth #1 reintroducing many classic Green Arrow hallmarks, both superficial and significant: the goatee, the socialist agenda, and yes, Black Canary. So much is said with so little, and their conversations are dwell on the plot regarding a human trafficking ring in Seattle’s underbelly. Old stories and feelings aren’t brought up (since technically, they don’t exist), there’s no long-winded exposition, or romance novel exchanges. These are two crusaders with a job to do.
“The city got a second chance. I got a second chance. So do you,” Queen tells Black Canary in what you can consider their “first date.” She replies: “Here’s to second chances.”
The two end the issue looking at a Seattle morning sunrise after the evening’s brawl. It’s picturesque and sweet, and sure, sentimental. But there’s also little lifting on the part of either Percy, and a lot on artist Otto Schmidt who ends the two framed together on an extreme close up of their lips. Sometimes, it pays to buck subtlety.
The television series Arrow notoriously killed off Dinah “Laurel” Lance (Katie Cassidy) last season, leaving an unfulfilled and underwritten romance in the DC series. But the romance always came from comics, and it’s in the comics where it now lives on.
The new trade collects Green Arrow: Rebirth #1 and the first five issues of Green Arrow, so those seeking to indulge in the literal Arrow/Canary ship paradise of issue #8 won’t get that, unless tracking down individual back issues is an option. But perhaps this romance yields an important lesson in the virtue of patience. Some things are worth the wait.