Oliver was shot and left for dead by Nothing, leader of a youth movement in the nation of Rhapastan. New allies, and new lessens, await Oliver in this months finale to “The Children of Vakhar.”
GREEN ARROW (2016) #40 “The Children of Vakhar Finale”
Writer: Jackson Lanzing & Colin Kelly
Artist: Marcio Takara
Cover Artist: Tyler Kirkham & Arif Prianto; variant by Mike Grell
Colorist: Marcelo Maiolo
Letters: Deron Bennett
Publisher: DC COMICS
What You Need to Know:
With the court case resolved and control of Queen Industries back in Ollie’s hands, Oliver decides to put his newly recovered means to good use. First stop, the war-torn city of Vakhar in Rhapastan. But when hand-delivering much-needed supplies, Oliver quickly realizes there is a new power pulling the strings in Vahkar—a teenage warlord going by the name Nothing and the rest of the next generation of Vakhar!
What You’ll Find Out:
When we last left Oliver, he was gut-shot by Nothing and left for dead. As this issue picks up, we find Oliver alive and healed in an underground bunker occupied by the Vakhar Resistance League, a separatist group of Vakahri children bent on stopping Nothing and bringing peace to Rhapastan.
Upon confronting the children, Oliver switches to his most practiced “self-importance” mode and lectures the children on why they should stop their resistance, given their lack of training and experience, then proceeds to dismantle their team in a sparring session. Oliver is eventually convinced to assist the children, and the team sets off to overthrow Nothing.
The VRL leader is a young man who goes by the name Amal, which in his language means Hope. As it so happens, he and Nothing grew up together yet chose drastically different paths. Amal’s intent is to exact justice on Nothing by way of execution, an option Oliver tries to take off the table, but is met with a well-constructed rebuttal. Amal argues that for Oliver, a non-native of the nation, to condemn the methods by which the nationals choose to deal with a homegrown problem, is arrogant and narrow-sighted. Oliver lacks the cultural relativity to see the solution in terms outside those of the clear-cut Western ideology he is familiar with.
With Oliver fighting alongside and coordinating the Resistance, Nothing is easily defeated and brought before his peers for justice. Amal’s father arrives in the 11th hour to talk him down from executing Nothing, and our story in Vakhar ends with the promise of a new way and a new day.
What Just Happened?
With the impending creative change for Green Arrow (the Benson sisters will be taking over writing duties on Green Arrow starting with #43, following a two-part swan song by Benjamin Percy), Lanzing, Kelly, and Takara faced the challenge of creating a compelling fill-in story contained in only two issues, and I felt they did an admirable job. In my reading of the story, I see what could be read as an allegory for the divides we face in the real-world United States today. In Vakhar, we first see the obvious divide between the older generation who have always known life in Rhapastan a certain way and the younger generation who believe in a new way forward. The divisions, however, do not end there, as the younger generation also finds itself divided, with Nothing on one side and Hope on the other.
From Green Arrow #39: Nothing—“Before me, the Wudesh ruled this country. Before them, the Russians. Before them, The Ottomans. And every one of them gave us nothing. They built nothing. They were nothing. When the Wudesh were destroyed by the great assassin [Deathstroke], Rhapastan had a new opportunity. We could rule ourselves. We could be honest about what we were. We could begin a grand crusade to make our children stronger than the weak adults who came before. These people you seek to protect. Their children ask for nothing but the future. They will not be silenced. They will not be ruled. They will bleed Vakhar dry, reduce its aged cowards to bone, and stomp the remains to ashen dirt. Nothing has power over them.”
In contrast, the manifesto of the VRL reads as follows:
In many ways, although Nothing is eventually portrayed as the “villain,” the writing indicates a sense of balance between the two factions and their views of the future of their newly liberated nation. Nothing’s speech is much better conceived, although rooted in the violence of revolution. Hope, on the other hand, provides no clear path forward save for a hope of peace. At the end of the day, though, both factions want the same thing—to escape the mistakes their elders made and forge a new and better world.
The final page also sees an Oliver enlightened to his own self-arrogance, a trait often associated with the Green Arrow over the years. Here, he finally recognizes that, given the recent events in Seattle/Star City, he faces a similar rebuilding/rebranding scenario to Rhapastan, and finally acknowledges that he put himself “at the center of a story that didn’t want [him],” a rare moment of self-awareness for Oliver.
Final Thought: I felt like the story was enjoyable but wish there had been a clearer resolution for the children of Vakhar. Nothing could have been written in a clearer balance/counter-balance to give the issues a bit more poignancy, rather than ending in a world of black and white. Takara’s highly stylized art threw me off-balance at first, but I have come to really appreciate it on this arc and look forward to seeing what comes next.
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