WARNING: This article contains SPOILERS up to Titans #21
When it comes to the first generation of DC's superhero sidekicks, Roy "Arsenal" Harper has just proven that he's the best. This revelation follows a battle in Titans #20 in which Roy finds himself in a fight against his friends Wally "The Flash" West and Dick "Nightwing" Grayson - a battle which Roy wins, thanks to clever planning and the right equipment.
The hostilities are the end result of building tension between the various members of the Titans over the past few months. The team of young heroes was forced to disband by The Justice League following a battle with a corrupted version of Donna Troy from the future. Donna is currently under house arrest in The Justice League's base, The Watchtower, and Roy Harper - with whom she'd started to form something of a romantic relationship - is the only one of her teammates who has tried to keep in touch. When Roy tries and fails to convince Donna to help him get the Justice League to investigate evidence of a secret super-villain conspiracy that he's uncovered, Donna reaches out to Wally West and Dick Grayson, fearful that Roy - a former heroin addict - might have started using again and is hallucinating the whole conspiracy.
When Dick and Wally arrive at Roy's apartment, Roy is ready for a fight.
When he asks if his teammates have come to help him take down the villains he's after, and they instead claim they've come to ensure he 'gets help,' Roy becomes combative and starts shooting arrows. Even from Arsenal, arrows are an easy thing for The Fastest Man Alive to counter.
Luckily for Roy, Wally's quicker to run than he is to think - and didn't examine the arrows he was grabbing long enough to notice that a trick arrow capable of generating a stasis field was contained within the storm.
The battle between Nightwing and Arsenal is more evenly matched, but Roy still know he's at a disadvantage in an up-close fight against the acrobatic Grayson. Roy has his mastery of Moo Gi Gong (a Korean martial art based around improvisation and turning anything you are holding into a weapon) to help him, but Nightwing is faster and better trained in a wider variety of disciplines. Again, Roy knows the biggest of Dick Grayson's weaknesses to exploit: he can't bear the thought of letting his friends down.
Roy plays a psychological game, preying on Dick's pity as he complains that everyone saw him as "a knock-off Robin" just like Green Arrow was "the poor man's Batman." The revelation that he might not have been as good a friend as Roy needed him to be makes Dick hesitate long enough for Roy to set up the blow he needs to end the battle.
It's a safe bet that the teammates will patch things over eventually, but it's nice to see Roy Harper once again being portrayed as the master tactician he was back when he was the leader of the Titans. Far too many writers of the past decade have focused on Roy Harper's history of drug abuse rather than the fact that - much like his mentor, Oliver Queen - he rebounded from a troubled past to make himself into a better man.
By a happy coincidence, this revolutionary issue arrives on the same week that Roy Harper returns to Arrow's Star City. We'll let fans decide who performs better.
Titans #21 is now available at comic shops everywhere and on-line at DC Comics.