Posts tagged “Batgirl

A Mixed Bag of Reviews

I guess my Monday deadline somehow morphed into Thursday….

Hello, readers. Guess what? I read some books! And I have opinions about them! Shocker, I know. Also, I totally lied with half those covers I posted last week. Sorry about that.

 

Batgirl #3Batgirl #3
Written by Gail Simone
Illustrated by Ardian Syaf
Publisher: DC Comics
Price: $2.99

 

I’m sad. :(

I’m sad because I really want to like this title. I really, really do. But it’s so … it’s so … I don’t know how to explain why it isn’t working for me. I guess, when it comes down to it, honestly … it doesn’t feel like Barbara. It just doesn’t feel like her to me. This new role of hers, it’s so … “forced” is the best word I can think of to describe it. It’s not Barbara—not the one I know—and that’s kind of shocking considering that Barbara Gordon is Gail Simone’s bread and butter. If anyone at all understands that character, it’s Gail—they’re practically interchangeable. Yet, as much as I want this to succeed, it just isn’t firing for me.

I wish I could explain it better … it’s just not right. It doesn’t feel right. And the writing style … there’s so much narration. That worked in Gail’s Birds of Prey when you needed the POVs of several characters, but it’s not clicking here. There’s too much of it; there’s too much telling and not enough showing. It’s so flat, and I … I don’t know how much more of this I can back. And that makes me so, so sad.

You know what else? I have read this story before. I think that’s what’s really bothering me more than anything here, is that it still feels like we’re going backwards. Which, we are—literally, we’re dialing back the clock in terms of character ages and whatnot, but I also mean to say that we’re going backwards allegorically. The stories and the progressions of these characters have taken giant steps downward. This idea of a character called Batgirl finding her footing—I have read this before. I read it in Bryan Q. Miller’s Batgirl run, and I even read it in Chuck Dixon’s Batgirl: Year One. Why am I reading it again? I’m not getting anything different this time, not one bit. Barbara healing and regaining use of her legs is only influencing this story on a very minor level—it isn’t enough to make these issues feel fresh or different. This issue was all about reuniting Batgirl and Nightwing. I should have been moved by it, but I wasn’t. Not even close. I put this book down, blinked a few times, and wondered what was wrong with me for leaving it feeling absolutely nothing.

So … what does one do in this situation? Do I keep reading this in the hope that once the groundwork is laid and some of the setup “fluff” is out of the way, I might have a more interesting story? Might I feel more for this character by issue #13, as opposed to issue #3, and is it even fair to have to wait that long? Ardian Syaf’s artwork has been great. Other than that, I haven’t got much. A part of me doesn’t want to give up on the title, because I do love Barbara and this is apparently the only Barbara that I’m going to get for the foreseeable future. I also have a certain level of faith and respect for Simone, and I want to be able to lean on that. But with every issue of this so far, I’ve only left feeling disappointment. And I never thought I’d say that.

 

Infinite Vacation #3Infinite Vacation #3 (of 5)
Written by Nick Spencer
Illustrated by Christian Ward
Publisher: Image Comics
Price: $3.50

 

…And with that, an interesting idea turns into utter horse poop, as Nick Spencer fills this issue with preachy drivel and a needlessly despicable downturn that I guess is meant to be humor. Biggest waste of $3.50. To say I was mortified while reading this on the train is a massive understatement. And to top things off, I read the solicit for #4 to find it isn’t even due on the shelves until April. Buhbye; I’m OUT.

 

 

 

Magneto: Not a Hero #1Magneto: Not a Hero #1 (of 4)
Written by Scottie Young
Illustrated by Clay Mann
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Price: $2.99

 

I was a little worried when this was first solicited, because with a title like “Not a Hero,” my immediate thoughts were that they were turning Magneto into a villain again. That would be the worst thing you could do to the character in my opinion, and just as bad a regression as Barbara Gordon re-donning the Bat cowl. Magneto has grown by leaps and bounds in the last few years, and I’ve always enjoyed him as a villain, but I find I love him even more on the side of the angels. His presence is still so very grey—he’s so ambiguous, and in the hands of a writer who knows how to use it, that’s an invaluable quality. And so I shook my fist at the sky for a bit at the thought that this wonderful drama might be taken away for something as utterly boring as Magneto turning “bad” again. Happily, upon reading this issue, I find that this is not the case. Not yet, anyway.

Our introduction to this story centers around what is something of a storytelling cliché—Magneto is being framed for murder. Exciting, right? Bet you’ve never read anything like that before. It’s okay, though, because there are things here that make up for the questionable originality, and by the end of issue one, we can see that ultimately the story is going to deal with much more than who’s framing Magneto. I have to hand it to Skottie Young—everyone knows him for his great artistic talents, but he’s making a transition to writing here, and he’s not doing a bad job of it at all. It most certainly beats out a majority of the crap you see on the Marvel shelves these days, and rather easily at that. Young has a good handle on the characters in issue one, particularly in a scene that involves Captain America and Iron Man calling out Cyclops and Mags to get their act together. The cliffhanger reveal at the end—I really should have seen it coming. I can’t believe I didn’t. It’s some good stuff.

And Clay Mann on art duties … wow. What can I possibly say to do this guy justice? In a short couple of years, he’s hands-down become one of my favorites, and every book he’s on makes me drool a little bit. He’s wonderful. He’s coming to Boston Comic Con next year, and I am getting a sketch from him if I have to wait in line all weekend. Outstanding.

Did this book blow my mind? No, but it did some things well, did other things great, and was all around an enjoyable read. I wasn’t asking for much more than that.

 

Princeless #1Princeless #1 (of 4)
Written by Jeremy Whitley
Illustrated by M. Goodwin
Publisher: Action Lab Comics
Price: $3.99

 

More happiness! Have you seen this little bit of WIN called Princeless #1? Well if you haven’t, then you’re sorely missing out.

It’s soooooo great. It’s so great. I remember reading about this on the internet somewhere and I wasn’t really planning on checking it out, but then I found it on the shelf and read the first three pages and was like OH MY GOD, THIS IS SO WONDERFUL. Three pages—that’s all it took. And, you know, that’s kind of a big deal in a situation where you’re paying four bucks for a book when you weren’t anticipating having the expense at all. But this was so worth it, and I absolutely can’t wait to have the next issue in my hands.

This is a story about a princess named Adrienne who grows up being read stories about other princesses who get locked up in towers and have to be rescued by handsome princes who slay dragons and ultimately win the princesses’ hearts. Adrienne is baffled and outraged by this idea, criticizing and belittling the stories, and makes her mother promise her not to lock her up in a tower, only … of course you know that’s exactly what happens, right? The resulting scenario is nothing short of hilarious, adorable, brave, and pretty much unlike anything else on the comic racks right now. Whitley’s writing is beyond clever, and I found myself laughing at something on every page of the book. It’s smart enough for adults to enjoy, yet still written with a young audience in mind. This is exactly the type of thing you should be giving to the little girls in your life. Introduce them to comics now, with this. And actually, I take that back—it isn’t just for little girls; not even close. Adrienne is not the only character in this book—don’t let the “princess” thing fool you. Boys will enjoy this as well, and I encourage you to pick it up to find out why.

If I could get you to read one book and only one book this week, I would give you Princeless #1, and I wouldn’t even blink.

 

Uncanny X-Force #17Uncanny X-Force #17
Written by Rick Remender
Illustrated by Jerome Ope
ña
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Price: $3.99

 

Since the debut of this title, I’ve had nothing but praise for Uncanny X-Force and Rick Remender. That hasn’t changed yet, and I don’t see it on horizon any time soon. Just when I think the story has reached a plateau and couldn’t possibly get any better, another issue comes out and BAM—I’m smacked in the face with the awesome.

The problem with loving a book this much is that it makes it insanely difficult to review. When you have no criticisms, there isn’t much left to say beyond shameless, unabashed gushing. And you have to admit, that’s kind of boring to read.

But I literally have nothing bad to say. There is nothing I would change about this book—not a thing. Not the writing, not the pencils, not the pacing, not the colors. Well … I suppose I might change the price … and maybe I’d make it ship twice a month, because I can’t get enough of it. But that’s all. Not much to ask.

If you’ve been subbing to this title, you know that Remender has been building up the Dark Angel Saga for quite some time—since day one, in fact. It’s some of the most well-timed and patient writing I’ve seen in recent memory. The thing I love about this book is that when I pick up an issue, I can tell that Remender has taken his time with it. He isn’t writing with collected editions in mind or decompressing the story, as one might accuse of Bendis’ Avengers titles. No; there’s a level of thought and care and precision to what Remender does, and it comes through in his scenes and character interplay. It’s harmonious. It’s a melody to which I never want to stop listening. If even a quarter of the other books Marvel puts out demonstrated this much attention to their craft, I’d be a much happier comics reader.

Jerome Opeña on art is no different. You look at these pages, and you know instantly that these babies were not rushed to meet looming deadlines. Opeña is careful, crafty, and deliberate, and the results are a joy.

On the surface, this is a black ops book. It’s assassinations and unspeakable deeds; it’s an X-Men book that’s not very X-Men-like. But read deeper, and you know these characters are about much more than that. This isn’t just about taking out threats before they become threats; this is a story of addiction, inferiority, self-worth and self-hate, fear and perceived altruism … and so much more. But Remender lets you figure that out for yourself; it’s underlying, and he doesn’t beat you over the head with it. I love that. The mark of a good writer.

Big changes are coming up for this team, and I can’t wait to find out what Remender has planned for the next year of this book. Best one on the X-shelf.

 


Reviews: Another Round of the New 52

Lots to talk about this week, and lots of changes happening the DCU.  I’ve been torn between what books to try and what to leave on the shelf, and have had to pick and choose what I think might be good enough to mock enjoyable.  I haven’t picked up the latest stuff from this past Wednesday yet, although I am looking forward to Batwoman.  I’ve heard some horrible things this week—namely about Superboy and Suicide Squad (and this about Amanda Waller, which honestly disappoints me to no end), not to mention the latest fuss over the new Birds of Prey, and that flat out makes me want to cry.  I’m trying not to cry, but it might happen.  I’m all cantankerous ‘n’ stuff.  I’ll try to make this quick:

 

Action Comics #1Action Comics #1
Written by Grant Morrison
Illustrated by Rags Morales
Price:  $2.99

 

Well now.  Who’d have thought I’d ever pick up this book?  I’m not a Superman fan, and I’m not really a big Grant Morrison fan either, so it was kind of startling to find myself actually interested in giving this a shot.  But then, how could you not be interested?  After all the controversy of rebooting this title, winding back the clock on Superman, and turning him into a “Bruce Springsteen” version of himself (creator’s words, not mine), it was kind of impossible to shy away.

So I read it.  And … it was weird.  And I don’t really know what to think, other than it feels like I was reading Batman.  Superman comes off extremely belligerent, and it’s just so strange compared to the image of him I have in my head.  I mean, what’s THIS about?

 

Superman Action Comics

(Click to enlarge.)

Right?  Huh?  I don’t know.  I get what’s happening, and I get what Morrison is trying to do, and I fully understand that this is meant to be a “different” Superman or whatever, but I’m not sure it works for me.  I’d give you a plot synopsis, except that I’m on the fence right now as to how much more I’m going to read, so I’ll just say this:  if you’ve been following along in the solicitations and previews, the plot is pretty much what you’d gather.  Mostly.  There are one or two interesting changes I didn’t anticipate, but I’ll leave them for you to discover.

Really undecided here … at the moment I’m leaning toward sticking around to see how it plays out.  I wonder how the standard Superman title will fare in comparison.

 

Animal Man #1Animal Man #1
Written by Jeff Lemire
Illustrated by Travel Foreman, Dan Green
Price:  $2.99

 

The only reason I had even a remote interest in this was because I had read a four-page preview quite a while ago that sounded very well-written.  I liked Jeff Lemire’s Superboy a lot, and once I’d heard some praise for this issue after it hit the stands, I grabbed a copy.  I’m glad I did, because this may easily be one of the sleeper hits of the New 52.  I didn’t know squat about Animal Man before picking this up, but Jeff Lemire can apparently write the heck out of an intro issue to a book, so it easily passes the “new-reader friendly” test.

Flat out:  I loved this.  It’s the one and only thing I unsparingly love so far from the new batch of DC.  It’s heartfelt, creative, intelligently written, dark, intriguing, and a host of other things.  Right away, you think to yourself—okay.  It’s a guy who can call upon the characteristics of any animal—that’s neat.  But then you read it and, as a newbie, you realize it’s going to be about so much more than that.  His powers are almost completely secondary.  I don’t want to say any more than that.

Please go pick this up.  Just go buy it.  It’s so freaking cool.

 

Batgirl #1Batgirl #1
Written by Gail Simone
Illustrated by Ardian Syaf
Price:  $2.99

 

Oh man.  This … this was tough for me.  I can’t believe what I’m about to say, but I was actually disappointed by this first issue.  I never thought I’d have reason to utter that about a Gail Simone-penned book, but … I guess there’s a first time for everything.  Ouch.

The thing is, I’m not sure I can even explain to you what it is about this that’s disappointed me.  It hasn’t particularly failed in anything.  It hasn’t really done anything wrong.  It’s actually a very good set up issue, and both Gail and artist Ardian Syaf do a lot of things RIGHT.  So why do I still come off it feeling so lukewarm?

I guess it’s a problem of the lead-up to the book having set up some very high expectations.  I think Gail was put in an impossibly difficult position in being responsible to appease all the fans who are heartbroken over what we perceive to be the loss of the Oracle persona.  But speaking only for myself, I definitely went into this expecting—nay, demanding, answers.  I wanted all the information right off the bat (no pun intended) as far as why/how she’s Batgirl again, how she was healed, was she ever with the Birds of Prey, and whether or not she ever actually was Oracle in this new continuity (supposedly the answer is yes, but we haven’t found out for sure yet).  So when I read through this issue and received basically none of those answers, it was pretty deflating.  That’s not say that Barbara’s past won’t be addressed—I give Gail way more credit than to think she’d brush it all off, and knowing her writing style, she’s going to take her time setting us up.  We’ll get there, sure, but I’m having a hard time being patient.

That disappointment aside, I will say there were definitely things I loved here.  I love the fact that Gail Simone is writing Barbara as a sufferer of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, thereby acknowledging her accident and fleshing out the reaction time between what has happened from then until now.  I love the new villain she has created for Barbara, who comes across seriously dark and awesome.  I loved the artwork, and let’s face it—it’s pretty damn cool to see Barbara Gordon swinging around in the Gotham night again.  I have a few reservations about one of the plot choices—Barbara and her new college roommate—but that’s nothing I can’t get past.  So I’m keeping my head down and I’m chugging along with this at least for the remainder of the first story arc, if not more, but I still feel a little twinge of sadness for the Oracle that I knew and miss.  I suspect that will always be there, regardless of how good this title winds up being.

We’ll see what happens next.  I’ll try to abate my sadness in the meantime.

 

Hawk & Dove #1Hawk & Dove
Written by Sterling Gates
Illustrated by Rob Liefeld
Price:  $2.99

 

… BWAHAAHAAHAHAHAAHAAA.  Next.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Swamp Thing #1Swamp Thing #1
Written by Scott Snyder
Illustrated by Yanick Paquette
Price:  $2.99

 

Swamp Thing.  Another surprise for me.  I’m a fan of Alan Moore and have always intended to go back and read his Swamp Thing, but it’s a little low on the priority reading list at the moment.  When this title was announced, I figured it would be a good introduction of the character for me, and I have a certain level of faith in Scott Snyder’s writing abilities.  I’m please to say he didn’t disappoint here.  The story opens up in a captivating way, and even a new reader can tell that there’s a history to this character.  I have to wonder how much I am actually missing out on by not reading any previous stories, but at the same time, I’m getting enough information here where I don’t NEED to read the earlier stuff.  I don’t need to, but the urge is certainly there.  This is comics done right—this is the way to pick up those “new readers.”  You needn’t ditch years of that “scary” and “intimidating” continuity, because a book like this is what makes you want to go back and learn and read everything you can get your hands on.  It’s really a shame more comics aren’t written in this manner.

The talented Yanick Paquette was clearly made for a book like this.  I was a little disappointed to learn that he’ll be utilizing some fill-in artists in between story arcs, but I’m hoping it won’t detract too much from the book.  Paquette’s style is definitely suited to this book—while his Superman cameo came off kind of weird-looking to me, his version of Swamp Thing is awesome.  Looking forward to issue two.

 

 

Okay, kids, that’s all I have for today.  Be thankful that that crazy Comic Junkie is out of his mind enough to be reading and analyzing every issue of the New 52 over at his blog.  Really, we ought to be thanking him for sparing us some of the torture.

One final thing before I go—don’t forget the Craig Thompson signing is this week at the Brattle Theatre in Harvard Square.  If you’re interested, get your ticket early, and be sure to say hello to me if you’re going to be there.

Until next week!


Reviews: Cloak and Dagger #1, Batgirl #24

Cloak and Dagger #1Cloak and Dagger #1
Written by Nick Spencer
Illustrated by Emma Rios
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Price:  $2.99

 

Oh, what a pleasant surprise.  I have to be honest, I kind of just picked this up on a whim.  I’ve always had a passing interest in Cloak and Dagger—while I’ve never actively sought them out, I always appreciated them when they made appearances in various titles I’d be reading.  Hearing about this miniseries, I was a little turned off at first by the idea that it’s a tie-in to the “Spider Island” event.  Oh, another event?  Another tie-in?  I was ready to pass on this.  I was gonna pass on it so hard, its face was gonna hurt.

Well, something obviously changed my tune.  I’m not sure if it was the preview art, the fact that there was a female creator on the book, or just the overall badassery of Cloak and Dagger that convinced me to give it a try, but I’m glad I did.  This was enjoyable.

While this story does function as a tie-in to Spider Island, I’d argue that it’s a pretty loose one. I’m not reading Spider Island at all, but I could get into the setting for the story quite easily from the recap page, and then it’s all more or less relegated to the background from there. This is not so much about Cloak and Dagger reacting to Spider Island as it is just about Cloak and Dagger themselves, their relationship, and what makes them tick in the midst of all the action.  These are the types of stories I always want to read, and Nick Spencer, despite being quite a busy man these days, appears to deliver.  Here, we learn that the duo is being evicted from their makeshift home inside a church.  Cloak takes matters into his own hands and arranges a “Heroes for Hire” type of setup for the pair, of which Dagger is critical.  What makes the events and discussions in this issue so interesting, though, is how it’s all laid out for us by Emma Rios.  The artwork most certainly amplifies the dialogue coming out of the characters’ mouths, particularly during one double-page spread that’s done just achingly well.  Rios plays with Cloak and Dagger’s dark and light, yin and yang, form and function aspects of their personalities, and it accompanies the script in a way that’s complementary, not overbearing.

If I have any reservations regarding the script, I’m worried Nick Spencer will just beat us over the head with this yin yang analogy for the rest of the mini, but I’m hoping that isn’t the case.  I feel like he’s a talented enough guy not to go that route, and I think the remaining issues should be equally good if not better.  Oh, one weird thing—there’s a part where the Avengers show up, and Wolverine has some pretty skeevy dialogue when talking to Dagger.  I don’t really get it.  It seemed noticeably off to me.   Meh—if that’s the worst thing, I’ll take it.  I’m actually kind of anxious to learn what happens, especially when you consider who the villain of this is—which I’ll let you find out for yourselves.

If you’ve got some room in your pull list to play around, check out Cloak and Dagger.

 

Batgirl #24Batgirl #24
Written by Bryan Q. Miller
Illustrated by Pere Perez
Publisher:  DC Comics
Price:  $2.99

 

Well … that was fun while it lasted.  I guess this isn’t a review of this issue alone so much as of the series overall, as Bryan Q. Miller wraps up two years writing what has been a truly wonderful book. I’ve voiced my devout love of this series before on this blog, so it’s probably unsurprising that I was nearly in tears reading the final issue of something I have cherished for the last 24 months.  That’s how good this title has been, that I can get this emotional over its ending. Although I’m looking forward to reading the “New 52” Barbara GordonBatgirl under Gail Simone, I can’t help but feel major heartbreak over losing a character I never expected to love this much—Stephanie Brown.

Bryan Q. Miller does a great job in concluding the series with this issue.  Readers from the last issue will recall the unexpected appearance of Stephanie Brown’s father, Cluemaster—the catalyst that set Stephanie off parading as a vigilante in the first place during her Spoiler days. This is Steph’s first meeting with her dad since she was “killed,” and it’s a dramatic one.  I only wish Miller had more time and more issues to write and develop this encounter (his plans were cut short via the reboot mandate; read the interview here).  As it is, he uses this opportunity to bring Steph on a “what if” style adventure—what could have been for her, what she dreams of her legacy as part of the Bat family, what could await her in the future, etc.  I’ll leave it to you to discover the plot device Miller uses to bring all this about; it’s something I haven’t seen in a while, so there’s a bit of nostalgia there, and I really enjoyed it.  The artwork by Pere Perez does a lovely job of conveying the ideas present, and Dustin Nguyen’s cover is beautiful and perfect—as his stuff always is.  Man … this is depressing. I’m going to miss this book so hard.

If you’ve never read this title, you’ve really missed out on something special.  Fans who once clamored for Cassandra Cain are now clamoring for Cass AND Steph, and hey—how awesome would a TEAM BATGIRL book be?!  We struck gold with this incarnation of Batgirl, and all I can do is wait patiently for Steph’s triumphant return.  Her happy-go-lucky, never-say-die attitude means she’s bound to come back eventually.  Right?

Batgirl #24 Final Scene


Blurb Reviews!

I asked a few different people at the comic shop this week what they thought of Fear Itself #2.  The common response was “I don’t know.  Hammers?”

 

Birds of Prey #12Birds of Prey #12 – Gail Simone continues to effortlessly impress me, as this latest issue of Birds of Prey finds the ladies come face-to-face with a villain from Simone’s Secret Six.  I always love when a writer cross-references work from other titles to provide a sense of continuity, assuming it’s done well, and Simone has no problem incorporating one of her own creations here.  I’m eager to see how the Birds will handle the threat—after all, this group is far from being anything like the Six, and it’s a pretty ridiculous villain we’re talking about.  A few refreshing elements to this issue:  Zinda taking a more upfront role in the team’s current mission; Helena attempting to recruit and subsequently teaming up with The Question; and Hawk & Dove in the backseat of the story so far—the less of them, the better as far as I’m concerned.  I like this book to concentrate on its core members—Babs, Dinah, Helena, and Zinda.  Spotlight guests are welcome, but let’s keep them that way.  When it’s just those four, the story seems to flow better, the quips come easier, and the tone throws it back to the good old days of the Birds book.  Jesus Saiz comes on board for art duties here—I feel like I haven’t seen enough to really judge if I like him or not, but his stuff IS good.  I’m not sure why Birds of Prey has been given the finger as far as not having a steady artist—a book as stellar as this month after month should have some priority and artistic consistency—but hopefully things change now with Saiz in the hot seat.

 

Batgirl #21 – As much as I love Birds of Prey, these days I think I’m neverBatgirl #21 happier than when I’m reading Batgirl.  I love this book SO MUCH.  I love Stephanie Brown, I love Bryan Q. Miller’s writing, I love the unapologetic humor, the fantastic artwork by Dustin Nguyen, the overall happy-go-lucky, FUN tone of this book.  How I went so long before this title without Stephanie Brown in my life is a mystery to me, and the awesomeness that makes Batgirl what it is just continues to flourish with each story arc.  Issue #21 continues Stephanie’s fight against The Order of the Scythe as she engages their newest member, Harmony.  Not only does she have to deal with new foes, however; she’s also losing some allies.  With Barbara stepping away from her Oracle persona, Proxy also breaking the news that she’s heading out on her own search for self-discovery, and the Grey Goose “betraying” Steph (though unbeknownst to her and, frankly, probably welcome), they’re dropping like flies.  I love Bryan Q. Miller using the Goose’s obnoxious persona as a mirror to how Steph herself began as the arguably annoying Spoiler—it works hilariously well.  What DOESN’T work well is what I propose to be this sense of urgency Miller has tried to build up over Proxy and her decision to leave team Batgirl.  I don’t know enough about Proxy to really care or empathize; quite frankly, I’m kind of excited to see her go.  Let’s focus this back on Batgirl and let her awesomeness shine on its own.  It’s what got me into this book, and it’s what will keep me here.

 

Amazing Spider-Man #661Amazing Spider-Man #661 – I don’t read any Spider-Man titles on a regular basis; rather, I pick them up here and there when something catches my eye or sounds interesting.  I wasn’t planning on reading this issue until my ever-hilarious friend and sometimes co-worker Dario urged me to check it out.  I’m so, so glad he did, because this issue was … um, “Amazing.”  Christos Gage temporarily takes over the writing duties, and he does a damn fine job—I was laughing out loud on almost every page as Spider-Man attempted to substitute teach Hank Pym’s problem children.  Sampling the work here has made me want to check out his Avengers Academy; I’ll definitely be going back and picking up the first trade now.  You know when you get into a stretch where you just seem to pick up bad issue after bad issue after bad issue of titles, and you get to a point where you’re like “Geez, do good writers EXIST anymore, or is it all just a world of Judd Winicks and Matt Fractions”?  Then you pick up a Mike Carey or a Gail Simone and it’s THEN that you remember why you read comics in the first place.  Your faith in the medium is restored.  This is what this issue of Spider-Man was for me:  faith-renewing.  Thank you, Mr. Gage.

Captain America and the First Thirteen #1 (One-Shot) I’ve beenCaptain America and the First Thirteen #1 waiting for this one-shot for months, not realizing it had come out in March.  Woops.  Well, I guess I don’t mind the wait, because it wound up being pretty good.  The ingredients are all there—Cap, Peggy Carter, wonderful artwork, and Kathryn Immonen doing the writing?  That’s a win.  We get a backstory here set during Cap’s time with the Resistance.  It’s one of those stories that, although arguably “unessential” for our knowledge of the continuity, still adds a unique layer to the characters and their relationship that the reader may not have gotten otherwise.  There’s war, drama, strong women, humor, and smart lines left and right.  Some might call it a “throw away;” I call it an entertaining read that gets me even more excited for the upcoming Cap movie.  Ch-check it out!

 

X-Men: Legacy #248 – This is THE X-Men title to read.  The rest is toilet paper.

 

X-Men Prelude to Schism #1X-Men: Prelude to Schism #1 & 2 – Ummm … what?  What the hell is this junk?  Oh my God.  Aforementioned faith is once again destroyed.  I quit comics … (for the third time this week).  Okay, seriously—this is such an utterly pointless mini.  Issue two was a carbon copy of issue one, and neither part bothers to accomplish anything aside from attempting to illustrate Cyclops as some sort of savior to mutantkind.  I say “attempting to” because what it ACTUALLY accomplishes is just a bunch of whining.  This is two issues worth of Cyclops trying to make a decision—a decision on what, you ask?  We don’t know!  You aren’t going to be told, dear reader—and the best part is we have still another two issues left to go.  Don’t waste your time with this.  If you’re looking for a worthwhile X-book event to read, go back and pick up Mike Carey’s Age of X storyline in X-Men: Legacy.  You need Prelude to Schism the way you need syphilis.


Batgirl #15 / Cassandra Cain WHO?

Holy cow, is this book awesome.  There has not been a single issue of this title that’s come out yet where I haven’t laughed out loud during at least one scene, and this issue was no exception.  But before I get into what’s going on in the title, I need to make a statement:  Stephanie Brown is no Cassandra Cain.

That’s precisely why this book is so great.

Whenever I bring up Batgirl in a conversation at the comic shop, read about Batgirl online, what-have-you, someone always inevitably conjures the opinion that “Stephanie Brown sucks, Cassandra Cain was a way better Batgirl, waah wah waaah.”

Er, okay.  I don’t have anything against Cassandra Cain, but that’s comparing apples and oranges.

I’ve said it before, and it bears repeating:  Stephanie Brown is a totally different type of Batgirl.  She’s not a hard-trained, hyper-violent, kick-Batman’s-ass-in-a-fight type of Batgirl, like Cassandra.  Stephanie is a clumsy, self-deprecating, save-the-day-while-narrowly-avoiding-destroying-Gotham-a-second-time type of Batgirl.  She’s not the daughter of Lady Shiva–she’s a college kid.  That makes her relatable.  It’s also what makes her absolutely adorable and hilarious.  And in a comics world full of darkness and angst (despite how “Bright” the Day), Stephanie is happy-go-lucky in the face of whatever’s thrown her way.  It’s kind of a nice breather.

If you’ve given this book a chance and it still hasn’t whet your appetite, then fair enough—although I do want to argue that with the bureaucracy of its first year done and gone, the book can certainly only get even better as it has less boundaries and more freedom to play around.  You might want to consider giving it another round, particularly with this issue.  If you’re reading Supergirl, Red Robin, Teen Titans, etc.—you should be reading Batgirl.  If only for this:

(Click to enlarge.)

There, in a few quick pages, you have the essence of what makes this title such an entertaining read.  I was originally somewhat worried about Dustin Nguyen taking over art duties on this book, but after those few recap pages, any fear I had flew rather swiftly out the window.  As much as I will miss Lee Garbett’s awesome stuff, I can rest easy that Batgirl is in very capable hands.

There’s not much more to add.  Bryan Q. Miller is a gem writing Stephanie—one that I would hate to see go away due to low readership.  To address the script in specific terms would take away something, I think.  I don’t want to give you a plot summary of this book/issue, suffice it to say that anything can and often does happen.  We’ve seen everything so far from heartfelt stories to general hilarity; Barbara saving Batgirl’s skin and vice versa; teamups with Dick, Damien, and Kara, and quite possibly my favorite moment in Stephanie’s short history as Batgirl where she accidentally slaps Bruce in the face.  What more can you really ask for?

A number of interesting questions are up in the air right now as far as the Batgirl mythos, and it involves all three ladies who’ve donned the Batgirl name.  Last week’s Batman: The Return one-shot saw Stephanie questioning and loudly disapproving her new assignment under Bruce to apparently relocate to an English boarding school.  The original Batgirl herself, Barbara Gordon, is surprised when Bruce introduces her to “Internet 3.0” (whatever that is), instructs her to customize her “avatar” as she sees fit, and the accompanying image shows Barbara in her own Batgirl uniform.  Cassandra Cain, meanwhile, made a brief reappearance in the last issue of Red Robin, wherein Tim Drake offers her her former uniform and invites her back into the Bat family—which Cassandra is seen to consider before fleeing.  Is there room for three Batgirls?  Given the shift toward “Batmen” around the globe, I have to wonder what’s next for these ladies, and for Stephanie in particular.  But until the day that we see Steph, Cass, and Barbara fighting side-by-side in uniform, I will continue to cheer on the current Batgirl as Cassandra Cain’s successor.

Publisher:  DC Comics
Written by Bryan Q. Miller
Art by Dustin Nguyen, Derek Fridolfs
Colors by Guy Major
Letters by Sal Cipriano
Price:  $2.99


Quick Blurb Reviews!

Bruce Wayne The Road Home:  Batgirl #1

Bruce Wayne Road Home BatgirlI’ve read three of the Road Home books so far, and this was the one I enjoyed the most by far (with Catwoman taking the title for worst).  Bruce’s return, of course, has a huge impact on Stephanie and what she’s been up to since Bruce Wayne “died,” and this issue is pretty much what you’d hope for/expect:  Bruce coming face-to-face with Stephanie and “testing” whether or not she’s worthy of wearing the Bat uniform.  We also get a throwback to what may be happening with Cassandra Cain.  The best part about this one-shot is that Stephanie doesn’t buckle under the pressure from Bruce, but rather maintains her fun-loving attitude, which has always been what differentiates her from Cassandra.  Stephanie’s come a long way since her days as Spoiler/Robin, and her Batgirl title has been an entertaining, enjoyable read.  Adored this issue.

Amazing Spider-Man Presents:  Black Cat #4 (of 4) *SEMI-SPOILERS* 

Amazing Spider-Man Presents Black Cat #4What I love about Jen Van Meter’s take on Black Cat is that her writing makes it clear just how much she cares about the character.  There’s been a lot of time put into this mini-series, evident in the research that’s been done and the love with which the story was crafted.  The final chapter of this four-parter wrapped up some loose ends in the thievery at hand and the Kravinoff family’s entanglement in the Spider-Man series.  The best, and maybe worst part, depending on how you look at it, is the cliffhanger I didn’t see coming, wherein Felicia attempts to steal what we presume to be Captain America’s original shield.  I would really love if they followed up on this somewhere, maybe in another mini or in a different Spidey title, but I’m not sure of the likelihood of that.  At any rate, I was happy Marvel gave Black Cat a chance at her own mini, and I’m still hoping for more with the quality provided by Van Meter.


Doing the Creative Team Shuffle

Originally posted on 8/18/10 at Nerd Caliber’s Blog of Inquiries.

Batgirl #15

Dustin Nguyen takes on artistic duties as of Batgirl #15.

The DC solicitations for November are out, and it looks like Batgirl‘s getting a new artist in fan-favorite Dustin Nguyen.  While it certainly piques my interest to see how Nguyen’s unique style will suit the fun and adventurous tone of Batgirl, I’m sad to see the stellar and consistent art of Lee Garbett leave the show.  Garbett’s work has been a fantastic accompaniment to Bryan Q. Miller’s script, bringing Stephanie Brown to life as the titular character, and now, heading into year two, the general concensus seems to be that fans are happy with how the book’s been handled.

I don’t know about you, but when I’m happy with a team on a book, it can sometimes be jarring to learn of a creative change being made.  Despite the fact that the duo of Miller and Garbett have been tackling Batgirl for over a year now, it still feels like such a small amount of time.  One year is just long enough for me to grow attached; having the rug swept out from under me with an artistic change–despite the fact that I like Nguyen and am interested in seeing his take–is admittedly somewhat disappointing.

Such a shuffle, then, raises the question of whether or not creative teams should be required to stay on a title for a certain length of time.  Marvel’s new Black Widow series, for instance, is already doing the creative team shuffle after just one story arc!  I signed up for Marjorie Liu and Daniel Acuna, but as of issue six, I’m getting Duane Swierczynski and Manuel Garcia.  Is this fair to the reader?  Barring unforseen circumstances, should there be a required creative commitment of at least one year to start?  Perhaps more if things are going well?  Despite how this post may sound, I do like change.  It’s part of what makes comics so great and exciting–the constant “new.”  But you know what they say–if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.  While I will continue to read and remain loyal to this title, right now, I almost wish they’d leave it alone just a little bit longer.  I’ll miss you, Mr. Garbett–thank you for 14 great issues.