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Manuel Preitano

Whistle: A New Gotham City Hero

Willow Zimmerman lives in the Down Rivers district of Gotham City, a historic Jewish community. Her mantra is, “Be the change you want to see in the world.” So it happens that she meets her newest friend Garfield while petitioning outside her school for more funding for Gotham’s public schools. She introduces Garfield to the stray Great Dane she’s been calling Lebowitz. After Willow’s mom tells her she’s stopping her cancer treatments because they’re costing too much, Willow gets an overnight job cleaning the animal shelter. The money she brings in isn’t enough. An old family friend, E. Nigma, reaches out to Willow after a long time of no contact due to drug abuse. He’s clean now and looking to reconnect. After hearing of Willow and her mom’s troubles, Eddie gives her money and offers her a job: game runner for his poker nights. She now makes INSANE money, enough to cover her mom’s medical bills and much more… but she discovers that Eddie’s poker buddies and their wealth are slowly tearing down her own neighborhood. After a run-in with Killer Croc and Poison Ivy, Willow gains the power to talk to dogs, including her Lebowitz. How can she use her powers for good if she knows that her job supporting her family is part of the problem?

There’s a lot going on in this graphic novel, but in the end… it didn’t really feel like it went anywhere. It felt unfinished in that for all of Willow’s wanting to change the world, losing her drive, and finding it again resulted only in her willingness to continue her double life. Perhaps the creators were trying to set up for a sequel? Willow is a whip-smart and passionate young woman, which on the one hand is good for my heart, but on the other, just makes it even more upsetting that she didn’t really seem to grow by the end. Great lengths were gone to so that readers could see how busy Eddie’s job kept her and how it alienated her from her friends and mother. Her character arc by the end felt like a compromise rather than true growth.

For all that, it was enjoyable. It was interesting seeing Gotham’s supervillain attacks from a citizen’s perspective rather than a hero’s; one example is them calling buildings Poison Ivy has attacked “greened” buildings. Riddler is not a character we see used too often and I think his inclusion here was generally effective.

Great swaths of color permeate the book. Oranges dominate, underscoring Willow’s vivaciousness and love for her home. The linework reminded me of George Pérez’ artwork: delicate, yet strong. There are plenty of Easter eggs for DC fans to pick out in the backgrounds: Harley Quinn graffiti, a Flash button on a backpack, a poster of Black Canary’s band. And, of course, all the pups were so cute 😉

While it fell flat for me from a story and character arc perspective, Whistle is still an inspiring and enjoyable graphic novel. I hope to see more of Willow, Lebowitz, and everyone else in the future.

– Kathleen

Lockhart, E., and Manuel Preitano. Whistle: A New Gotham City Hero. 2021.

The Oracle Code

After a robbery gone wrong, teenage Barbara Gordon is shot, crippled from the waist down, and finds herself looking at a long life in a wheelchair. Her father, Commissioner Gordon, checks her into the Arkham Center for Independence (or ACI): a facility that specializes in therapy and independence for differently-abled people. Dr. Harland Maxwell, the head of the facility, assures Commissioner Gordon that they will be able to help Babs, but she remains skeptical. She used to love solving puzzles and cracking codes, but this one is too big for her to handle. Slowly, Babs makes new friends and even catches herself having some fun. However, patients start disappearing from the facility under mysterious circumstances: one of them being a newfound friend. Does Babs still have it in her to solve puzzles in order to find out what happened?

Though we’re all tired of hearing how to “adapt to the new normal,” this book will help teens do exactly that. Babs went through a huge change: losing her mobility. We clearly see her go through the five stages of grief as she mourns the use of her legs and the future she saw for herself. The emotions she goes through are not only appropriate, but completely normal for making and learning to deal with such a huge adjustment.

As the ACI is Arkham-adjacent, a big element of the book is a ghost story. It’s appropriate too as Babs feels scared by the person she has become, and is mourning her past self, as mentioned above. Much of the book deals with overcoming fear, and the spooky elements only add to that tension.

The art was pretty standard for a Batman related graphic novel. The colors were predominantly muted, with blue and grey backgrounds on which other colors popped. There were motifs of puzzle pieces and computer code sprinkled throughout that I thought were very clever. Some are more obvious than others. There were, however, a few typos; closer editing would have been welcome.

As we have all had to make a huge adjustment, so has teenage Barbara Gordon here. I’d give it to any teen or adult that needs a bit of help doing this for themselves, and validation that their emotions are completely normal.

Kathleen

Nijkamp, Marieke, and Manuel Preitano. The Oracle Code. 2020.

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