I love most DC events. I even have soft side for Identity Crisis, which has seemingly always facilitated a mixed bag of profound reactions.
And that mostly holds true for Dark Crisis: it wasn’t the most explosive start, but it’s beginning to come into its own and develop a solid foundation for exploring big ideas and bigger truths across the DCU. And a lot of that has to do with the Worlds Without A Justice League spin-off books. Be it tales from Superman, Green Lantern, and Wonder Woman, each title has been a chance to grapple with the greater consequences of the event (an utterly isolated Justice League) and use that space to really delve into these characters’ core personalities and possible futures.
So, does Green Arrow’s tale find the mark, or is a little left of center?
I don’t have an archery reference for this, but it’s a mostly solid entry. And that may be all the more compelling for a variety of reasons.
The tale itself is actually more of a Green Arrow-Black Canary love story, as the latter gets to play Robin Hood and the former’s more or less left the same (a bad-ass urban hero) before their “worlds” come crashing together — literally. In that sense, it felt like we didn’t really get a chance to explore Oliver Queen as a singular hero, and any potential of the quaint Robin Hood retelling was quickly undone for something else entirely. (Sure, it’s an obvious gag, but the whole contrast/comparison between the two archers has true potential.)
From there, it felt like yet another Arrow-Canary story that we’ve seen a hundred times across an array of mediums. (I always loved their shtick in the Justice League cartoons.) Sure, they’re a fascinating and emotionally-nuanced couple, but there’s only so many layers, especially when the end message here is basically, “Their love is really special.” Writer Stephanie Phillips has wrung new truths from long-standing heroes before — her work on Harley Quinn is generally compelling — but it just felt like another excuse to tell a half-hearted love story that we didn’t really need.
The story does take a kind of novel turn, however, with a backup/secondary tale that has Black Canary confront Pariah. The gist being that, if he’s going to keep them imprisoned, he may as well build a world where they can be together. This second story — from writer Dennis Culver and artist Nik Virella — had a bit more promise, namely with a different take on both heroes (Black Canary was in a kind of Batman Beyond-style situation, while Green Arrow seemed to be more Batman-esque but in the world of CW’s Arrow).
However, it was another case where things didn’t connect beyond “here’s another love story.” It’s not just that they’re being lumped together and not seen as individuals (there’s so much potentially respectively), but their love affair just isn’t novel enough anymore to really provide any new insights/understandings. Even some added energies and narrative tidbits just reminded us that their connection has become a fixed point in the DCU, and it would take a lot more to make it compelling beyond highlighting the joy and warmth it already provides.
I think all of this together demonstrates that this title is certainly lacking in comparison to other stories thus far. My favorite — Green Lantern — was a way to strip down the character and explore his essence as both free-spirited creator and a dedicated soldier. My second fave — the Superman story — was nearly as good, and allowed us to see something vulnerable about the Man of Steel (even if the story wasn’t entirely about both Jon and Clark Kent). Even my “least” favorite title, Wonder Woman, still felt like a proper setup that simply wasn’t executed in full.
This story didn’t just miss the mark with the romance elements, but it felt like it actively wanted to avoid any ideas about the individual essence of Black Canary and Green Arrow. It smashed the lovebirds together so quickly that it hardly felt like they were two people falling in love. And there could have been more to explore in teasing out their connection and their robust interplay, even as their actual couple-dom feels a little over-explored. There were no real odds or giant shifts here, and it mostly suffered from fostering a faux sense of longing that no believed existed in the first place.
The art, luckily, was a bit of an improvement over the story itself. The creative team — the main story featured artist Clayton Henry, colorist Marcel Maiolo, and letterer Troy Peteri — had lots of things to work with and nailed most of ’em. That includes some solid designs for the Robin Hood Green Arrow, the future dystopia look for Black Canary from the secondary story, some great fight scenes with Merlyn (Ollie’s real charm is his sheer physicality, after all), and an extended confrontation with an Oliver “duplicate.” (Those alternate versions are a subtle theme in this title, but it doesn’t really ring true beyond making one into a brief, wholly superficial villain.)
I don’t think the art was enough to “overcome” some of the shortcomings of the story itself, but there were enough big moments and solid aesthetical decisions to show that, as a whole, this story had the sheer potential. Where it lost it, perhaps, was that the visuals brought us there but the story couldn’t really explain the value of these situations and what that has to tell us about these heroes’ larger personalities as well as their place in both the event and the universe at-large. The art felt like it had the heart and personality — especially in showing the actual interactions between our lovebirds — but there needed to be more to capture something grander beyond a dope aesthetic.
I mostly enjoyed this story not only for the visuals but because, despite its shortcomings, was a touching enough tale of
Black Arrow Green Canary. Was it popcorn over a home-cooked meal? Yeah, but that’s still tasty. Did I desperately want it to be more? Of course, these are great heroes, and they are so much more than their connection to one another — they’re people we want to see find that sense of love, respect, and belonging. But if you can somehow excuse most of that lost storytelling potential — and I don’t think I can entirely — what’s left is a visually compelling, moderately heartfelt story about the human potential at the core of both the DCU in general and this grandiose event.
But if we’re really going to have Dark Crisis truly excel, we need a little more than trick arrows and X’s and O’s.
Join the AIPT Patreon
Want to take our relationship to the next level? Become a patron today to gain access to exclusive perks, such as:
- ❌ Remove all ads on the website
- 💬 Join our Discord community, where we chat about the latest news and releases from everything we cover on AIPT
- 📗 Access to our monthly book club
- 📦 Get a physical trade paperback shipped to you every month
- 💥 And more!