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Batgirl (Rebirth, Vol. 4): Strange Loop

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!

– Kathleen

Larson, Hope, Sami Basri, Scott Godlewski, and Minkyu Jung. Batgirl (Rebirth, Vol. 4): Strange Loop. 2018.

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Batgirl and the Birds of Prey (Vol 2): Source Code

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.

– Kathleen

Benson, Julie, Shawna Benson, Roge Antonio, Claire Roe. Batgirl and the Birds of Prey (Vol. 2): Source Code. 2017.

Wonder Woman (Rebirth, Vol. 6): Children of the Gods

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.

– Kathleen

Robinson, James, Carlo Pagulayan, Sergio Davila, and Emanuela Lupacchino. Wonder Woman (Rebirth, Vol. 6): Children of the Gods. 2018.

Wonder Woman: Earth One (Vol. 2)

Diana is back in Man’s World, preaching the Amazon way of peace and love. There are many who believe in her message, and receive it well, but there are many and more who think it’s unnatural – even dangerous. The US government has decided Diana Prince is a threat. They’ve discovered a weapon left on Paradise Island during World War II that could neutralize the Amazons – and Wonder Woman herself. All they have to do is pull the trigger…

I loved Earth One Wonder Woman when I read Volume 1, and I still love it now. The character is updated and challenged for modern times here. It’s heartbreaking how real her story feels: a woman, standing up and sharing her ideas on how to make the world a better place, only to be questioned, ridiculed, and labeled a threat by the men in power. There is an excellent passage in which Diana is questioned why anyone should listen to a a message of peace through loving submission spoken by a privileged princess. This one made me think, and I do love books that make me think.

Just as in the first volume, the art is excellent. The characters are solidly drawn and wonderfully expressive. There are still panels which are surrounded by the Lasso of Truth, or lightning, or other motifs; where I remember the first volume overdid these a bit to the point where it was hard to read, this volume did a better job of balancing them out. There are many Easter eggs once again to past incarnations of Wonder Woman’s character and story arcs, which are delightful for long-time fans to pick out.

Earth One definitely isn’t your mother’s Wonder Woman. That’s what I like about it 😉 This will challenge your perception of this DC staple in today’s world. As ever, looking forward to the next volume.

– Kathleen

Morrison, Grant, Yanick Paquette, and Nathan Fairbairn. Wonder Woman: Earth One (Vol. 2). 2018.

Kingdom Come

I’d forgotten until I was halfway through this one that Nancy has already read and reviewed it… but by that point, I was committed to finishing it! The show must go on, right? And I figured I’d see how similar or different our opinions were on it =P

Just before his death, the Sandman begins to have terrible visions. His friend, Pastor Norman McCay, is with him in his final moments – but then the visions transfer to him after the Sandman passes. The visions are horrible, filled with fire and blood and thunder. The Spectre appears to Pastor McCay, saying that he needs his help, because Armageddon is almost upon them. He needs a human soul to help him judge whomever is responsible for the impending evil.

It is a new millennium, and the superheroes of old have retired, or gone back to their homes, or gone into hiding. The new heroes – the descendants or proteges of those who came before – act without thought or reason. One of them, who calls himself Magog, killed The Atom, causing a nuclear fallout across the American Midwest. Wonder Woman appears to Superman, pleading for him to come out of his self-imposed exile and show the world hope once more. He reluctantly agrees, but the world is not what it used to be. Humanity hasn’t retained the same morality or capacity for hope. Is it possible for Superman to stick to his old morals to reach the next generation, show them the hero’s way, and save humanity?

… Holy crap. This book challenges the role of superheroes in a new millennium and an ever-changing society – and succeeds. Though it was written in the late ’90s, it still holds up extremely well today. The heroes you know and love are seen here as older, some jaded, some still hopeful they can make a difference. They are caught between their love of humanity, their deep-rooted morals, and the realization that sometimes the world moves on without you, and you have to change and adapt to it rather than expecting the world to bend to your will (even if you’ve superhuman will). I loved how these things conflicted within each character. This goes for our narrator Pastor McCay, and the villains who appear too, not just the heroes. Spectacular writing by Mark Waid all around.

The art… I cannot say enough about it. Two words: Alex Ross. He makes magic with superheroes. He works in more of a photorealistic style, making your favorite heroes really come to life. His sense of color and lighting, especially when it comes to the metallic aspects of some costumes, is unparalleled. Since his style takes longer to render than usual comic book art, he usually only does covers – seeing a whole comic with his art is a real treat. I’m not exaggerating when I say you’ve never seen a comic book illustrated like this before.

TLDR: As an artist, Alex Ross makes me want to quit daily X,D

In short, Kingdom Come is a must-read for any comic book fan. Waid’s writing challenges the place of superheroes in a new society, which is only augmented by Ross’ spectacular art.

– Kathleen

P.S. I didn’t read Nancy’s review until I’d finished mine so I wouldn’t accidentally borrow her thoughts and ideas. I only knew she loved it, but the reasons why ended up being pretty similar. Except for the “One Year Later” ending… I HATED IT! EW!! GROSS!!! Save for that, we’re of the same mind on this one 😉

Waid, Mark, and Alex Ross. Kingdom Come. 2008.

Best Reads of 2018

It’s that time of year again! Here we’ve compiled our list of the ten best books we’ve read in 2018, and their consequent reviews, in no particular order. Enjoy!

Continue reading “Best Reads of 2018”

Gotham City Garage (Vol. 1)

Far in the future, The Garden is the only place in America that’s worth living. It’s a safe haven… or is it? Lex Luthor created The Garden, and sure, everyone inside is out of the desert elements, living comfortably, and seemingly happy. Buuut that’s probably due to the little chips he implanted in every citizen’s head, and due to the fact that his chief enforcer is none other than the Bat. When Kara Gordon accidentally brushes with the law, she knows she needs to run or die. She escapes into the “freescape”, the world outside The Garden, the lawless world in the desert. There, she meets a group of women who roam the freescape on motorcycles, kicking Lex Luthor and his Garden where it hurts. They ride or die for each other. Kara fits right in, even as she misses her sister Barbara. Inside The Garden, Barbara tries to uncover the truth about Kara and their father – but she works closely with the Bat, and she needs to watch her every step.

Like Bombshells, this arc started originally as a figurine line that got so popular they decided to make a comic from them! This comic is so cool. I’m a sucker for alternate universe arcs, and I really got a Mad Max vibe from this one. The landscapes are really important here, to either convey the twisted security of The Garden or the hot, vast emptiness of the desert freescape. Just enough of this world is explained to keep you in the loop, but just enough is left out to keep you reading and searching for more clues. Most of all, it’s just good fun with all your favorite heroines ;D

-Kathleen

Kelly, Collin, Jackson Lanzing, Biran Ching, Aneke, and Carmen Carnero. Gotham City Garage (Vol. 1). 2018.

The Amalgam Age of Comics: The Marvel Comics Collection

Back in the mid ’90s (ahhh, that glorious decade), Marvel and DC decided to create an entire crossover series. They blended characters from both camps to create something new and entirely different! But they didn’t stop there. They printed them under a “new” printing company called Amalgam. While each story was a one-shot, they peppered each issue with context and hints referring to “past” issues and events. Pretty cool, huh? The Marvel Comics Collection focuses on DC characters with Marvel spins:

  • Bruce Wayne: Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D.: In which Bruce Wayne prepares to finally confront his arch-nemesis, Green Skull (Ra’s al Ghul and Red Skull). Only it might not be him in charge of Hydra anymore…
  • Bullets & Bracelets: Diana Prince and Steve Castle (Steve Trevor and Punisher), together again – to save their son who’s been abducted!
  • Magneto & the Magnetic Men: Erik Magnus creats the Magnetic Men to bridge the gap between human and Mutant. To be honest, I really had trouble figuring out who was who in this one, but it was enjoyable nonetheless.
  • Speed Demon: BRUUUH. This mashup of Ghost Rider, Flash, and Etrigan was by far my most favorite. I’d kill to read actual stories of this!
  • Spider-Boy: This one blended the best of Superboy and Spider-man into one fun romp as he fights Bizarnage!
  • X-Patrol: Very cool mashup of Teen Titans and X-Men. The clean art in this one was my favorite!

Man, this whole collection was silly and I loved every minute of it. The creators didn’t take themselves seriously at all! I really miss when comics were fun like this. It was really fun figuring out who was mashed up with who. Some characters were pretty obvious, and others took a little more thinking to figure out. I enjoyed the mental workout ;D Stay tuned for the DC Comics Collection!

– Kathleen

Various. The Amalgam Age of Comics: The Marvel Comics Collection. 1996.

Batman: White Knight

Been a while since we’ve done a Batman title, eh? I knew I had to read this as soon as it popped on my radar.

Once again, Batman confronts the Joker. Once again, Batman puts the Joker in Arkham. But this time… Joker is cured? Batman force-fed the Joker an unknown medication that seems to have driven him sane. The newly reformed Jack Napier, along with Harleen Quinzel, are now on a crusade to save Gotham from Batman. Not too many people take him seriously at first – come on, it’s gotta be another of Joker’s schemes, right? – but as time goes on, and Jack doesn’t let up, it becomes very clear that he is serious, and that he won’t stop until Gotham is delivered from her Dark Knight and corrupt police force. Will the public’s opinion of Jack change? Will Batman be revealed as the villain after all, or will the Joker come back out of the woodwork?

W o w. This is definitely a Batman comic worth reading. It challenges a lot of things that Batman has previously gotten away with, and then some, revealing no clear answers in the process. It makes you question if Batman is really doing good, or if he’s just another criminal in a mask and cape. His design in this one – with a Dracula-esque collar, more angry scowl lines on his cowl, and hints of fangs – definitely hint that Batman is more of a villain than he lets on, and we see it in the art. Obsessively detailed and cinematic, with many Gothic elements in the architecture and character designs, the art is a constant reminder of the seedy city we’re in. This stellar start to the DC Black Label series is provocative, thought-provoking, and will have you mulling it over long after you’re finished.

– Kathleen

Murphy, Sean, and Matt Hollingsworth. Batman: White Knight. 2018.

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