Green Arrow may be a world-class hero and archer extraordinaire, but Oliver used to be more morally grey, and his darkest deed didn’t involve arrows.
Oliver Queen may be a hero of the highest caliber, but the Green Arrow has had his fair share of dark moments, including a particularly cruel kill that didn’t even involve arrows at all. Fans may typically know Oliver as a loudmouthed and brash swashbuckler with an opinionated streak, but during Mike Grell’s seminal run on the character, the Green Arrow was a much darker urban vigilante. And this Arrow wasn’t afraid to kill his enemies.
While this change was first clear in Grell’s iconic Longbow Hunters miniseries, it carried over into the Green Arrow ongoing that spun out of the title which Grell continued to write with Ed Hannigan on art. In the series, Oliver Queen moved away from the fictional Star City and into the grim and grey streets of Seattle, facing the struggles of age as he becomes a less forgiving hero. But when a known child-killer crossed Green Arrow’s path in Green Arrow #2, forgiveness was never an option.
When the deviant escapes from house arrest to go after the one victim who got away years before, Green Arrow teams up with detective who originally arrested the killer work together to track him down. Investigating his family’s mansion, the duo discovers a series of tunnels leading directly to the killer’s family brewery and explaining his mysterious disappearing act. Oliver sends the detective to go warn the now-adult survivor as he follows the tunnel directly into the brewery itself. Preparing for what’s to come, Oliver begins to empty the giant tanks of beer all over the floor and leaves the room as it begins to fill up. Eventually, it becomes clear that the killer wasn’t going after his old victim, but rather the daughter of the detective who’d arrested him. They eventually catch up to him and rescue the girl, but killer – already wounded by a well-placed arrow – manages to slip away and race back to his brewery with Oliver hot on his trail. He desperately tries to escape from Green Arrow and rushes into the elevator, locking it behind him as it already begins to descend.
As the man taunts the Green Arrow, he looks down to realize the elevator is slowly filling with beer. Oliver turns his back as the man drowns, with little more than a “Cheers” to acknowledge what he’s done. This moment was so dark that it’s hard to imagine Green Arrow ever doing anything like this again. Even the Arrowverse version of the character, known for his willingness to kill, is hard to imagine as drowning a man in his own brewery. It’s just a particularly cruel and premeditated moment that signified a darker shift in Oliver’s overall mindset.
This behavior isn’t especially heroic, and it’s a direction that creators have steered the character away from in the years since. Particularly after Oliver’s death and resurrection, Green Arrow is the politically active Robin Hood that fans know and love. It’s hard to imagine Oliver leading the Justice League if he’s still running around Seattle as judge, jury, and executioner.
Oliver Queen is one of the World’s Greatest Heroes, but this was far from his best moment. Drowning in a brewery is a pretty horrifying way to go out, especially when a supposed superhero is the one responsible. These days, Green Arrow seems to be back on the side of the angels, but just in case, everyone should make sure to keep him away from the beers at the annual Justice League barbecue.
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