Search

Graphic Novelty²

Tag

comics

Grayson (Vol. 5): Spiral’s End

Helena Bertinelli, the new head of Spyral, has a bounty on her head. Rival agencies Checkmate and the Syndicate have had enough of her and want her dead. Her two best agents, 1 (Tiger), and 37 (Grayson), have gone rogue and she has no one to protect her. Once Dick hears Helena is in danger, he needs to make a choice. Does he give himself up to the agency that wants to kill him, to save the woman he loves? Or does he hope that she can hold her own? Dick Grayson must confront himself once and for all: who is he, truly? Dick Grayson, Robin, Nightwing, Agent 37, all of them, or none of the above?

This is unfortunately the last volume in Grayson‘s run. And what a thrilling conclusion it is! In addition to the last few volumes, Annual #3 is included in this trade paperback. It’s a collection of short stories about Agent 37 and his spy skills, told from the perspective of a few different characters who witnessed him in action.

Overall, this series is a refreshing take on the superhero genre. Though characters who are, or used to be, superheroes, are the stars of the show, the James Bond twist is enough to keep things fresh without being too forced, cheesy, or dark. The breakneck pacing ensures you will not be able to put it down until the very end. The art is your standard comic book art, not offering much that’s new, but I believe that was a well-made decision to keep readers focused on the story and tension. Recommended for some high-energy summer reading.

-Kathleen

Seeley, Tim, Tom King, Jackson Lanzing, Collin Kelly, and Roge Antonio. Grayson (Vol. 5): Spyral’s End. 2017.

Superman (Rebirth, Vol. 2): Trials of the Super Son

Clark and Lois are hard at work helping Jon identify and control his growing powers. His unique mix of Kryptonian and human DNA means that he doesn’t have all of Superman’s powers – or he may have new ones! Luckily, the father and son of steel have plenty of opportunity in this volume to test them out. First, Jon’s science project accidentally teleports them to Dinosaur Island, where even they need to fight for survival! Then, a Frankenstein look-alike alien visits Smallville to take in a fugitive hiding in their midst. Unfortunately, it’s not only Jon’s parents that have an interest in his powers. Batman and Robin, known also as Bruce and Damian Wayne, have as well! What’s going to happen when the World’s Finest sons meet each other?

Of all comics I’ve read recently, I think I’m enjoying Superman’s Rebirth run the most. It’s fun, light reading that doesn’t take itself too seriously. Too many comics and their associated media today try to be as serious, dark, and realistic as possible – but that doesn’t always mean better!

What I’m enjoying the most is Clark and Jon’s relationship, not only as father and son, but partners as well. This is most evident in the Dinosaur Island story. There is a part where Jon is scared that he and his dad won’t make it home. Clark has to remind himself that Jon is only ten years old! He then reassures Jon as father to son, not as Superman to Superboy. These kinds of interactions show that while Clark knows all about being Superman, he is still learning to be a dad – it makes him less than perfect, which makes him more relatable.

The dynamic that Clark and Jon have is contrasted by the dynamic that Bruce and Damian have with each other. Bruce is overall – to put it lightly – harder on Damian than Clark is on Jon. This expectation of perfection suits Bruce’s character wonderfully, whereas Clark only asks that Jon try his best. While I don’t like Damian as a character (let alone Robin), it is really fun to watch him and Jon interact because of the fundamental differences in their personalities.

I’m looking forward to not only more of this Rebirth title for some fun summer reading – but also hopefully more World’s Finest teamups and interactions!

– Kathleen

Tomasi, Peter J., Patrick Gleason, Doug Mahnke, Jaime Mendoza, and Mick Gray. Superman (Rebirth, Vol. 2): Trials of the Super Son. 2017.

Batgirl (Rebirth, Vol. 6): Old Enemies

It’s election season! Barbara decides to volunteer for Luciana Alejo’s campaign as she runs for a Senate seat. Unfortunately, that puts her at odds with her own father, Commissioner Gordon. The biggest promise Alejo has made on her campaign trail is to clean up the corruption in the GCPD. While Barbara thinks that’s a good idea, Batgirl has ulterior motives for joining Alejo’s volunteer army. Politics in Gotham are dangerous under the best of circumstances, and someone is really gunning for Alejo. Ex-cop Jason Bard, whom Barbara has a history with, serves as Alejo’s campaign manager. He is willing to work with Batgirl to keep the hopeful Senator safe, but Batgirl isn’t too sure. Can they cooperate long enough to get Luciana elected?

I was reminded of some of the Batgirl comics from the ’70s that were featured in her Bronze Age omnibus. Barbara actually did run for the House of Representatives during the ’70s, to serve as the start of her character retirement. One of the issues featured in the omnibus showed Batgirl and Robin working on her campaign (and on official Bat business ;D ) in Washington, D.C. This story was a great throwback.

Something that was distracting for me were the exaggerated features in some characters, but only from a certain angle. It was just when a character was in profile that their lips and noses were just too big. The style was otherwise pretty standard comic book-y and reminded me a bit of the old Batman animated series.

One last thing… I still hate this new mask!!!

– Kathleen

Scott, Mairghread, Paul Pelletier, and Norm Rapmund. Batgirl (Rebirth, Vol. 6): Old Enemies. 2019.

Shadow of the Batgirl

Cassandra Cain is the daughter of David Cain, one of the best assassins in the world. His daughter, deprived of speech and literacy, surpasses his talents by reading the only language she knows: body language. While trying to kill a man in Gotham City, Cassandra picks out one word as he is begging for his life, “daughter.” Confused and scared, Cassandra flees without finishing her job, and tries to discover for herself what the word “daughter” means – what it really means. With the help of Jackie, who owns a noodle shop, a librarian named Barbara, and a young man named Erik, Cassandra slowly learns to speak, to read, to think for herself and become the person she wants to be. Not who anyone says she should be.

Cassandra’s story is one every teenager can relate to. She is trying to decide who she wants to be! She is afraid that her past has too strong a hold on her and will dictate her future. As we discover, that’s not always the case! She also is representative of the Asian community. Asian author Sarah Kuhn’s introduction on how much Cassandra Cain meant to her is touching.

The art by Nicole Goux is very cool. It’s fast and loose, with a very sketchy feel to it. Since Cassandra spends a good portion of the book mute and illiterate, much of the feeling comes through in the art. What’s conveyed is overwhelming uncertainty as Cassandra tries to find her own footing in the world. As the art and characters show us, it’s okay to feel afraid and overwhelmed about feelings.

Just a personal nitpick… there is some unrealistic representation of libraries! There is no way Cass would be able to live in the Gotham City Library for as long as she does without anyone noticing. A branch as big as Gotham’s would definitely have dedicated security or police staff that would sweep the building to make sure everyone was out before closing. I was just so frustrated by that tiny part!!! Of course, this says more about me than the story itself X,D

Readers will love this combination origin and coming of age story of Cassandra Cain, and the edgy art that coincides.

– Kathleen

Kuhn, Sarah, and Nicole Goux. Shadow of the Batgirl. 2020.

Diana: Princess of the Amazons

Eleven-year-old Diana is lonely! She is the only kid on the entire island full of Amazons. Though she loves her mother and all her aunts, she feels like everyone is now too busy for her. Remembering the story of her birth, she sculpts a friend out of clay and sand and tries to breathe life into her. To Diana’s surprise, her friend Mona comes to life! Mona and Diana run around, have fun, and create mischief together. It’s all fun and games until the daring Mona tries to recruit Diana into a prank that – in Diana’s opinion – goes too far. Did Diana create a friend, or a monster?

Shannon and Dean Hale are a husband and wife team of juvenile books. Shannon has written the award-winning Princess Academy and the Ever After High book series for children. It’s easy to see here why they make a good team! Their Diana is too old to consider herself a kid, but too young for anything else. She feels like it’s impossible to be like the women she’s grown up with and looks up to. They perfectly captured that frustration and loneliness everyone her age feels.

The art is, frankly, adorable. I loved the soft, rounded, and expressive figures, which children will love and are easy to look at. The palette is bright and colorful, in jewel tones that perfectly reflect Diana’s island home. The limited action scenes read a little goofy to me, as I’m an adult reading a children’s book, but there is no excessive violence and no blood. I’d happily give it to a child who expresses interest in it without worrying that they would get scared.

Here is a rare book of a Diana who is not yet Wonder Woman, but not a child anymore either. The target audience will see their own feelings reflected in Diana, and will easily be able to navigate the adorable art.

– Kathleen

Hale, Shannon, Dean Hale, and Victoria Ying. Diana: Princess of the Amazons. 2020.

Batman: Nightwalker (The Graphic Novel)

Orphan Bruce Wayne is freshly 18 and freshly come into the trust fund he inherited from his parents. He gets in trouble his first night by trying to chase down a member of the notorious Nightwalkers gang. They’ve been targeting rich citizens of Gotham and stealing their money to give to the poor. His brief moment of vigilantism lands Bruce in big trouble: a period of probation working as a janitor in Arkham Asylum. Madeline Wallace, a girl who’s been arrested and committed for being in the Nightwalkers, draws Bruce’s attention. They begin a cautious and barbed relationship as Bruce tries to figure out who exactly they are and how to stop them. Madeline may be his only lead, but she’s reluctant to talk. Who is she, really? Whose side is she really on?

This is another adaptation of a “DC Icons” YA novel, this time originally by Marie Lu. Unlike with Wonder Woman, it feels like we hardly get to see Bruce Wayne before he became Batman, so this felt like a nice change of pace. We see the same determination, smarts, and inquisitiveness that led him to become the World’s Greatest Detective, but he’s not there yet. It shows readers that all heroes, even those without special powers, start somewhere!

However, I found it difficult to suspend my disbelief because even as an 18-year-old, Bruce still seemed overpowered. He was performing acrobatic stunts that I would assume Batman could do, but not Bruce at 18. He kept a relatively cool head in high-charged situations, which as we all know is hard for teenagers to do. I wonder if Bruce had maybe started training to become a vigilante before the events of this novel. If there was mention of Bruce training at martial arts and detective work in the original novel, it was lost in translation.

As is ever my nitpick with YA novels, there is another (to me) forced romance in this one. It didn’t even seem like a romance to me, but other characters insisted it was – what? There was very little introspective inner dialogue from Bruce that wasn’t directly related to the Nightwalkers mystery. I felt blindsided and confused by it and don’t feel it served the story at all. Maybe it was fleshed out more in the original novel, but if this was all they were going to do with it in the graphic novel, it would have been better to cut it out altogether.

To make up for the somewhat unbelievable story, the art was superb. Classic Batman colors are used to maximum effect: blue-gray overall with bright yellow highlights. It would have been very easy to overdo the yellow, but it was used carefully and sparsely, to ensure maximum emotional or action-packed impact. The backgrounds and landscapes are rendered somewhat realistically, while the figures have overly sharp and angular features to suggest the hardness Gotham has beaten into them.

While I found it difficult to suspend my disbelief for a few aspects of this story, this is still a good old-fashioned Batman mystery set before Bruce Wayne as Batman exists. The sharp art elevates this graphic novel adaptation.

– Kathleen

Lu, Marie, Stuart Moore, and Chris Wildgoose. Batman: Nightwalker (The Graphic Novel). 2019.

Wonder Woman: Warbringer (The Graphic Novel)

Before she was Wonder Woman, Diana grew up on Themyscira. It isn’t always easy being the youngest of an entire island full of warrior women. They were reborn as Amazons because they died nobly, with a goddess’ prayer on their lips – every single one of them except for Diana. Some call her Pyxis (clay pot), some say she’s made of mud. Diana is determined to prove her right to be among them during an annual race across the island. Along her route, Diana witnesses a shipwreck and rescues a girl about her age from the wreckage. Her name is Alia, and with her coming strange and terrible things start happening on the island. The girls discover Alia is a descendant of Helen of Troy, whose blood was cursed to make her a Warbringer: a harbinger of death and destruction. Diana removes Alia from the island to try and find a way to remove the curse. If it fails, Alia asks Diana to kill her instead, before she can start another World War. Killing another is against the Amazon code. Can Diana remove Alia’s curse, or will she be forced to do the unthinkable?

This is a graphic novel adaptation of Leigh Bardugo’s YA novel (the first in the “DC Icons” series) that came out in 2017. At the heart of the story is the moral dilemma that Diana faces: is it better to spare one life yet potentially cause countless other deaths, or better to take one life to spare countless other lives?

I was appreciative of the Amazon’s origin here, as it was written first in George Perez’ run. Myths and deities other than Grecian are included as a result, though the focus is on Grecian myths primarily.

It being a YA novel, there was a romance between Diana and another character that to me seemed forced. There are representations of people of color – Alia herself is African American, which contributes to the story in multiple ways – and LGBTQ+ characters. Wonder Woman’s character is tolerant and accepting of all kinds of people, so I was thrilled to see many types of representation here – where it’s right at home!

Differing hues of sea blues and greens dominate the book. Other colors such as red and yellow are used as highlights. Decisive and precise lines accentuate the characters’ strength and determination. Though there is a lot going on sometimes, especially in the action scenes, the panels are never cluttered.

This is an impressive adaptation of the best-selling YA novel. The dilemma young Diana, and her diverse companions, face compels readers to keep going until the very end.

– Kathleen

Bardugo, Leigh, Louise Simonson, and Kit Seaton. Wonder Woman: Warbringer (The Graphic Novel). 2020.

Grayson (Vol. 4): A Ghost in the Tomb

Teenagers are rising in Gotham under the common banner of Robin. They are banding together to protect the city in Batman’s absence. However, recent legislation pushed through by Councilwoman Noctua has made it illegal for anyone in Gotham to claim they’re a Robin, or even sport Robin paraphernalia. Gotham City PD is enthusiastically enforcing the new law. The real Robins, both old and new – Jason Todd (Red Hood), Tim Drake (Red Robin), and Damian Wayne (Robin) – are looking on in horror as these teens are being harrassed and arrested under the new law. They call on the only person they know who can help – Dick Grayson, known as Agent 37, Nightwing, and the original Robin. Together, they must make a choice. Will the Robins help these teenager, or turn them in as outlaws?

This volume compiles part of the story of the Robin War event that took place during Batman/Batfamily’s New 52 storyline. The Court of Owls play an integral role, this time as the Parliament of Owls, indicating that they have expanded beyond Gotham. It was refreshing to see the Robins on their own, out from under the shadow of the Bat. They have to figure out what to do, all on their own, without their mentor and guardian’s help. It solidifies that each of these characters are their own people and are each Robins, and heroes, in their own right.

Many artists worked on the Robin War, and thus the art is more varied than it’s been during Grayson. Overall it was a little looser, angular, and stylized than Grayson’s more realistic look. We do return back to Grayson after the Robin War, for about the second half the book, where Mikel Janin’s art takes center stage once again.

While I am enjoying Grayson very much, Robin War was the highlight of this volume for me. We got a little more variety in the art and it showcased all the Robins in the long history of the character. The story was an effective way for us to see that the sidekicks can shine just as much as their big box counterparts!

– Kathleen

King, Tom, Tim Seeley, Mikel Janin, and Jeromy Cox. Grayson (Vol. 4): A Ghost in the Tomb. 2016.

The Black Canary Archives (Vol. 1)

The DC Archives titles compile issues from a character’s archive. This one is Black Canary’s! Volume 1 contains her very first appearance in Flash Comics in 1947 up to a one-off in the early ’70s.

First, Black Canary was featured in Flash Comics in Johnny Thunder stories. Johnny Thunder was a man who could summon a magic thunderbolt to help him in times of distress. Canary was a “Robin Hood” type at first, who stole from criminals to return them to their rightful owner. She soon grew so popular that she was co-billed with Johnny, then given her own feature in Flash Comics. Her backstory was fleshed out more: the nondescript and uptight Dinah Drake owned a flower shop by day, but transformed into the Black Canary to fight crime and solve mysteries, often coming to the aid of private eye Larry Lance.

Early Black Canary stories are fast and fun – but formulaic, predictable, and of no particular substance. I started skimming after a few stories under her own title because they followed the same exact format. This is definitely something you’ll want to read at the beach or when you need something that doesn’t require much brainpower to get through.

I did appreciate that, much like early Batgirl, Canary doesn’t take crap from her male counterpart. She gives Lance as good a ribbing as she gets. It didn’t seem to me that they particularly liked each other (though Lance obviously has the hots for Canary), so there was a weird jump in the book from 1949’s Flash Comics to 1965’s Brave and the Bold where they were married. I had known Dinah Drake and Larry Lance got married and had Dinah Laurel Lance (today’s iteration of the Black Canary), but I found it really strange that no more of their developing relationship was included in this book.

My favorite story from this volume was the previously untitled “The Canary and the Cat!” published in 1972. The art is phenomenal! The lines are bold and heavy, yet precise in a way that reminds me of printmaking. Canary herself is witty and savvy, and though Green Arrow is mentioned she doesn’t pine after him. I want more of this Black Canary!!!

– Kathleen

Various. The Black Canary Archives (Vol. 1). 2001.

Create a free website or blog at WordPress.com.

Up ↑