BJB Breakdown: The Green Arrow — Analyzing the Tools, Techniques, and Strategies of Oliver Queen

By Schwan Humes

For the past few years, Marvel has run the live-action version of comic books. The MCU gave us Black Widow, Iron Man, Thor, Guardians of the Galaxy, Spider-Man, Black Panther, and one of my favorite characters, Steve Rogers, aka Captain America, who I wrote a similar piece about last year. Even on the TV side we were given the Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., Luke Cage, Iron Fist, and Daredevil. While Marvel dominated every live-action medium at every level, its competitor DC Comics struggled in the same sphere, misrepresenting some characters, and outright butchering others; they could gain no favor with fans, hardcore or casual. But there was one character who not just held his own, but thrived, building his own legacy and starting a resurgence for DC properties and the myriad of characters who had been overlooked, underexposed, and mishandled. That character was Oliver Queen, aka The Green Arrow.

For eight seasons on the CW network, this vigilante inhabited the rooftops and back alleys of Star City, first facing a multitude of mob bosses, hired guns, and assassins before graduating to metahumans, monsters, mutates, and magic. Through it all, the Green Arrow, a regular human being, managed to survive and thrive, emerging victorious regardless of the challenges posed, using a combination of tools (weapons), strategy (combat awareness), quick wits (creativity), and fighting skills to establish himself as one of the most dangerous men in what would later be called the “Arrowverse,” not to mention one of the finest long distance and close quarter combatants around.

In honor of the impact he had on the live-action comic book medium, I present you the techniques, tools, and strategies of the Green Arrow — breaking down his approach to fighting, his techniques in fighting, and his strategy in the way he acts and reacts in combat situations.

1) From The Outside

Oliver Queen took on a mission to fight crime knowing that he had to prepare to be outgunned and outmanned; thus, his approach to fighting couldn’t be based on direct confrontation or close quarter combat. Oliver was forced to use stealth long distance attacks to distract and/or disorient opposition before they can overrun him, shoot him, or trap him. In this example, he uses explosive arrows against a gang of hired guns.

Another example of Oliver employing the element of surprise was when Oliver trained Barry Allen, aka The Flash. Allen was blessed with the ability to access extra-dimensional energies and express them in the form of super-speed. Knowing that Allen could move, process information, and react at super-speed meant that Oliver also knew there was no way he could face the Flash head on. Instead, he once again used distance to set a trap, and stealth to close it.

2) From The Inside

In many instances, however, the element of surprise will be lost. When that happens, Oliver is faced with opponents who rearrange and reorient themselves, closing the distance to take away Oliver’s main weapon. He is then forced to engage in close quarters defense, where his ability to shoot arrows is neutralized, and his opponents (often some of the most vicious and skilled combatants in the Arrowverse) hope to overwhelm him.

In this clip he is attacked by his longtime enemy China White and the sometimes hero, sometimes villain, Cupid. Oliver uses the following techniques to handle a two-pronged attack from two of the better martial artists in the world, who in this particular exchange have the advantage in numbers, weapons, and volume:

The first thing Oliver does is take is maximize the distance he has, forcing the pair to rush in. This allows him to read their attacks and become what my friends Patrick Wyman and Connor Ruebusch call an “aggressive counter-puncher,” using an offensive series of blocks, parries, and counterstrikes to take them off balance and misdirect them with an aggressive series of punches, kicks, knees, and elbows.

In combination with these aggressive defensive and counter techniques, Oliver fights off the back foot, never allowing them to corner him or trap him. He backs up on slight angles that don’t allow them to pile up offense or find holes in his defense because they are overpursuing him in their attempt to be offensively efficient and effective.

Oliver mirrors his opponents. They attack him with different techniques and on different levels, hoping to catch him off guard and land a fight-altering strike that can stop him, stun him, or make him defensive enough for them to put combinations on him. Not only does Oliver defend their attacks at all three levels, but he also counters them at all three levels, landing strikes to the head body, and legs.

In another close quarters combat situation, Oliver takes on Cyrus Gold, a hired goon for Brother Blood who was pumped up with Mirakuru (consider it the Arrowverse’s version of the Super Soldier Serum). Once again, the element of surprise had been lost, and Gold closed distance to take advantage of the skilled but powerless Green Arrow. Oliver had already fired arrows into Gold’s feet, planting him in one spot and eliminating any advantages Gold has in regards to speed or mobility. Once Gold is immobilized, Oliver one again takes on the role of aggressive counter-puncher.

He allows Gold to lead. Knowing he is facing a bigger puncher, Oliver knows he can’t get over-aggressive and risk being grabbed or countered; he doesn’t have the durability or recuperative abilities necessary to recklessly exchange. Once Gold has overcommitted with a telegraphed right, Oliver steps inside to take away the reach advantages and take some of the horsepower off of Gold’s shots, making it a more even fight.

Oliver begins to use a combination of strikes, leading with his modified bow to enhance them, as he knows he is facing an opponent who not only has superhuman strength and punching power, but superhuman durability as well. He starts off leading with a (bow-enhanced) right cross. He then shifts with the strike, putting his full weight into it to open Gold’s body up for the follow-up. Next he shifts his weight back, shifting into a reverse strike to the ribcage. When Gold leans forward from the shot across the ribs, Oliver fires a straight left, meeting Gold’s momentum head on with his strike. He fires another slashing cross with his bow, then ducks a telegraphed right hand and changes levels for another reverse strike across the ribs. Once again Gold bends from the strikes, and this time Oliver meets him with a left cross that puts Gold on his heels, then he finishes with a (bow-enhanced) spinning backfist.

3) From The Outside Again

Even though Oliver is a capable hand-to-hand combatant, as shown in the two previous clips, the fact still remains that in most confrontations he finds himself in, he is either outnumbered or overpowered. That means that it is NEVER in his best interests to engage in prolonged exchanges with bigger, stronger, faster, tougher, and more powerful opponents. He has to be super efficient in close quarter combat; more importantly it means he has to be able to quickly reestablish distance to minimize the physical or numerical advantages his opponents have.

In this fight with Ray Palmer, aka The Atom, Oliver is in the midrange with an opponent in Palmer who, by virtue of his A.T.O.M. armor, has enhanced durability and strength, as well as ranged weapons that are harder to avoid at that distance. Oliver has to find a non-lethal way to create enough space to give himself a chance to slow Ray down and to create enough distance to give himself the opportunity to think and/or regain the element of surprise.

Palmer has already disabled Oliver’s partner Roy Harper (aka Arsenal) with an energy blast, and he has turned his attention to Oliver, preparing to end the engagement with another incapacitating energy blast. Once again, Oliver attacks from a different level, firing under Palmer’s line of sight and under his defenses.The arrow explodes, sending Palmer flying backwards, violently disorienting him and forcing him to reassess before attacking again.

In this showdown between Oliver and Slade Wilson, aka Deathstroke, the two warriors have been engaged in a long drawn out battle; essentially the pair have come to more or less of a temporary stalemate. Oliver has figured out that Slade, though no longer under the influence of Mirakuru, is still bigger, stronger, and the more seasoned and ruthless fighter; on top of this, he wears a suit of armor that guarantees he can take far more abuse than Oliver. So Oliver takes inspiration from Muhammed Ali when he faced George Foreman in a similar situation — knowing he would tire and be finished (if not outright killed) once his cardio fails him, he decides to “rope-a-dope” Slade.

Slade lands a wide but savage left hand that sends Oliver reeling. Oliver has figured out he needs to end this close quarters engagement and level the playing fields with his arrows. Slade lands another left hand, but this time Oliver stands tall in the pocket to entice him to double up on this attack. Slade, having already landed two big left hands, follows with a third. Oliver angles off, and Slade barrels into the pillar from a combination of his own momentum and exhaustion. Oliver swings his bow to Slade’s back to get him to stand tall, putting him in perfect position (and distance) for Oliver to use his bolo arrow to restrain Slade, leaving him vulnerable to a potential killing strike from Oliver (which, fortunately for Slade, Oliver chooses not to deliver).

Throughout 8 seasons of Arrow, Oliver Queen showed himself to be a complicated and conflicted hero, but nevertheless one who, regardless of his personal flaws or shortcomings, was not only brave, but clever, adaptable, and intelligent. In a world full of human electrical conduits, speed incarnate, Mirakuru-enhanced soldiers, Supermen and Superwomen — not to mention countless assassins and armored villains — Oliver was able to survive, thrive, and strike fear into the hearts of them all, through accumulated skill, focused will, and the mental acuity that comes from surviving five years in hell. He may not have been the most powerful hero or villain in The Arrowverse, but he was the most skilled, resilient, and disciplined one. When it came to saving his city, Oliver Queen was truly something else.