A Peek at What Gotham has to Give: Reviews of the New Birds of Prey, Batman and Robin, The Dark Knight and Red Hood and the Outlaws
Title: Birds of Prey #1
Author: Duane Swierczynski
Artist: Jesus Saiz
Publisher: DC Comics
Rating: graphic violence
Release date: September 21, 2011
Having been a fan of Birds of Prey from its inception, I was nervous yet eager to see what the new BOP had to offer. It did not disappoint. Following from where things ended off for Black Canary being wanted for murder, she is a hero on the run but one that cannot refuse the call to help others. She still fights as a vigilante trying to keep the streets safe. She has help from Starling, a tattooed woman who isn’t afraid to burn rubber or fight when needed. A naive journalist has been trying to track the Canary down, unaware he is being used by a sinister mastermind that spells big trouble for the ladies and the city.
This new take still has moments between Dinah and Barbara (aka Batgirl) and so there is some carry over from the last series into this new one. The new threat is dangerous, the mystery intriguing and the action big and stylish. Duane Swierczynski (Deadpool, Punisher) writes a good yarn so this is definitely one to pick out of what the New 52 from DC has to offer. Also Jesus Saiz (Birds of Prey, The Brave and the Bold) has a clean art style that is full of life.
Title: Batman and Robin #1; Author: Peter J. Thomas; Artist: Patrick Gleason; Publisher: DC Comics; Rating: graphic violence; Release date: September 14, 2011; Verdict: 2/10
I wish I could speak as highly of Batman and Robin as I did of Birds of Prey but sadly that is not the case. The dynamic duo is dynamite no more. Instead we are driven to distraction by an overly sentimental Batman who is taking way to much lip from his irritating son Damian (son of Batman and Rhas al Ghul’s daughter Talia). They are doing sweeps, stopping extreme criminals from dastardly plots, but all the while the boy is constantly bickering and complaining about his old man while the old man – Batman – takes it! Can anyone else imagine the Dark Knight getting all that back talk and insults from a bratty psychotic child without some seriously stern words? I sure can’t, even while reading and seeing it happening. The kid is psychotic too, I was not exaggerating. He constantly is whining about not getting to kill people. The characters come across with little if any depth, and even the small sliver shown of danger towards the Batman Incorporated around the world barely raised an eyebrow.
Title: Batman The Dark Knight #1; Author: David Finch; Artist: Paul Jenkins; Publisher: DC Comics; Rating: graphic violence; Release date: September 28, 2011; Verdict: 7/10
Thankfully The Dark Knight had more to offer. David Finch (Cyberforce, Batman The Dark Knight earlier issues) gives readers a look at Bruce Wayne living up to his playboy lifestyle while juxtaposing that with his life as the Dark Knight. The big story hits when an unexplained breakout at Arkham Asylum leaves 300 of Arkham’s scariest and most dangerous loose on the streets of Gotham. The first issue ends with a head to head confrontation between Batman and Two-Face who has undergone some startling changes.
The art and story were well delivered and fast paced. At times the male faces had a tendency to look too gaunt, the lips like they belonged to Mick Jagger, but otherwise it was edgy and the designs of the villains truly frightening.
Title: Red Hood and the Outlaws; Author: Scott Lobdell; Artist: Kenneth Rocafort; Publisher: DC Comics; Rating: graphic violence; Release date: September 21, 2011; Verdict: 8.5/10
This block of reviews ends on a high note with Red Hood and the Outlaws. Jason Todd, the Red Hood, frees Roy Harper aka Archer to join Jason’s team of two. They are joined by the beautiful alien Starfire. The three truly make a misfit trio. Jason has his bullet ridden past as the Red Hood, back from the dead former Boy Wonder, Archer is a drug addict and although clean now, is he stable enough to hold it together? And Starfire is so removed from humans that she can hardly differentiate between them (they all look alike to her). The three face a mysterious and ominous enemy known as The Untitled and the show starts and ends with a bang.
Not only does it have an exciting story but it also has stellar art. The character designs, the line work, the background detail and movement in the scenes are all great to see. A particularly beautiful image in the otherwise gritty tale shows Starfire enjoying the water on a sunny day without any inhibition.
Title: Batgirl #1
Authors: Gail Simone
Artist: Adrian Syaf
Publisher: DC Comics
Rating: contains violence and mature subject matter
Release date: Sept. 7, 2011
So far the majority of the ‘New 52’ from DC has been underwhelming. The one I was most concerned about, Batgirl, however proved to be the one title so far that shines. Being a long time fan of Barbara Gordon, respecting her as Oracle and the trials she underwent, I was cautious in my hope for what a new take on Batgirl could offer. After all, they created a wonderful character and one of the few disabled super heroes in the comic book universe that leapt out, captured fans’ attention and as a bonus, happened to be a female hero too. My biggest concern was by taking away the disability we would lose one of the few iconic differently abled characters the comic book universe had to offer. That may be the case, but the way Gail Simone has skilfully dealt with the subject matter and given the character of the new Barbara Gordon depth and realism made this issue impossible to not only like, but be captivated by Barbara Gordon and what will happen next.
We are first introduced to Barbara storming the night as Batgirl. She comes across as all pep and youthful egotism as she battles crime and makes a name for herself. If the story had stayed there, it would have sunk. It didn’t. Instead it fast forwards ahead a few years. Barbara is a little older, a touch wiser and the terrible crime that had left her paralyzed in the original DC universe happened here too, but after three years of being bound to a wheelchair, she could miraculously walk again. The details are not yet given about how this miracle occurred and it seems it is part of the intrigue surrounding Barbara.
With her new freedom comes a new outlook. She wants to stretch her legs in every sense of that term. She moves out from her father’s to get a place with an activist artist. As soon as she’s moved in she’s donned her old costume again to take the night and stop some truly heinous criminals. However, this is where the depth truly comes into play. Although she has regained the use of her legs, the emotional scars are still there. At a crucial moment during a standoff, things go wrong because of her past warring with the present and it leaves her now potentially on the run from the Gotham Police.
What makes this work first and foremost is Gail Simone’s (Wonder Woman, Secret Six, Birds of Prey) writing. The internal monologues she writes for Barbara ring true. I am someone who was unable to walk and had to relearn how to do it and the insights Simone gives us into Barbara’s mindset and character ring true all the way through. The fact that Barbara is similar in personality but not completely the same is good common sense as no one goes through that kind of trauma unchanged. It also adds vulnerability and courageousness to Barbara that gives the heroine depth and sympathy that engages the reader.
The art by Adrian Syaf (Green Lantern Corps, Brightest Day) really brings out the dynamic character and writing Simone has offered. It is some of the best art seen in this New 52 universe so far with some fantastic splash pages and wonderful images. If the story continues in this vein both story and art-wise, then it will be the one to watch.
I grieve for the loss of one of the few disabled heroines in comicdom, but cannot help but admire what Gail Simone has accomplished in the very first issue of Batgirl.
Here’s some of the comic book industry news from the last week or so not already featured in our blog:
-Green Lantern goes 3-D! DC Entertainment and Warner Brothers pictures have announced that the upcoming Green Lantern live-action film starring Ryan Reynolds and directed by Casino Royale’s Martin Campbell will be, like Avatar before it, presented in stereoscopic 3-D. The film will also be released in the standard 2-D, but the 3-D release promises to be epic. Look for the film in 2011. Find the original story, here.
-Smallville, the CW television series about Clark Kent’s adventures before the cape, has just been given the green light to produce a 10th season. No word on which cool guest stars will show up or whether or not Geoff Johns will pen another tale, but it seems like the time to put Clark in the costume is close at hand. Or maybe just a series name change to Metropolis, as that is where the story takes place now. Check out the story, here.
-Gail Simone, long time writer on DC’s Wonder Woman ongoing monthly series has announced that she will be leaving the book. Look for June’s renumbered Wonder Woman #600 to have a final contribution from Gail. Ms. Simone will continue to write The Secret Six, and the Birds of Prey relaunch series for DC, but will also be bringing out a new Welcome to Tranquility mini-series from DC’s Wildstorm imprint. Click here for more.
-Big time film and Comic book writer, Mark Millar, has announced that he will be working on a new Spider-Man project for Marvel in 2011. No artist was named and no details were given out, but Millar’s previous foray into the Spider-Man arena yielded a very good 12-issue run in the early 2000’s. Millar also took the time to comment on the new film that he is preparing to direct next year. The film will be set in Scotland (and involve a 100% Scottish film crew) and will feature some everyday Scots as superheroes. Millar cites District 9 as a film not set in America but that still interested the American audience. He hopes to do the same with his Scottish-Superhero film. Not much to go on, but it’s enough to get me excited! Check here for the full story.
-Rumor has it that comic book genius Warren Ellis has written a film based in Arthurian times that seems to have tickled the fancy of Guy Ritchie, director of Sherlock Holmes and Snatch. Ritchie is looking to option the script and direct it himself. More news as we get it J
Huge news regarding the secret identity of Twilight, the season 8 big bad from Buffy: The Vampire Slayer. No spoilers here, but click HERE for the scoop…
DC Comics has announced that they will follow up the massive Green Lantern Blackest Night crossover with a new 26-issue bi-weekly series entitled, Brightest Day. Writers Geoff Johns and Peter Tomasi will co-write the series with a rotating band of artists, much in the same way 52, Countdown to Final Crisis, and Trinity did.
Speaking of bi-weekly 26 issue series…DC Comics has announced that they will also be producing Justice League International as a bi-weekly series for 26 issues. The series is called JLI: Generation Lost and will be co-written by Keith Giffen and Judd Winick, and will also feature a rotating cast of artists.
With the debut of the April 2010 Marvel Comics solicitations, it has been revealed that Marvel will end all of their Avengers titles (New Avengers, Dark Avengers, Avengers: The Initiative) in the month. Tying into Marvel’s big event, Siege, the Avengers books will have one grand 64-page bookend called New Avengers: Finale. Fans may recognize the title, as when Marvel ended the original Avengers back before Civil War there was a book entitled, Avengers: Finale. The big news about this new finale is that it will be written by Brian Michael Bendis and will feature artwork by Bryan Hitch. This will mark the first time these two major Marvel creators have worked together. It should be epic!
DC Comics has announced that their former President and Publisher, Paul Levitz, will be re-launching the Legion of Super-Heroes along with artist Yildiray Cinar. No word on the date, but we will update you as soon as we know.
DC Comics has also announced that they will be re-launching Birds of Prey come spring time. The best news about this re-launch is that the creative team of Gail Simone and Ed Benes, possibly the best team to ever work on volume one of Birds of Prey, will be the ones taking the book on.
Long time Marvel exclusive creator and award winning artist Dave Finch (Ultimatum, Moon Knight), has moved across the street! DC Comics announced that Dave Finch has been poached from Marvel, and is now exclusive to DC Comics. No word on which book he will be tackling, but the scuttlebutt is that he will produce a round of covers for DC first, and then move onto a project.