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Tag Archive: Batgirl


Movement fists

Fresh off their writing and art projects from New 52’s Batgirl and Green Arrow, DC Comics creators Gail Simone and Freddie Williams II are bringing real-world politics “Occupy Wall Street” style this May in their new monthly series The Movement.

The advance industry catalog Previews.com provided the following teaser this week:

We are faceless. We are limitless. We see all. And we do not forgive.
Who defends the powerless against the GREEDY and the CORRUPT? Who protects the homeless and poverty-stricken from those who would PREY upon them in the DARK OF NIGHT?
When those who are sworn to protect us abuse their power, when toxic government calls down super-human lackeys to force order upon the populace... finally, there is a force, a citizen's army, to push order BACK.
Let those who abuse the system know this as well: We have our OWN super humans now. They are not afraid of your badges or Leagues. And they will not be SILENCED.
We are your neighbors. We are your workers. And we are your children.

Win.  Count us in.  Where do we buy the RISE bracelets?

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Young Romance one-shot cover

DC Comics went retro for Valentine’s Day this year releasing the first issue of the classic Young Romance comic book title in literally decades, a title that started its own sub-genre more than sixty years ago.  For the new DC Comics New 52 that means six stories in an anthology of young love for the 21st century, superhero-style.  So this adds Young Romance to other long-lost classic titles recently resurrected for the New 52, including All Star Western, Mystery in Space, G.I. Combat and Worlds Finest.  Maybe it’s time for DC Comics to keep those trademarks in order?  No matter, the February 2013 issue of Young Romance does what it needs to, featuring personal glimpses of key characters Catwoman, Batgirl, Aquaman and Mera, Apollo and Midnighter, Nightwing, and Superman and Wonder Woman.

Catwoman and Batman in Young Romance

Young Romance features work by a slate of top DC Comics creators.  The best of these is Ann Nocenti and Emanuela Lupacchino’s look at Catwoman’s first encounter with Batman in “Think it Through,” and Cecil Castellucci and Inaki Miranda’s Victorian ghost story tale of Aquaman and Mera in “The Lighthouse.”  Ray Fawkes and Julius Gopez offer a great looking Batgirl story with “Dreamer.”  “Seoul Brothers” features a story out of the Stormwatch series featuring Apollo and Midnighter written by Peter Milligan with art by Simon Bisley.  The Dick Grayson story “Another Saturday Night” was written by Kyle Higgins with art by Sanford Greene, and the Superman/Wonder Woman story “Truth or Dare” was written by Andy Diggle with art by Robson Rocha.

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Review by C.J. Bunce

Put aside the hurricane that was 2012’s New 52 reboot from DC Comics, and one year ago if someone would have said that Barbara Gordon would have her own solo title again as Batgirl, and a successful title at that, most DC fans would have had doubts. Then with the announcement that Gail Simone was giving Barbara the use of her legs again, add controversy to those doubts.  Batgirl had an uphill climb, but with the changes DC had previewed before the launch, it also became the title causing the most curiosity for readers.  How would they give her back the use of her legs?  Where would she fit into the new DC universe?

If you haven’t read Batgirl, the first six issues of the groundbreaking DC series will be reprinted in a hardcover edition this July, titled Batgirl Vol. 1: The Darkest Reflection.  With 52 graphic novels coming out over the next few months, most readers will be selective about which to seek out.  Batgirl is one of the keepers.

Where Batgirl really soared in this story arc begins with the cover work by Adam Hughes.  One of the artists whose superheroine work is in a small league of the very best, his style conjures up a 1940s aesthetic, and his colors scream retro.  His Batgirl may very well be the best ever rendered, including when compared to the stunning Alex Ross revamped version that Hughes seems to work from.  If only he had the schedule to draw the entire book!  That said, Indonesian artist Ardian Syaf has developed his own style with Batgirl’s ongoing story as the interior artist on the series.  Syaf’s style is expressive and his action sequences are fluid and powerful.  If Hughes makes Batgirl look both innocent and beautiful, Syaf rounds out her character by showing her as feisty and wily.

From the beginning, writer Gail Simone proved she knew her character.  The new Barbara was funny and endearing from the first page.  She shares her inner voice with us to contrast with her Batgirl-costumed exterior.  We didn’t know what will come of it, but she found an inquisitive roommate and a place she could afford to rent.  Her inner voice always determined, she forced herself to be confident, even though we sensed a lot of doubt in her about her abilities.  She’s young, but not too young.  She is a straight arrow, not gritty and also thankfully not vapid.  She is successful, but she’s nervous.

Chapter 1 of the story arc begins with Barbara already away from her wheelchair and already crime fighting.  Is it too soon?  She questions herself, and she indeed makes her first mistakes.  And she never forgets the crime by the Joker that left her in the chair in the first place.  Barbara’s foe in the first round is a baddie who is called the Mirror, a grim reaper type who carries a list of the soon-to-be-dead around as a checklist.  She gets knocked down.  She gets right back up.  She makes mistakes.  She tries to recover from her mistakes—both the long-term lesson learning variety and the instant kind–a bad kick or punch here or there.  With a quick-moving story line her decisions are split-second choices.  She has no choice, she must be focused.  Having the use of her legs return only in the past several months, all indications are that this heroine is engaging in the secret crime fighting gig too soon.  This is the theme of her character’s growth.

Chapter 2 of Batgirl helps readers understand Batgirl’s Gotham City.  We see real-life reflected here, or at least the over-development, economic strife and questionable priorities that make Gotham the worst of what is real in any society. We also see a microcosm of the individual, living the single life, trying to get through the mundane tasks of daily life.  Barbara Gordon is a poster girl for the individual in the big world. Like all of us, she is forging ahead.  Writer Gail Simone continued in this chapter to deliver the satisfying and snappy, Buffy-esque dialogue, that reminds us we’re talking about Batgirl here.  What stayed strong throughout the entire arc is the first person narrative, in the same style as Batman from Jeph Loeb in Batman: Hush.  She smartly comes off as the almost-Batman.  Batgirl’s positive outlook is counter-balanced with a well-constructed bad guy.

A weaker part of the story arc is Chapter 3, which had a lot to live up to considering the work on Issues #1 and #2.  For the first section, Barbara Gordon became a bit of Sandra Bullock in Speed, in a psycho-orchestrated opportunity to save a train from a bomb. For the second, she had some awkward catching up to do with dad, Commissioner Gordon.  For section three, she goes to pick up her Batcycle, which had been impounded in Chapter 1.  There she runs into Dick Grayson-formerly-known-as-Robin-who-then-became-Nightwing-then-Batman-and-now-he’s-Nightwing-again.  And an old, teen romance is rekindled, veiled as an effort by the Bat-team to get Barbara to dial back on the dangerous derring-do.  Barbara gives in a bit, but ultimately recoils into that comic book cliché of the superhero—“I just want to be alone.”  It’s not a bad follow-up to Issues #1 and 2, but the obligatory romance issue just seemed a bit too soon for the series.  Unfaltering is the visuals–Batgirl is both agile and tough balanced with naiveté and some real street smarts, and we know this from how she is drawn on every panel by artist Syaf.

Chapter 4 finds Barbara continuing to have nightmares that she reads as survivor’s guilt.  She has a heart to heart conversation with her roommate finally, but Barbara remains at a distance.  Her escape is to continue the pursuit of the Mirror.  In that, she uses her confusion and anger to take on a stronger opponent.  But she also uses the events of the day to develop her own strategy.  This allows her to try again with her roommate.  In the end she is visited by a ghost from her distant past.

We meet a new villain in Chapter 5, Gretel, who is able to make others act as she wishes through hypnotic suggestion.  This leaves her victims and the tools of her actions mumbling the number 338.  As Barbara attempts to sleuth out what 338 means, she must also deal with the return of her mother, who walked out on her, her little brother, and her father, Commissioner Gordon, when she was young.  As she ponders what is behind Gretel, she believes Bruce Wayne may be the next target of this new villain.  As she tries to save him, it appears Bruce has also fallen for Gretel’s hypnosis.

The final chapter ties up all the loose ends.  Gretel is not a one-note villain, but instead a mirror of sorts of Barbara.  Batgirl must capture Gretel, but she learns from her past, and instead of going after her alone, she smartly shares her information with Bruce.  In a  partnership with Batman, we even get to see Barbara as the main partner of the ad hoc duo in the scheme to take down Gretel.  Was Bruce really under Gretel’s spell?  The payoff for Batgirl fans is great.  For readers of the collected edition, the entire six chapter story also works as a complete piece, not simply the typical assemblage of six sequential comic books.

DC’s female superhero characters continue to flourish 9 months after the big launch.  Batgirl’s story bridges a lot of territory–she is a superhero with a rich past in the DCU: as daughter to Batman’s main partner in fighting crime, Commissioner Gordon, as the former crime fighter in a wheelchair called Oracle and member of the Birds of Prey, she carved out a niche for herself as the younger side of hero work and the trials of being at the beginning of a heroine’s career.  There is a reason we have a Batwoman and a Batgirl.  Gail Simone made sure Batgirl gets the respect she deserves but does not forget that she is and should be all about being a girl, and being a girl–as opposed to being a woman or a man or a boy–creates its own advantages for both the character and for storytelling.

Batgirl Vol. 1: The Darkest Reflection is available July 17 at comic book stores and discounted pre-order now online.

Review by C.J. Bunce

The world needs more Frank Cho.  Frank Cho got me interested in Ms. Marvel and The Mighty Avengers when I hadn’t bought a Marvel comic book in years.  And now Frank Cho has caused me to want to read more about the Scarlet Witch, Spider Woman, and a more recent X-Woman named Hope (actually they call her an X-Man, but that doesn’t quite work for me).

I was immediately surprised and pleased when I saw the display for the new prologue to Avengers vs. X-Men, Issue #0, because it is reminiscent of one of Frank Cho’s all-time best covers, that of the Scarlet Witch in the trade edition of Ultimates 3; Who Killed the Scarlet Witch, which I have not managed to pick up yet to read from the back issue stack.

So what I hope is that Avengers vs. X-Men will focus heavily on the focus of this prologue–equal parts redemption of the Scarlet Witch, who betrayed her husband Vision when we last saw her and devastated the mutant community, and the rest about a girl named Hope Summers, the so-called Mutant Messiah, whose story here follows a coming of age, breakaway from the status quo that feels very similar to Batgirl’s journey in DC Comics’ New 52 line-up.

What I thought this issue would cover is a lot of over-the-top brawling between Thor and Hulk and Iron Man and Wolverine, etc.  I was very happily surprised that wasn’t the case.  Since it does not appear that Frank Cho will be doing all the interiors for the actual AvX series, I just hope I am not disappointed in what comes next.

AvX #0 sold out practically instantly Wednesday across the country but no doubt the reprints will follow soon enough if you missed it.  It is a nice standalone issue, and can go firmly on the shelf next to the best of Cho’s Marvel pages.  You hear that writers write to the strength of the artists that they partner with, and it seems unlikely that Brian Michael Bendis and Jason Aaron didn’t also follow suit here.   This book is chock full of what Cho draws best–not just voluptuous women, but superhero females in action, acting smart, acting tough, being cool in every way.  As I mentioned above, that means Scarlet Witch, Hope Summer, and Spider Woman, but it also means Ms. Marvel and Emma Frost make a solid appearance.  It also means that Bendis sent Cho a few lay-ups, with some dinosaur-tipped rockets fired at the Scarlet Witch courtesy of M.O.D.O.K. (that’s Mobile Organism Designed Only for Killing).  I think only Cho could pull that off, and he did it here.  If this work is what partially delayed Cho’s Guns & Dinos series, there was a great reason for the diversion, and his fans will be pleased with this latest entry.

There is some alpha and omega, yin and yang going on here, as Hope was the first mutant born after the Scarlet Witch turned all the mutants (except 198) into mere mortals.  Will these two get to deal with each other in the pages of AvX going forward?  I hope so.

In this issue, we had split writing duties, with Jason Aaron taking on the frustration of Hope against the always whiny and wimpy (and often annoying) Cyclops.  Brian Michael Bendis wrote the story of Scarlet Witch in her return to Marvel’s pages from a bit of a hiatus.  Both writers balance the story well and Cho’s art further keeps the issue cohesive.  It would be great if this trio took the reins for the entire series, but that is not the case.

What’s the coolest thing about Hope?  Along with having an interesting character voice, she has one of the best powers around–she can mimic the powers of others.  I remember thinking this was a great ability when I watched Peter use this power in the Heroes TV series.  Hope uses these powers to both use Cyclops’s rays against himself and to take out a motley group of baddies at the end of the book.  She also uses the classic head-butt maneuver to good effect in a classic scene found in this issue.  Aaron’s writing includes a number of funny and quirky moments for Hope–she is endearing.  And you instantly must side with Hope Summers against Scott Summers.  It’s the same style of writing that makes Aaron’s Wolverine and the X-Men successful.

Cho's original cover art is sadly partially obliterated by the AvX logo. Check out the angel in the background. Doesn't it look like the angel from the Fearless series?

Scarlet Witch–Wanda–never looked better (you just know she wears a Beltsville shirt in her down time).  She is back but wants to stay away from the Avengers.  But Carol Danvers aka Ms. Marvel insists she accompany her and Spider-Woman back to their friends.  The result is a long-and-coming encounter with her husband who turns her away, to the anger of Ms. Marvel, but the acceptance of Logan and Tony Stark.  Bendis is really good–you really feel bad for Wanda here in a short number of pages, both from the story and Cho’s visual portrayal.  And we are left with this prophecy that Hope will have to face the Phoenix… that she senses is coming toward her from far away.  Cho shows us that it is not just a prophecy but will be addressed in issues to come.

For AvX, this is a great start, using the powerhouse writing and art trio of Bendis/Aaron/Cho upfront.  Hopefully the rest of the creators at Marvel Comics will keep the momentum going as we will find out with the premiere of Issue #1 next week.  And more than anything this issue has made me want to catch up on past Cho trade books: Ultimate Comics New Ultimates: Thor Reborn, Fear Itself: The Fearless, and The New Avengers.

Review by C.J. Bunce

Anytime I get the chance to go behind the scenes in any industry I have tried to take full advantage of the opportunity.  I once performed in a band at Disney World in Orlando and enjoyed seeing the underworld that made the Disney operation work literally underneath the city.  I later worked at the Smithsonian Institution and got to witness a similar but greater operation in the vaults not under the museum but in the upstairs floors.  From the standpoint of a musician it is fascinating to stop and take stock of all that is required to make a symphony perform a complex work and make it sound perfect.  I get a similar level of excitement when interacting with writers and artists at conventions or via email or other encounters, and in particular watching an author build a universe where nothing had existed before.  Watching any artist in action is an education, an opportunity to learn, admire, and maybe even emulate if you have the discipline and desire.  Reading great words helps you become a better writer, and viewing great art gives you a better feel for design and form in general.

When an artist reveals his or her process, it is a lot like a magician showing how a magic trick works.  The risk is that some of the knowledge could make later viewings somehow less meaningful.  But when dealing with a great creator, no matter how much you learn about process, none of it takes away from the experience, because ultimately, merely having the knowledge of the “how it’s done,” doesn’t mean you can wander off and replicate it, because skill and artistry are greater than mere process.

Following my review this weekend of The Art of Drew Struzan, I think this is a great follow-up book in a similar vein.  I received my personal copy of Alex Ross’s Rough Justice: The DC Comics Sketches of Alex Ross from Alex Ross’s business partner, Sal Abbinanti around Christmas time.  It was like an early Christmas present.  Among other things, Sal is a long-time friend of Ross, and I can never get over the fact that Sal was a model for Ross’s classic Captain Marvel, maybe Ross’s most iconic superhero re-imagined.  If you ever are fortunate enough to deal with Sal, look for a great experience.

Rough Justice is a play on words.  “Roughs” are what Ross refers to as his work that is created in order to get to a final painting.  He uses thumbnails to get down the big picture and often to lay out the design for an entire work.  He often free-hand sketches with fluid movements, with sprawled out reference images surrounding him, in order to mock-up the image he sees in his head, well before he dips his brushes in gouache.  And of course the “Justice” in the title comes from his ongoing themes underlying his great superhero subjects and the title of one of his key series for DC Comics.

Maybe artists of equal or better skill will find things to critique in Ross’s artistic process revealed in Rough Justice.  But, if so, I bet that small group of artists is so small that I’d wager there would still be more praise given than not.  Ross isn’t apologetic that his images are realistic (some folks prefer more abstract elements).  Neither does he apologize for using actual models for his development of a scene.  His process is his process, yet it is likely using any other process would get him to the same results.  The same type of photo references are used by Drew Struzan and Frank Cho so it’s almost as if the very best artists use this method for a reason–it helps to make them the best.

I’ve mentioned before that I met the late Michael Turner at a convention a few years ago and he let me flip through all his great original art pages.  When you page through Rough Justice, you get a similar experience.  I found myself actually checking my hand for pencil smears, because the reproduction of Ross’s original pencil work is so nicely reproduced.  Ross notes that he does not rely on tracing or projections in his work.  Ross is as much penciller as painter, although the public rarely gets to see anything but his finely tuned painted works, and except for some convention sketch books, this book is the ultimate collection in a single volume.

Alex Ross's original sketch design for the new Batwoman

In Rough Justice the reader learns the great role Ross has in the development of sculpts for maquettes or action figures based on his version of characters.  This explains why so many of the figures based on his work are so accurate to the painted renderings.  We also learn Ross’s role in re-designing Batgirl and Batwoman–resulting in the singular look that became the current Batwoman.  And look for a number of “What ifs”–renderings that did not make it to a final form or comic book series.

Like Struzan, unfortunately Ross has encountered the same letdowns with the industry, less collaboration and more direction by the Powers That Be to punch out a final product, and similar bumps.  Yet his work reflects none of this.  Rough Justice includes extensive images of Batman, Superman and Captain Marvel, as well as images from Kingdon Come, Justice League of America, Justice Society of America, and Ross’s many anniversary edition over-sized coffee table editions.  Rough Justice does not include a lot of text, but what is there highlights Ross’s thoughts behind his work and process.  And along with the images Ross includes all the margin notes from the original art, indicating notes to himself or others, giving the reader yet another angle into his creative process.

Rough Justice is a good companion to The Art of Drew Struzan.  It’s a good reference work, a fine chronicle of Ross’s art, and its great presentation and superb images qualifies this as a nice coffee table book.

Rough Justice: The DC Comics Sketches of Alex Ross lists for $30.00 but is available for much less at online retailers.

   

The big news for the week in comicdom is DC Comics’ confirmation yesterday that it will cancel 6 of its 52 regular series after Issue #8, after a lot of speculation over the past several weeks that DC would trim off some of its low selling titles.  DC has offered very little by way of explanation other than low sales, and it released the names of the six titles unceremoniously at the end of its press release touting the addition of 6 replacement titles.  Unfortunately three of the exiting titles were part of DC’s effort to diversify characters and its audience.  As to the new titles, there is some good news, some indifference, and some… seriously?

The best news, of course, is that the very best of the New 52 titles are continuing, including All Star Western, Aquaman, Batgirl, Batwoman, Captain Atom, Justice League Dark, Savage Hawkman, and Wonder Woman.  And a character who I thought deserved her own regular title is now getting one.

The departing titles are:

Blackhawks – Blackhawks are an elite force of military specialists equipped with the latest in cutting-edge hardware and vehicles.  Their mission: Kill the bad guys before they kill us.

Hawk and Dove – The living avatars of war and peace root out the hidden forces who look to plunge the country into a deadly civil war.  Dove made an appearance in Justice League Dark as a pretty good character.

Men of War – The attempt to bring Sergeant Rock to the 21st century just didn’t get the expected readership.

Mister Terrific – One of the departing titles featuring a black character.  Though he has no super powers, Mister Terrific has a brilliant mind and an aptitude for science which he used to create the T-Mask, which renders him invisible to technology, the T-Spheres, which have several functions including holographic projection, generating electric charges and granting limited flight.

O.M.A.C. – Kevin Kho has become an unwilling participant in a war between Checkmate and Brother Eye as he is transformed into the One Machine Army Corp known as O.M.A.C.

Static Shock – A young justice title, focusing on a black teenager who was meant to be a modern, updated Spider-man for the DC universe.

DC Comics Editor-in-Chief Bob Harras stated that the characters in these titles will continue to be appear in the New 52 universe titles.

So the biggest disappointment of the new “second wave” on New 52 titles?  A TWELFTH Bat-title: BATMAN: INCORPORATED.  Really? If you’re not keeping track, we already had Batman, Detective Comics, The Dark Knight, Batwing, Batman and Robin, Batgirl, Batwoman, Knightwing, Catwoman, Birds of Prey, and Red Hood and the Outlaws.  No criticism intended of some of these titles (like the exceptional Batgirl and Batwoman), but there is only so many Bat-stories one can keep track of each month.   Ok, it was pretty clear Grant Morrison was going to come back with this title this year, so it isn’t a great surprise.  Still…

The cool news is a revamped classic title, WORLDS’ FINEST, known for its Batman and Superman team-ups, now with the apostrophe moved from where it was in World’s Finest, as it appears to have intentionally moved to account for the multiple Earths in the DCU.  The part we like is Huntress, just wrapping up her limited series, she will be a lead character sharing the storyline with Power Girl.  Written by Paul Levitz with shared art duties for George Perez and Kevin Maguire. DC is marketing this one as Stranded on our world from a parallel reality, Huntress and Power Girl struggle to find their way back to Earth 2.  Which brings us to the third new title:

EARTH 2.  Written by James Robinson with art by Nicola Scott.   This one could be fun, as there’s an unlimited number of change-ups that can be done with the parallel universe concept in the DCU.  The greatest heroes on a parallel Earth, the Justice Society combats threats that will set them on a collision course with other worlds.

A big surprise for me is the reboot of DIAL H.  Originally a classic series called Dial “H” for Hero, and rebooted only a few years back (2003) in a great series called just H.E.R.O., I think I have read all the back issues on this one and always liked the concept.  If it is like the original, you have a dial like the alethiometer in The Golden Compass, which is used by Joe Citizen, often changing hands, to allow you to be the hero you want to be as circumstances require.  It’s a little like Quantum Leap or Dollhouse, where you get to change everything with each new installment.  This will be written by comics newbie China Miéville with art by Mateus Santoluoco.

And the war concept must not be dead, despite killing the Men of War title, as it will be replaced with the classic title, G.I. COMBAT.   This will be a war series with three ongoing separate stories, written and drawn by three separate creative teams.

Finally the sixth new title to be added is THE RAVAGERS – Written by Howard Mackie with art by Ian Churchill. This is a Teen Titans and Superboy spinoff where four superpowered teens on the run fight against the organization that wants to turn them into supervillains.

C.J. Bunce

Editor

borg.com

   

Earlier this year, and even from time to time over the past several years, commenters have criticized the comics publishing industry for its lack of female creators.  As with the lack of women creators in a lot of industries, the criticisms have credence.  You have to look very hard at comic conventions to find a female comic artist from a major publisher, for example.  But more and more female writers seem to be coming to the fore every month.  In the meantime, what is flourishing in DC Comics’ New 52 are female superhero characters.  In the past few weeks we reviewed here both the first issues of the new Wonder Woman series and the past two months of the Batgirl title.  Wonder Woman’s story is brilliantly drawn in the realm of the Greek gods and goddesses, as she is on her path to becoming a key leader of the Justice League.  Batgirl’s story bridges a lot of territory–she is a superhero with a rich past in the DCU: as daughter to Batman’s main partner in fighting crime, Commissioner Gordon, as former crime fighter in a wheelchair and member of the Birds of Prey, under the guise Oracle, she also covers the younger side of hero work and the trials of being at the beginning of a heroine’s career.

But Wonder Woman and Batgirl just scratch the surface of the arsenal of women crimefighters across the DCU.  In stark contrast to Batgirl, but equally as interesting and engaging, is the darker, tough and gritty world of Batwoman.  There is no hiding Batwoman’s role in the DCU–she is Kate Kane, a lesbian who was kicked out of the military because of “don’t ask, don’t tell.”  When we met her again in Issue #1 of the re-launched title she was trying to mentor sidekick, Bette aka Flamebird, but in Issue #2 Batman warns Kate that she is endangering Bette and she as kicks her out of the sidekick business in Issue #3.  Writers W. Haden Blackman and J.H. Williams III walk a fine line between a caricature of a modern gay single person, in the realm of Tom Hanks’ character in Philadelphia.  She uses poor judgment, frequenting gay bars and going home with whomever she ends up with and going on binges.  Did she, or the writers, learn anything from the 1980s?  Are they setting her up for another AIDS story?  Hopefully not, as that was done with Mia aka Speedy in the Green Arrow series.  

In every aspect of her life Kate is dangerous and cocky–she is dating Detective Maggie Sawyer, the very woman on the police squad who is trying to uncover who the vigilante in the black and red suit really is.  On the one hand Kate herself is not a role model, yet Blackman and Williams have written her as a tough woman fighting the good fight every day like everybody, only in the depths of Gotham, her place is getting down and dirty.  To balance out the series, we find Kate’s true enemy is the federal agent, Cameron Chase, and we learn in Issue #3 she is partnering with the creepy skull-headed villain behind the dark doings of Gotham.  The best part of Batwoman?  Despite her own inner doubts and less experience at the hero business, Batwoman stands on equal footing with Batman in their secret meetings–we see a mutual respect there.

On the other side of the globe in Italy is Helena Bertinelli, the heroine of the Huntress title.  Like Barbara Gordon, Huntress spent some time gaining her crime-fighting sea-legs in the Birds of Prey.  In Issue #2 of the current Huntress limited series, Huntress has tracked down a trafficker of girls in the sex slave industry.  Huntress is a character who simply has a job to do.  Unlike Batgirl and Batwoman, we see no emotional obstacles with Helena.  She knows her job and gets the job done.  As her own flavor of dark knight detective, she is a true sleuth in the ongoing whodunnit of each issue.  And like all the superheroes in the DCU, she has her alter ego life.  Bertinelli would fit in fine with the characters of the BBC’s Zen series, tasteful and stylish, she seems to have adopted Italy as her home turf.  It is refreshing to see a character establish herself in a non-English speaking locale, and the word balloons even feign a translation via dialogue in carets.  A clever comics story device.  Unlike Batgirl or Batwoman, Huntress’s targeted villains are rooted in the real world, and in Issue #2 she is honing in on capturing the man behind the trafficking operation, as she liberates all the victims.  A woman saving women.

In an even darker realm we encounter Zatanna, magician of backward incantations, in Issues #2 and #3 of Justice League Dark.  The Enchantress has unleashed an evil that even the Justice League itself cannot stop, and she must use a spell to save herself.  Only John Constantine understands the magic enough to use her own language to free her from her protective state.  And tarot card reading Xanadu appears to be working alongside the ultimate villain of this series–the Enchantress, on a quest to capture June Moone, who has been seeking the aid of Deadman.  Deadman is complex yet entirely weak, he slips in and out of other people’s bodies, himself a ghostly spirit.  Deadman is driving his girlfriend, Dawn Granger, the character Dove from the Hawk and Dove duo, nearly mad with his switching from body to body.  Dove drives off in anger as Deadman tries to protect June Moone from the Enchantress, but we get the vibe she can pull away from the witch’s curse when she will need to.  We hope to see more of Zatanna and Dove in future issues, but as new characters are added, like Mindwipe in Issue #3, Justice League Dark is bordering on a soap opera-sized cast that may be too much for a monthly title.

Not only do these titles stand out as key stories focusing on strong female characters, Wonder Woman, Batgirl, Batwoman, Huntress, and Justice League Dark, with both good writing and art, continue to stand at the top of all of the 52 main titles of the New 52.

C.J. Bunce

Editor

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Review by C.J. Bunce

If one word sums up Barbara Gordon and her new Batgirl persona, it is feisty.  She gets knocked down.  She gets right back up.  She makes mistakes.  She tries to recover from her mistakes—both the long-term lesson learning variety and the instant kind–a bad kick or punch here or there.  And she will keep after the bad guy, here a grim reaper type baddie called the Mirror, who carries a list of the soon-to-be-dead around as a checklist.  With a quick moving story line her decisions are split-second choices.  She has no choice, she must be focused.  Having the use of her legs return only in the past several months, all indications are that this heroine is engaging in the secret crime fighting gig too soon.  And that is the current theme of her character’s growth.

Issue #2 of the DC Comics New 52 Batgirl is peppered with seemingly irrelevant details that actually help build our understanding of Batgirl’s Gotham City, like the fact there is only one cemetery left in town that hasn’t been demolished and replaced with parking lots and malls.  We see real-life reflected here, or at least the over-development, economic strife and questionable priorities that make Gotham the worst of what is real in any society.  We also see a microcosm of the individual, living the single life, trying to get through the mundane tasks of daily life.  Barbara Gordon is a poster girl for the individual in the big world.  Like all of us, she is forging ahead.

Writer Gail Simone continues to deliver the satisfying and snappy, Buffy-esque dialogue, that reminds us we’re talking about Bat-girl here, like the serious but silly “But I am done being afraid.  And I can’t die tonight.  I’ve got a lunch date!”

What I can’t get over, and Batgirl is today’s pick for best written series, is the first person narrative we get here, in the same style as Batman from Jeph Loeb in Batman: Hush.  In this way, we’re in her head as she smartly comes off as the almost-Batman, which is sort of what a junior Bat-hero should be striving for, right?

Batgirl’s positive outlook is counter-balanced with a well-constructed bad guy.  Unlike some other villains in the New 52, the character called the Mirror is smartly crafted with an engaging back story.  Family lost in a car wreck, he snaps and becomes this Final Destination inspired, twisted rationalizer of who lives and who dies.

Batgirl Issue #2 delivered on its potential.

But that’s not quite so with Issue #3, which had a lot to live up to considering the work on Issues #1 and #2.  For part one, Barbara Gordon becomes Sandra Bullock in Speed, in a psycho-orchestrated opportunity to save a train from a bomb.  Good stuff?  Check. For part two, she has some awkward catching up to do with dad, Commissioner Gordon.  Good stuff?  Check.  For part three, she goes to pick up her Batcycle, which had been impounded in Issue #1.  There she runs into Dick Grayson-formerly-known-as-Robin-who-then-became-Nightwing-then-Batman-and-now-he’s-Nightwing-again.  And an old, teen romance is rekindled, veiled as an effort by the Bat-team to get Barbara to dial back on the dangerous derring-do.  Gordon gives in a bit, but ultimately recoils into that comic book cliché of the superhero—“I just want to be alone.”

It’s not a bad follow-up to Issues #1 and 2, but the obligatory romance issue just seems a bit too soon for this new series.  Maybe it is intended to reflect the chaos of real life, where the individual is burdened with too much to do in too little time.  In that vein, Batgirl is very modern.  The writers must have intended this guest appearance of Nightwing to conjure up the most successful of the original Birds of Prey series issue, when Grayson returned to take Barbara on a date.  Definitely a bit nostalgic so no harm there.  But we’re eager to get back to the smart character building we saw in Issues #1 and #2, next month.

Another thing worthy of mention is Ardian Syaf’s illustrations in Issues #2 and #3.  Batgirl is both agile and tough balanced with naivete and some real street smarts, and we know this from how she is drawn on every panel.  I am also becoming a believer in the Adam Hughes school of cover art.  Issue 3 is one of the best of all the New 52 covers so far.

Review by C.J. Bunce

Batwoman is a bit of an enigma. To one extent she is historically just another Batman in women’s garb.  If you really wanted to bring Barbara Gordon’s Batgirl up to date in a new universe, the logical way to do it would be to drop the dated “girl” reference and finally give the adult Gordon her due as the “woman” superhero.  By way of background, Batwoman was originally brought into the DC universe to show fans that Batman was straight, several decades ago.  With Crisis on Infinite Earths in the 1980s, she was virtually extinguished from the DC timeline.  She was only brought back a few years ago as part of the DC series 52.  To diversify readership DC made her of Jewish background and a lesbian.  So she is unique in the DC universe for several reasons, but her alter ego as Kate Kane was so interesting and integral to the storyline of 52 that DC left readers begging for more.

The new Batwoman #1 (written and drawn by J.H. Williams III, with co-writing credits to W. Haden Blackman) is so good, as was Batgirl #1, you’ll easily push any reservations you may have aside and embrace this fully realized, modern superhero.

Batwoman has a lot going for it.

A driven, smart, savvy, sexy heroine?

Check.

Stunning visuals, including two-page spreads with a floating trio of story panels that carries you across the pages, and a truly unique storytelling style that you won’t see in other books?

Check.

A great costume, highlighted by Dave Stewart’s eye-popping choice of colors?  And a redheaded superhero that wears a red-haired wig?

Check.

Romance–Batwoman’s love life–her relationships–are one focus of her ongoing story.

Check.

Women in all the leading roles, from the superhero, to the sidekick, to the police detective who is after Batwoman.  And we get one brief scene with Commissioner James Gordon for good measure.

Check.

I had flipped through recent graphic novel pages of J.H. Williams’s work on Batwoman and was bothered by the strange, unique art style.  I couldn’t place it but it was almost like someone wasn’t using enough black ink on the artist renderings.  For whatever reason it just didn’t work for me.  The new Batwoman doesn’t have that.  The style is not only unique it is stylish, from the covers to the flashbacks in black and white to the fight scenes and bridges between the main plot points.

For those new to the character, Kate Kane has a few pages that give us some back story–to bring us up to speed with her world from the 52 series to the present.  Kane has past relationships and current ones, both of the friend and romance varieties.  In the first issue she is after a criminal element that is taking the children of Gotham.

As Batwoman she appears as an equal to Batman.  She is no longer a secondary character relegated to fill-in roles in crossover series.  By making her not just a woman version of Batman, it seems to have opened up storylines and possibilities for this character.  Along with Batgirl this is at the top of the new DC series, for both its design, story and colors, to its interesting storyline.

Review by C.J. Bunce

Three years ago Barbara Gordon was shot and sustained spinal damage by the Joker.  The crime was detailed in Alan Moore and Brian Bolland’s controversial Batman: The Killing Joke, the first slick prestige-formatted comic book and one of the best looking comic books of all time.  Since then Barbara Gordon has been in a wheelchair. During the past three years Barbara had dropped her Batgirl costume for a computer and became the brains behind the Birds of Prey as the character Oracle, along with Dinah Lance/Black Canary, and Helena Bertinelli/Huntress.  She’s been living with her father, Commissioner Gordon, all the while.  And a miracle happens–she can walk again.  Now she wants to “spread her wings” and move out on her own.  That is where we meet Batgirl in the new DC Comics “New 52″ Batgirl series.

It is only fitting that Gail Simone, who in recent years has spent more time creating Barbara Gordon’s voice than anyone, scripted the first new universe Batgirl story.  She understands the character and is my argument for why writers should stick with characters longer than they seem to be allowed at DC and Marvel.  Especially when the writer gets it right.  If you invest a lot of time in a character, you get in his/her skin and begin to think the character’s thoughts.  You get that feeling with Batgirl.

Obviously the “three years” in the wheelchair as Oracle is in DC universe time, since Batman: The Killing Joke was published 23 years ago, back in 1988.

The new Barbara is funny and endearing.  She shares her inner voice with us to contrast with her Batgirl exterior.  We don’t know what will come of it, but she finds a new roommate and a place she can afford to rent.  Her inner voice is determined, and she forces herself to be confident, even though we sense a lot of doubt in her about her abilities.  She’s young, but not too young.  She is a straight arrow, not gritty and also thankfully not vapid.  In the first story we see her crash a home crime, similar to what Gordon faced with the Joker.  She hasn’t been in the superhero business physically for years now.  She is successful, but she’s nervous.  Simone shares that the shooting will never leave this character, although we get the vibe that this series will be about moving on.  The art is clean, Batgirl looks good in her costume and the panels and design are creative.  Nice work all around by artists Ardian Syaf and Vincente Cifuentes.

Fans have asked numerous questions: Why pull her from the wheelchair?  As a model for disabled people, what is DC saying about people with disabilities–to be heroes do you need to be able to walk?  All these are fair questions and Simone has attempted to answer them this summer.  Ultimately this is a character and maybe DC thought every piece of her story as Oracle had been written.  And where else but comic books can a character live a dream that may not be able to be fulfilled with a person in an actual, similar circumstance?  It is difficult to say anyone but Simone could have handled this transition with the same level of grace and alacrity.  But it shows that no fan is free from the change in this new set of series.  The risk with so much change at once is simply human nature–humans don’t like change.  So everywhere you look in the new titles, something will be off-putting to everyone at some point.  What Issue #1 of Batgirl does successfully is wade right through those questions and deliver a new, fresh story that has promise.

The new Batgirl could be the lead in Veronica Mars. She could be a character in Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Or the writers will create someone who makes her own mark.  Not the Batgirl from the TV show, or the Batgirl from the Batman and Robin movie, but someone with the same energy and optimism.

First off she will need to encounter a new villain called the Mirror, who she meets at the end of Issue #1.  And her first big encounter is brief–and a failure.  Luckily for us readers, Batgirl Issue #1 is not.  Looking forward to Issue #2 next month!

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