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From the Archives: Batgirl (2008) #1

batgirl(2009)0001Batgirl Rising part one: Point of New Origin

Writer: Bryan Q. Miller
Penciller: Lee Garbett
Inker: Trevor Scott
Colorist: Guy Major
Letterer: John J. Hill
Asst. Editor: Harvey Richards
Editor: Michael Siglain
Cover: Phil Noto
Publisher: DC Comics

[ This review originally written for and published at comiXtreme/cxPulp some time back while the issue was new–within the first days to a week that the issue was available for sale. ]

This issue opens on an action sequence. Cars take off for a race no one can win, in a scam that has drawn Batgirl to the scene. While she deals with the criminal element, we see that Batman and Robin are keeping an eye on things. Batgirl removes her mask, and we find out who she is. As she goes about her everyday life, we get a flashback sequence that shows how she came by the costume and what led to the previous Batgirl vacating it. Meanwhile, Barbara Gordon spends some time with her dad as they adjust to living near one another again (a plot point begun this past spring in the Oracle mini-series during Battle for the Cowl). As Batgirl is once again drawn into action, we see that she has a long way to go to measure up to her own ideals. The issue closes with her meeting someone who’ll be either mentor or foe.
The issue’s art doesn’t blow me away–it’s good, solid stuff, but that’s something I really expect from any comic I read. I like that all the characters I know are recognizable visually and not just contextually. While I’m sure there are subtleties I’m not picking up on, for a new reader such as myself, the style works just fine and does what a comic’s art should do.

My only real complaint with the art is the structure of the cover. We’re shown the title character from the waist to nose, with an emphasis on her…feminine curves (where the outline of a bat–her personal logo–is situated). I assume the intent is simply to emphasize the character’s chest-emblem since we’re not supposed to know who is actually in the costume. Unfortunately, the outline of a bat around the word "Batgirl" denoting the comic’s title takes away from that…and makes it seem there’s a bit of emphasis on Batgirl’s chest.

The story itself isn’t bad, though it doesn’t have me all that excited about what’s to come. I’m mainly interested in seeing what’s to come with Barbara Gordon and how she handles the new Batgirl than I am Batgirl herself. I expect I’ll give this at least a couple more issues to really draw me in. If I were to decide from this first issue alone, I do think I’d give the series a pass for now and see if anything develops, then play catch-up if interested in the developments.

All in all, a solid first issue as first issues go…and it’s very much to the writer’s–or DC’s–or WHOEVER’s–credit that the "mystery" over "Who IS Batgirl?" has been more for the solicitations on the series than some point within the series itself. That we have the identity of this Batgirl on page 6 of the first issue (the title page of the issue) allows me the interest I’m sure I would NOT have had if the identity was kept secret from the readers.

If you’re interested in Barbara Gordon, or the Gotham characters in general, or just this side of the "bat-family," this issue is worth picking up–at the least it gives you the debut of a new Batgirl, context for her and potentially where she’s going, and you get to see Babs’ story continue and where that may lead in the near future.

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Batman and Robin and the Library

After the death of Damian Wayne a couple weeks back, I put several requests in with the local library system. A number of the books came in at once, and I’ve been really enjoying the recent read-through.

For “free” I’m getting to read the entire original run of Batman and Robin, as well as the first volume of the New 52 iteration of the series. I’d actually forgotten how short the first run was…later this year the New 52 run will match the original.

Sometimes I get so caught up in fleshing out my own collection that I lose sight of the fact of what an AWESOME resource libraries are. Of course, if you don’t turn the books back in by their due date, you open up a whole other kettle of issues…

batmanandrobinfromthelibrary

Batman and Robin #3 [Review]

Quick Rating: Solid
Story Title: Batman Reborn Part Three: Mommy Made of Nails

Batman and Robin vs. Professor Pyg as the new dynamic duo solidifies as a team.

batmanandrobin003Writer: Grant Morrison
Artist: Frank Quitely
Colorist: Alex Sinclair
Letterer: Patrick Brosseau
Assistant Editor: Janelle Siegel
Editor: Mike Marts
Covers: Frank Quitely and Tony Daniel
Publisher: DC Comics

This issue picks up with Batman interrogating a lackey in typical Batman fashion–though it turns out he was "allowed" access to the suspect by Commissioner Gordon himself. The two clash over methods, but ultimately part ways still allies (which is a nice change from what could otherwise be a cliched story element). Batman’s trying to find the captured Robin, who we find about to be tortured by "Professor Pyg." Battle ensues as Batman and Robin vow to be an actual team after recent solo play, and though their opponents (doll people) are fairly creepy–especially as rendered by Quitely–they seem to fit quite well into a rogues gallery that includes the likes of Clayface, Two-Face, Mr. Zsasz, and others. After dealing with the villain at hand, the heroes locate someone they’ve been seeking–a man familiar to readers of Morrison‘s past Batman issues who was instrumental in Batman: RIP. We have a full-page panel that is silent here, though if one’s read RIP, the dialogue is known from the opening page of that arc.

All in all, another solid issue. While I can appreciate adding to a fairly limited rogues gallery, I’m not particularly interested in the new villains–at least not yet. I enjoyed the fact that I’ve not been left half a year before seeing any costumed crazies taken down by the new Batman and Robin; I’ve also enjoyed the way we can really see what an abrasive kid Damian is ("Whose neck do I break first?" upon coming back to consciousness) which seems to further the need for guidance–that Dick can provide. It’s also refreshing to read a story from this writer that I can actually follow–that at least is entertaining on face value even if I’m picking up nothing in the way of background references. (If there are a lot of subtle things to be teased out of the story by multiple readings and lengthy analysis…cool. But I enjoyed this read just fine without ’em).

The art feels rather lumpy…it gives the characters a strange sort of appearance. Nothing quite disfiguring, but far from the smooth lines I’m used to seeing the characters with in other titles. Still, for the style, it’s consistent and gets everything across I’d expect it to, so no huge issue for me there…though there are a few other artists whose work would probably make this feel absolutely top-notch.

As is…a good issue, and worth picking up if you’ve been giving the title a try. I’m not sure if this is truly the final issue of the arc, but it feels like it is, so the next issue will likely make another good jumping-on point; if you can find the first couple issues to give you all three, it’s definitely a very worthwhile read.

Ratings:

Story: 4/5
Art: 3.5/5
Overall: 3.5/5

Batman and Robin #1 [Review]

Quick Rating: Good!
Story Title: Batman Reborn Part One: Domino Effect

The new Batman and Robin make their debut, with new villains, a new ride, and a lot of potential.

batmanandrobin001Writer: Grant Morrison
Artist: Frank Quitely
Colorist: Alex Sinclair
Letterer: Patrick Brosseau
Assistant Editor: Janelle Siegel
Editor: Mike Marts
Covers: Frank Quitely and J.G. Jones
Publisher: DC Comics

The cover has a certain iconic look to it…though there’s also every chance that’s partially because it’s one of the images that’s been around for awhile now for this month’s new status quo amidst the Bat-books. Batman has a confident, amused look about him, with a Robin who looks like he’s itchin’ for action…and this is the image that initially convinced me that I would actually like to see Damian as Robin. There’s something to the potential dynamic here that really interests me.

We open the issue on a new villain (a Mr. Toad? They wouldn’t give us a character too similar to the X-Men villain The Toad, would they?) being pursued by Batman and Robin…who have a flying Batmobile (which seems just like Morrison to throw in there). Outlandish though it is, when it comes to the DCU and the Bat-corner and whatnot…I suppose a flying car isn’t so far out there as to be entirely unbelievable. We get a few pages of them interacting with Alfred (where we see both Dick’s and Damian’s personalities come through a bit, especially in the way they talk to Alfred…this also shows how different the two are).

We get the obligatory scene with Gordon and his officers, the obligatory here’s-what-the-villains-are-up-to-since-they’ve-not-yet-been-found-out-by-Batman scene…and as has become fairly standard for new books and new directions with DC, we even get the obligatory page with several panels "previewing" what is to come over the next year in the book.

The story feels like a Morrison book…but this time, in a good way…at least for this issue. We see the main characters in action; there’s no question of who they are. We get the "updated"/current takes on other classic elements associated with Batman; we get a new villain–several, actually–who could be sorta interesting if only for an arc. However, unlike the last Batman arc I read by Morrison, I don’t feel like I’m "lost" going in; if there’s more than the surface story, then hey–that’s cool; but I don’t feel like I’m missing out on some in-joke here.

The art is pretty good overall–I enjoy the visual style on the whole. I just don’t like the way the faces come across–it seems like everyone is "lumpy" in a not-so-good sorta way, almost for the sake of having that kinda detail on the faces. In addition to the cover as I mentioned at the start of this review, there’s also a page of the title duo disembarking from their flying vehicle that I would love to have as a poster, and that is loaded with potential (it remains to be seen what the reaction to them is, if we even see it next issue).

Honestly, I feel like this is what that All-Star book should’ve been…and with a simple sentence like "Bruce is gone, Dick has taken over" one wouldn’t even have needed to slog through the last year or so of stuff to get to this status quo.

I like it. There’s loads of potential here–especially if this book keeps to its own sandbox while sharing the status quo with the other books for the "general DCU" stuff. This won’t be for everyone, but as first issues go, as really debuting the new Batman status quo, and all that kinda stuff….this is an issue well worth checking out…the bigger question will be whether it can live up to its potential and expectation.

Ratings:

Story: 4/5
Art: 4/5
Overall: 4.5/5

Batman and Robin #5 [Review]

Full review posted to comixtreme.com.

Story: 2/5
Art: 3/5
Overall: 2.5/5

Batman #690 [Review]

Long Shadows Part Three: Tripwires

Writer: Judd Winick
Penciller: Mark Bagley
Inker: Rob Hunter
Colors: Jack Purcell
Letterer: Jared K. Fletcher
Assistant Editor: Janelle Siegel
Editor: Mike Marts
Cover: Tony Daniel
Publisher: DC Comics

Even though the status quo of Dick being Batman is still pretty new–not even half a year yet–this just feels right. From the character’s depiction on the cover, to the “inner voice” we’re allowed inside the issue, even though he’s not Bruce, this simply feels like Batman.

We see Dick facing Clayface and a new partner; noting places he can improve should he survive the villains’ attack. Alfred proves a considerable ally in a way I don’t recall seeing with Bruce in contemporary continuity…and yet, it works very well to me seeing his role unfold. We also see the Penguin confront Black Mask and find a new lesson taught. Two-Face’s plan seems to bear some fruit as the issue’s clifhanger gives a familiar visual but new situational dynamic for the characters.

I’m not entirely sure what to make of Clayface here, though. This is a classic Batman rogue, of course–teamed with some character I’m not familiar with. Between the various DC Crises, reboots, retcons, and Silver-Age-Returneth, I’ve lost track of what version/which Clayface this is. The way he’s depicted here, I’m put in mind of a number of things: a version of The Thing I’m not thrilled with; something belonging to the cover of the original Fantastic Four #1; and even some generic demon. I’m not really put in mind of the visual we were given in Batman: The Animated Series, nor what I think I recall from the original Hush arc back in 2003.

Additionally, I found myself taken out of the story entirely at the inclusion of the movie version of the “batarang”–the Bat-shuriken, if you will. I have no real complaint with that in and of itself–it makes sense, really–but the exactness of it caused me pause as I contemplated its inclusion as such. Specific, personal nitpicks aside…Bagley provides a good Batman visual throughout the issue. Two-Face is recognizeable, but as usual looks slightly different depending on which artist’s work we have on-hand…but really, such is the nature of the character.

On the story side of things, this is a solid issue. I’m not totally impressed in it being any great work of writing…but I’m firmly satisfied at the depiction of the characters. I’m really liking the interaction between Dick and Alfred…as we’re seeing a different interaction than what we had with Bruce and Alfred.

I really don’t care for Black Mask as a “Kingpin” figure, so the scene with the Penguin facing Black Mask’s show of power is just another point in the ongoing Batman story. The last page of the issue was a bit of a surprise–I’d forgotten about the Battle for the Cowl teaser image…and it seems that elements from that teaser are yet to really play out beyond the Battle for the Cowl minis/specials.

All in all, a solid issue…nothing terribly remarkable in and of itself, but certainly worth getting if you’re a Batman fan, a Winick fan, or just following this new season in the Bat-books.

Story: 7/10
Art: 7/10
Whole: 7/10

Batman and Robin #3 [Review]

Full review posted to comixtreme.com.

Story: 4/5
Art: 3.5/5
Overall: 3.5/5

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