An unseasonal snowstorm brings an unexpected clean-up and good cheer ally to Burnside: the Penguin! He’s reformed and looking to clean up his image in order to run for mayor. But Batgirl finds he’s being a little too effective at persuading the citizens of Gotham that he’s a good guy. What is he really up to? Then, in a freak occurrence, Babs finds herself trapped inside her own mind: in a dream of her own deepest desires. It’s too good to be true. Can she escape, or does she even want to?
This run keeps firing on all cylinders and does not once slow down. We keep swinging from story to story with nary a breather. Besides the two main stories above, there are also two shorter ones in this volume. Four in one trade paper – that’s impressive, but even more impressive is how exciting all the action still is even at the end.
That’s not to say there isn’t any introspection or soul-searching in this volume or run, because there definitely is! When Babs is trapped inside her own mind, she questions whether or not this fantasy she’s living out is better than her real life, and whether or not it’s worth it to continue being Batgirl. Hope Larson continues to be a top-notch Batgirl author.
The art, while it’s become less stylized and graphic since the beginning Burnside title, keeps the feel of the Burnside aesthetic – pretty impressive, considering multiple artists have worked on the title since then. The art in this volume is a little more nuanced, a little more rounded and realistic, but still keeps the dynamic pop colors and clean lines. Batgirl’s designs have changed a bit too – they gave her a winter coat! She’ll not shiver in sub-zero temperatures wearing skin-tight leather any more! =D
Rebirth Batgirl now holds the title for my favorite Rebirth title, after the disappointment of the last Rebirth Wonder Woman. Larson’s phenomenal writing and the art continue to be a big draw. Looking forward to the next!
Larson, Hope, Sami Basri, Scott Godlewski, and Minkyu Jung. Batgirl (Rebirth, Vol. 4): Strange Loop. 2018.
Sage of the Riverlands lives in the legendary city of God’s Helm. She moved there after school for a life of adventure – but ends up working in a cubicle, doing data entry for a boring old company. Through a series of unfortunate events, her roommate’s boyfriend steals an ancient amulet, said to have incredible powers. The mob who bought it illegally in the first place will do anything to get it back – up to hurting anyone who gets in their way. To recover the amulet and save the world, Sage must team up with her friends and coworkers for an epic modern adventure.
This one disappointed me. I thought I’d like it, considering it’s fantasy, but this was just too much. It’s like a D&D campaign set in an almost-real world. There are computers, cell phones, dating apps, student loans – but the pharmacies sell herbs and crystals, the gyms have archery targets instead of weight machines, and the phones are tiny scrolls. It’s… odd. And not in a good way. It all clashed together in some haphazard, half-baked, Millennial high fantasy.
It didn’t help that your typical fantasy stereotypes were present in this graphic novel. Of course the cleric is a nerdy med student. Of course the elf is an artsy, wannabe actor. Of course the barbarian is a meathead who speaks in simple phrases. And worse. I like fantasy and it’s tropes as much as the next girl, but again, this was way too much, and was incredibly detrimental to the plot and character development. Everyone stays the same by the end. There was no sense of urgency or grand purpose to the story at all.
The art does it no favors. It’s rendered relatively simply, as there is a lot going on. Sometimes, there is too much going on, as if this slim volume needs to show everything about this world, all the time, all at once. The reader struggles through as opposed to moving intuitively from one panel to the next.
I am honestly struggling to see how this was so acclaimed. It’s trying to be too much at once, and trips over itself in the process, leaving the reader highly unsatisfied at the end. Big skip.
Roberts, Rafer, and Kristen Gudsnuk. Modern Fantasy. 2019.
Clark Kent is fresh out of junior college, fresh into his 20’s, and fresh in the big wide world. He moves to Metropolis to get a job. He applies for big time jobs with science research facilities, Forbes 500 businesses, and tries out for Metropolis’ sports teams. He quickly gets multiple job offers, the salaries blank for Clark to write in any amount. Though he has incredible powers, the only thing Clark Kent wants is to blend in, live a normal life, and fulfill his father’s last wish: to provide for his mother and take care of her. Though Ma Kent encourages her son to reveal himself and his gifts to the world, Clark only wants to remain in anonymity just like everyone else. However, when an entire army of alien warships, led by one calling himself Tyrell, arrives on Earth and demands his “target” reveal himself, Clark knows the message can only mean himself. Torn between keeping his head down and letting people die vs. revealing himself to likely be killed, what will Clark do?
Maybe the Earth One Batman and Wonder Woman set too high a bar, but I found Earth One Superman disappointing. You know how it’s going to go as soon as the aliens invade. There’s only one way for the story to go, and the reason you know is simply because that it’s a Superman comic. This origin offered nothing new to the accepted Superman canon, whereas other Earth One titles have challenged and turned accepted canons on their heads.
Don’t get me wrong. J. Michael Straczynski is the reason I picked this up. He’s a phenomenal author who writes Superman flawlessly. The first dialogue between Clark and his mom moved me to tears. But nothing new was offered in terms of writing in this Earth One title. Maybe I just don’t know any better since I haven’t read as much Superman as I have other heroes, but this didn’t feel any different than a regular Superman origin story, and in that regard I was disappointed.
The art was serviceable but a bit too, well, Gotham for my tastes. The art is drawn and colored as though we’re looking through a grimy lens. There’s a muddy brown overtone to the entire book that weighs it down and makes you trudge through it instead of breezing through. Though the characters are for the most part drawn well, Clark at times appears gaunt as a skeleton, and much older than the early 20s he’s supposed to be.
If you’ve read other Earth One titles and expect more of the same fresh takes on old canons, don’t look here. I feel like I would have liked it more had it not been under the Earth One title and therefore not had that expectation. If you’re a die-hard Superman fan, go for it, but otherwise it can be skipped.
Straczynski, J. Michael, and Shane Davis. Superman: Earth One (Vol. 1). 2010.
Nancy and I, as well as six other bloggers, continue to celebrate Women’s History Month with this latest installment in our #FictionsFearlessFemales series! Each post written thus far has featured a female character from mass media such as movies and TV shows. Green Onion started us off, with his excellent post about Ellen Ripley, from the Alien movie series. Nancy followed with her phenomenal ode to Captain Kathryn Janeway from Star Trek: Voyager. Then, Michael over at My Comic Relief penned a loving tribute to Amy Pond of Doctor Who. Man, I remember following Michael for our Great Chris Debate series too, and wondering how I could possibly top his post! (But, perhaps vainly, I assure you, dear readers… I didn’t feel that way this time ;D)
I know, I know… you guys are all are on tenterhooks wondering who I picked…
My post features Wonder Woman! The character was created by William Moulton Marston in 1941. Marston is also renowned for his psychological work and for creating the polygraph lie detector test. He wanted to create a new kind of superhero who didn’t use violence to solve problems, like the male superheroes who dominated the market at the time. He based his new character and her appearance after two women in his life: his wife, Elizabeth Holloway Marston, and their polyamorous life partner, Olive Byrne. Thus, Wonder Woman was born.
Raised on a utopian island populated only by women, Wonder Woman was the miracle child of the Queen Hippolyta: sculpted from clay and blessed with life by the Greek pantheon. The overjoyed queen named the child Diana. She grew up worshipping the Greek gods and training in the art of war, but is also taught to only use violence as a last resort. Her world is turned upside down when a plane crashes on Paradise Island, and she rescues a man from the wreckage. The Amazons nurse him back to health, and learn that the man – Steve Trevor – is an intelligence agent for the United States of America, and that he needs to get home to report vital information to his superiors to turn the tide of World War II in the Allies’ favor. Queen Hippolyta holds a tournament to grant one Amazon the privilege of returning Steve to his homeland and to preach the Amazon ways to Man’s World. Diana triumphs in the tournament, garbs herself in the colors of Steve’s home country, and escorts him home to aid the fight against the Nazis.
Wonder Woman broke the superhero glass ceiling, so perhaps is a role model by default, but she has many other qualities of one. Marston based her upon women of the ’40s, who were asserting their worth and independence during WWII and going to work to keep the country running while young men were away at war. In the early comics, Wonder Woman disguises herself as Diana Prince, and works as an army nurse while she’s not doing her superhero thing. Marston, also an outspoken feminist, designed the character also to be “psychological propoganda” for the newly liberated girls and young women of the ’40s, whom he believed could – and should! – use their feminine strengths to run the world (Wikipedia). In fact, the seventh issue of Wonder Woman, published in 1942, has the famous “Wonder Woman for President” story; even that early on in her history, Wonder Woman was doing what no one thought women could do!
Wonder Woman was a hit when she was released, with both girls and boys. By a fan vote early in her publication, Wonder Woman was inducted as the first female member of the Justice Society of America (All Star Comics #12, 1942), as their secretary. Of course, they expanded her role as time went on, but she had to start somewhere, right? =P Though Marston passed away in 1947, he continued to write Wonder Woman until his death, and DC has published her stories continuously since then (save for a brief hiatus in the mid ’80s). She is a flagship character for the publisher, alongside Superman and Batman; together, they are known as the Trinity. Notable writers and artists who have worked on her title are George Perez, Greg Rucka (Down to Earth, The Hiketeia, and Rebirth), Gail Simone, John Byrne, and J. Michael Straczynski.
Not only has her comic book been long-running, the character has appeared not only in other DC comics, but in multiple mass media. Perhaps the most recognizable incarnation of the character before the DCEU was the TV show, starring Lynda Carter, that premiered in 1975. Wonder Woman was also in the cartoons Super Friends, Justice League and Justice League Unlimited, and DC Superhero Girls, to name a few. I’d even say that after the unprecedented, genre-redefining success of 2017’s Wonder Woman, starring Gal Gadot, there is sort of a Wonder Woman Renaissance going on: not only this character, but other female superheroes are stepping into the spotlight and claiming their space.
Wonder Woman was written to be a different kind of superhero, as mentioned above: one who used love, compassion, and understanding to resolve conflicts instead of violence. The nuances depend on the individual story, but overall, the Amazon code preaches peace through submission to a loving authority; love, acceptance, and compassion to all; and diplomacy always before violence. Wonder Woman, therefore, is first and foremost an ambassador; spreading the Amazon ways to Man’s World. Greg Rucka’s run beginning with Down to Earth (linked above) in particular highlighted Diana’s ambassador role: in his story, Themyscira is recognized as a nation by the UN, and Diana becomes their official ambassador. She publishes a book during this time too, over which public opinion is polarized. There is a passage in which she’s on a talk show, and though the host and other guest try to heckle her, Diana responds calmly and patiently. Not everyone is receptive to her message, but that doesn’t mean she won’t try to get through to everybody.
There is an interesting dichotomy explored in many of her stories about Diana’s role of princess and ambassador versus her role as a warrior. The Amazons are a race of warrior women, and yet, they do not seek war. In George Perez’s run (linked above), the mighty Hercules travels to the Amazon’s home to conquer it. Queen Hippolyte meets him on the battlefield, garbed in armor, but speaks to him first. She gives him a chance to surrender before actually crossing swords, after she realizes there is no other choice. Diana is very much the same way. Later in Perez’s run, after she discovers Valerie Beaudry, the Silver Swan, is only the villain because her husband brainwashed her into doing it, seeks her out and tries to reason with her. It’s unlikely Wonder Woman ever strikes first – and if she does, it is only to protect innocent lives.
My favorite quote about Wonder Woman comes from Gail Simone. In her introduction to The Circle (linked above), she writes:
“When you need to stop an asteroid, you get Superman. When you need to solve a mystery, you call Batman. But when you need to end a war, you get Wonder Woman” (AZ Quotes).
This quote speaks volumes about the character. Wonder Woman is arguably the best of the DC trinity at shutting down conflict, because she doesn’t use physical force to do so. She tries to negotiate first. She tries to see the other side of the story and offers compassion and understanding. She offers help, if help is needed, and asks for peace. Only when all other methods have failed does she resort to violence. At this point, after she’s exhausted all alternatives, she doesn’t hesitate to do whatever needs to be done – including taking a life, should the situation call for it (it only has once in her entire career!).
The reason I personally love Wonder Woman so much is because of her unbreakable commitment to compassion, love, and trust. She sees the good in people, even villains, and gives everyone the benefit of the doubt. She accepts everyone as they are, but knows when someone needs help, and is the first to offer it. She loves and trusts everyone she meets, unless they give her a reason not to. She opened herself to new experiences, to a whole new world, simply because she wanted to learn about it. These are incredibly powerful messages, not only to women, but to everyone.
I am not naturally this way – I am inclined to distrust and see the bad in people first – but I strive to emulate Wonder Woman, and do the same she does. I try to be compassionate and open to new experiences and ways of thinking, as she is. In this divided world, we can all stand to exercise a little more understanding and compassion in our every day lives.
Wonder Woman is one of, if not the most, important fictional female characters in history. She was the first superhero in an industry dominated by male characters. She showed us, has continued to show us, that not all conflicts have to be resolved using violence. Diana Prince might have super strength and the ability to fly, but I think that her greatest power is her heart, and its’ boundless capacity for love and empathy. We might not be able to attain her superpowers – but we can strive to fill our own hearts with her ideals, to fill the world with a little more love.
In this part autobiography, part how-to graphic novel, Natalie Nourigat shares how she went from working on comics and freelancing in Portland, Oregon, to working as an animator in Los Angeles, California. She attended college to study Japanese business, and started her career drawing comics after school. While visiting an animator friend in Los Angeles, she decided to make the career transition. She shares her job hunting process, especially the process of building a portfolio, the environment of the studio she works in, and what it’s like to live in L.A. She even plumbs some animator friends and coworkers to share their experiences!
For some reason, I thought this one was fiction (I must have gotten mixed up with another graphic novel), but I didn’t mind at all once I realized it wasn’t. In fact, I was pleasantly surprised. The information is conveyed in a no-nonsense, yet conversational manner, as if you were speaking to a trusted mentor. The perks of working in animation and living in L.A. are definitely highlighted, but Nourigat makes no effort to hide the less-pleasant aspects, nor tries to diminish how hard she and others worked for their current positions. Knowing next to nothing about the animation industry going into this book, I feel like I’ve learned a lot about it now that I’m done. Mission accomplished for Ms. Nourigat =P
The layout and art (unsurprisingly, since she is a comic artist) are wonderful. Most often, the illustrations in a panel only contain a few elements (such as two people) either without a background or a minimal one, and are colored in two or three complimentary pastels. It reads in a straightforward way as well; I was never once confused about where to read next. The art and layout are clean and uncluttered, to allow the information in the text to take center stage. This one is more text-heavy than your average graphic novel, but I never once felt bogged down by the text due to the clean art and simple layouts.
Before I read this book, I can honestly say that I wouldn’t have known where to start looking if a patron at work had asked me for information about getting into the animation industry. Now, I have a resource! The information is presented thoroughly and succinctly with little fuss. Even those new to graphic novels will have no problem reading this. A solid how-to that fills a niche market.
Nourigat, Natalie. I Moved to Los Angeles to Work in Animation. 2018.
Nightwing is in the Birds’ neck of the woods, tracking down a shapeshifting metahuman named Gemini. He finds her, but the Birds step in to help when he gets injured. They discover she’s working for someone named Nightingale, and Black Canary volunteers to go undercover to unravel what she wants with teenage metas like Gemini. Meanwhile, Gus, the new Oracle, is starting to act strange. He’s having unprecedented mood swings and is suddenly secretive. He has a connection to a big bad from the Birds’ past, and it’s working its’ way out into the open. Barbara in particular is growing suspicious. Is it possible that Gus’ tenure with the Birds is over, before it’s truly begun?
Being a huge fan of the original run, I am overjoyed that the Rebirth Birds of Prey has the same feel to it. Though this is only Volume 2, the unbreakable bond between these three heroines has already been established. Though they are all different, they come to find a home within each other, and their friendship. That’s what made the original run so special for me, and it’s immensely satisfying to see that theme carry over to Rebirth. There’s no team stronger than the Birds, and it shows – this is the strongest Rebirth title I’m reading.
That said, I feel that this Rebirth title isn’t as welcoming to new readers as other titles. So far, this run relies heavily on past events, and unfortunately there’s not enough page time to explain everything. I recommend the original run to everybody anyway, but I feel it’s almost essential reading to get into the Rebirth run… which wasn’t the point of Rebirth. I almost feel I need to go back and read New 52 Grayson as well, which explains his and Helena’s (Huntress’) past connections in Spyral.
There’s a little bit of everything in this volume. Undercover missions, cyber espionage, heart-to-heart talks, girl power, guest appearances from some of your favorite male counterparts 😉 And, of course, plenty of action! Looking forward to the next volume.
Benson, Julie, Shawna Benson, Roge Antonio, Claire Roe. Batgirl and the Birds of Prey (Vol. 2): Source Code. 2017.
Sibylla is not your usual little girl. She craves adventure, not a husband. When she goes to see a witch with two of her peers to get her fortune told, she asks, “Will I ever get to sail a ship?” The amused witch tells her instead that she will marry – the Black Bull of Norroway. He is supposed to be a terrifying legend. Sibylla, however, isn’t fazed. When the Black Bull does indeed show up at her doorstep when she’s older, she readily packs her bags and goes with him. He is on a quest to break the curse that was put on him, and do to that, he needs a bride, a sword, and a shield. Sibylla is the required bride, but she’s ready to prove that she’s so much more than that. She puts her foot down and travels with him across Norroway, searching for the last elements and trials he must endure to break his curse.
I absolutely adored this graphic novel, adapted from a Scottish fairy tale, written and illustrated by two sisters named Kit and Cat Seaton. I’d say it’s middle grade to young adult, but I found it entertaining as an adult. Sibylla’s no-nonsense and tenacious personality was a big draw for me. She and Bull are a lot alike, but they also learn a lot from each other throughout this story. This is only the first volume, with (hopefully!) many more promising adventures ahead.
As such, the full backstory of Bull’s curse is only hinted at, and the repercussions of the curse on those close to him aren’t yet fully unfolded. Many times in fantasy, when there is a curse involved, it only involves and affects the one person on whom the curse was placed. Here, the curse affects multiple people, adding an extra layer of intrigue. By doing this also, it emphasizes the fact that the actions of one person have consequences for many. Very rarely do our choices impact only ourselves. I appreciated this aspect of the story most, and would be looking forward to more for that alone…
… If it weren’t for the art, too. It’s delightful! I don’t think it is watercolor, though there is an airy quality about it all the same, like you would get with watercolors. Both human and bull characters are adorably animated and expressive, bringing the story to life. The backgrounds and landscapes remind me almost of ancient Asian paintings. There is a soft and calming quality about them, much like those old works, that I enjoy.
This is the first installment in what promises to be a delightful series, filled with intrigue, adventure, and two stubborn heroes learning to live with and like each other. I am highly anticipating the second volume.
Seaton, Kit & Cat. Norroway (Book 1): The Black Bull of Norroway. 2018.
A lawyer mysteriously shows up at the site of Wonder Woman’s latest victory over Giganta. He reveals to Diana and Steve that Hercules is dead. Furthermore, he has left a will, in which Diana inherits everything. It is at Hercules’ remote cottage that Diana discovers that she has a brother. A twin brother named Jason. Hercules helped train him to use his godly powers, and leaves Diana coordinates to where he lives, so she can meet him. While Diana is overjoyed to have found her brother, she is worried too. Grail, the daughter of Darkseid, is murdering demi-gods – such as Hercules, herself, and yes, Jason – to steal their power and feed it to Darkseid, so he can recover his full strength after the events of Dark Nights: Metal. She is nervous about leading Jason into a trap, not realizing that one is being set for her…
This one occurred after Dark Nights: Metal, which I haven’t read, so Jason came out of left field for me. Been meaning to, though, because it looks suuuper cool. It’s incredibly interesting, and a little jarring, that they introduced a sibling for Diana, and a boy at that, after the canon for so long has been that Diana was a miracle child when she was born. On the one hand, it does add a deeper layer of intrigue for the Amazons, who are no strangers to keeping secrets, for the queen to have been given birth to twins instead of one child, and one a boy at that!
On the other hand, it sort of rubs me the wrong way that he is a boy. I admit, I suppose it wouldn’t have worked if Jason were a girl =P But this arc has spent so long thus far establishing Diana as a woman in her own right, that doesn’t need a man in her life, just chooses to have one… thrusting a brother on her whom she feels compelled to meet and love after all this time seems… off. It almost goes against what the writers had established over the last five volumes. I was much more interested in the Grail and Darkseid plotline myself.
There was a lot more action in this volume than in past, because the story has finally moved away from the deep introspection of Rebirth WW’s beginning volumes. The art was well suited to the change of pace. Though there is a lot of action, the lines are clean and crisp, and the panels uncluttered. The colors are also bright and eye-catching. One detail I really enjoyed were actually Grail and Darkseid, how their eyes lit up: there is a halo of color around their eyes whenever they show great power. Hoping the next volume tones Jason down a bit.
Robinson, James, Carlo Pagulayan, Sergio Davila, and Emanuela Lupacchino. Wonder Woman (Rebirth, Vol. 6): Children of the Gods. 2018.
Ellie idolizes old singers and movie stars: Billie Holiday, Judy Garland, John Lennon, Elliott Smith, and more. One thing they all have in common? They were all drug addicts. Ever since she found a mixtape her mother made for her father (both drug addicts themselves), containing songs written and performed by drug addicts, Ellie has been obsessed with the old stars and their struggles with heroin, amphetamines, cocaine, you name it. So you could say it’s no surprise Ellie winds up in a rehab facility. What is surprising is she meets a boy. Skip is trying desperately to not throw this last chance away, whereas Ellie has no plans for getting sober. Once they realize their attraction for each other, will they recover together, or spiral back into old habits?
This one isn’t what you expect it to be. You go in expecting one thing, but by the end, it’s quite another. Brubaker and Phillips pull no punches here. The writing is excellent, big plot twist aside. We alternate between the present day and flashbacks to Ellie’s childhood, which give us more context. Each of Ellie’s flashbacks relate to the next slice of the modern day story in subtle ways that you only truly pick up on with a second read through. Sometimes flashbacks are too obviously related to the main story, but the fact that they aren’t here shows a deft hand. I was highly impressed.
The art uses color more than solid drawing to convey the overall mood and individual emotions. Don’t get me wrong: the drawing is great, but color was the focus here. The modern day sequences are rendered in saturated pastels. While the characters for the most part are solidly colored in, the backgrounds are splashed with hardly-mixed color, suggesting chaos and uncertainty, even if the palette is cheerful. The flashbacks are in greyscale, but the splotches remain, again conveying the turbulence of Ellie’s childhood. The art suggests something is going on long before it happens, which is arguably more important than foreshadowing in the writing of a graphic novel.
I was pleasantly surprised to see that this isn’t the first collaboration by Brubaker and Phillips. This is a novella from their series called Criminal. Excuse me while I go check it out 😉 I was, again, very impressed with this graphic novel, and the way the writing and the art worked together to the conclusion you didn’t expect. I anticipate more good stuff from these guys.
Brubaker, Ed, and Sean Phillips. My Heroes Have Always Been Junkies. 2018.