Thanks for the smash hit Arrow, Oliver Queen’s origin story is almost as well-known as Bruce Wayne’s at this point. Green Arrow: Stranded, a new graphic novel by Brendan Deneen and Bell Hosalla, is an all-ages retelling of Oliver’s time on the island in his formative years. It’s a story of survival and hope that reminds readers of any age that fear and bravery always go hand in hand. And it’s gorgeous.
As the story opens, thirteen-year-old Oliver Queen is flying home with his father on the family’s private jet. The tension in the air can’t be ignored. Oliver and his dad are at odds, but a sudden lurch of turbulence derails their discussion. The other passengers in the plane, friends of the family, tease the shaken Queens—and then the plane is struck from the sky by an errant bolt of lightning.
Oliver opens his eyes on a deserted island.
The leafy greens of an undisturbed jungle fill the lush panels, putting you right alongside Oliver as he struggles to free himself from his plane seat. The yellow undertones of the magnificent backgrounds echo the sense of unease that Ollie is justifiably experiencing. “Get a grip,” he tells himself as he stumbles in the long grass.
Oliver’s dad is hurt, but alive. As he tells the teenager how to find help, Ollie admits that he’s afraid. “I’m sorry, Oliver, we don’t have time for you to be scared,” his dad says bluntly.
The strain between the two comes from Ollie’s hesitation to fire an arrow on a defenseless animal during the hunting trip they were returning from. Despite his dad’s urging, Ollie decided to spare its life. Their family friends laughed in disdain, but this was a pivotal moment for Oliver Queen. He chose bravery, but not how the men with him might define it: he did what he knew was right, fully aware that his dad would be disappointed.
Ollie shows a different kind of courage on the island. One of my favorite sayings from a very wise woman is, “Stay afraid, but do it anyway.” (It’s good advice whether you’re thirteen years old or your teen years are a distant memory.) That’s exactly what Oliver Queen does after recognizing his fear. His self-talk changes to “don’t give up” and “time to get to work.” He and admitted accepted his emotions, and now he’s doing what he has to do.
Foreshadowing his future career as the Green Arrow, Ollie demonstrates his intelligence and resourcefulness, fashioning a bow and arrows from spare parts on the damaged plane. Ollie is determined to help himself and his father—and maybe win his dad’s approval this time—so the teen works through his fear and all the obstacles that get in his way.
When Oliver finds Tyler, the other boy on their ill-fated hunting trip, the fellow teen is all bluster. He pretends to be fearless. Tyler is who Oliver could have become, posturing with bravado and displaying little to no compassion. But after he finds Ollie on the island, Tyler drops the act and admits his fear as well. Then the two can move on together and find a way to keep their parents alive long enough for help to arrive.
Green Arrow: Stranded isn’t your typical superhero graphic novel. There are no burgeoning powers, aliens or monsters in sight. But it is a captivating book that readers from all ages and all walks of life will find relatable. Whether you’re giving a speech, starting at a new school or going on an adventure, it’s okay to admit you’re afraid. You can’t be brave until you find the strength to admit you’re scared.
Green Arrow: Stranded by Brendan Deneen and Bell Hosalla is now available in bookstores, comic shops, libraries and as a digital graphic novel.
Kelly Knox writes about all-ages comics and animation for DCComics.com and her writing can also be seen on IGN, Nerdist and more. Follow her on Twitter at @kelly_knox to talk superheroes, comics and pop culture.
NOTE: The views and opinions expressed in this feature are those of Kelly Knox and do not necessarily reflect those of DC Entertainment or Warner Bros.