Warning: SPOILERS For Green Arrow #45
The latest Green Arrow comic has finally brought one of the most famous and controversial scenes in Oliver Queen's history into canon: the night when Green Lantern and Green Arrow discovered Roy "Speedy" Harper was a heroin addict. The most interesting part? This classic cover scene had never actually occurred in any story - until now.
The story which revealed Roy Harper's drug use, "Snowbirds Don't Fly", was originally published in Green Lantern/Green Arrow #85-86 back in 1971. It was here that Oliver Queen walked in on Roy Harper in the middle of shooting up, with Roy revealing he had turned to drugs during Oliver Queen's absence. Oliver responded by kicking Roy out of his house and going on a rampage to find the drug dealers who had gotten his adopted son hooked. Roy later kicked his habit, thanks to the efforts of Hal Jordan (who found Roy on the street) and Black Canary, who helped Roy get checked into rehab.
This version of the story was recently updated in the "Return of Roy Harper" storyline, running through Issues #18-20 of the incredible Green Arrow Rebirth series. In those comics, Roy Harper was given a new background as a homeless youth, cast out by the Native American tribe into which he was adopted after being framed for the murder of his foster father. Oliver Queen took Roy Harper into his home after Roy stole his wallet, with the two becoming fast friends and partners after the technically-minded teen offered to help Green Arrow improve his tech.
The key difference here is that Oliver knew about Roy's past and made keeping clean a condition of his continued employment. Roy violated that condition when he threw a party without permission, and Oliver returned home to find a penthouse full of strangers and a strung-out Roy with a strange woman in Oliver's bed.
Green Arrow #45 depicts the funeral of Roy Harper, following his recent death during Heroes In Crisis. It is here that Oliver thinks back on his past with Roy and we are treated to what appears to be a modern take on the classic cover from "Snowbirds Don't Fly", with Hal Jordan and Oliver Queen in their New 52 era costumes. This would seem to imply that the past revealed in "The Return of Roy Harper" is no longer canon - and that Hal Jordan was there when Oliver Queen discovered Roy Harper's drug use.
It seems odd that writers Julie and Shawna Benson would be so quick to overwrite the new Roy Harper background crafted by previous Green Arrow writer Benjamin Percy, particularly since this new version of the story completely eliminates Black Canary from the narrative. Then again, in the current timeline of DC's Rebirth, Green Arrow and Black Canary never met until long after Roy Harper had left Seattle. By the same token, Green Lantern and Green Arrow had never been depicted as good friends in the Rebirth timeline until relatively recently.
Either way, given Black Canary's new background in the Rebirth reality as a former homeless youth, this seems like a seriously missed opportunity to reestablish the classic relationship between Arsenal and Black Canary. Still, The Bensons are to be given credit for establishing Roy's agency in deciding to go clean on his own, as the new Green Arrow issue also retcons just how and where Roy Harper decided to turn his life around. Hopefully, future issues will be able to refine that tale a little more.
Green Arrow #45 is now available from DC Comics.