BookBin2016: Wonder Woman ’77 Volume 1

See, denizens? I told you that, for my next reviewed book, it would be imperative that the artists made the character look like her Hollywood counterpart, didn’t I? Well, that they did…and I couldn’t be more delighted by the end result.

I admit that I was incredibly concerned when I first learned that DC Comics was going to do a comics series based on Lynda Carter’s television portrayal of Wonder Woman. Why? Because they’d assigned Marc Andreyko to pen the stories. Andreyko is the putz who destroyed Batwoman with a story line that turned disturbing in such a way that I didn’t even bother buying the final collection of her previous run. To be honest, if it weren’t for the fact that DC Comics has decided to give Batwoman a new go with her own Rebirth series, I probably wouldn’t have bothered with this collection at all. I can hold a grudge like no one’s business.

Wonder Woman ’77 seems to be precisely what Andreyko needed to redeem himself (at least to me) and what he excels at creating. I was pleasantly surprised by how reminiscent the stories were to those Wonder Woman episodes that I loved so much when I was a kid (and still love, thank you very much). Not only were they reminiscent, but they were so respectful and reverential of that show. Lynda Carter’s portrayal of Princess Diana of Paradise Island was so important and influential to so many people that to do her any injustice would have been unforgivable to many fans. I’m delighted to report that, in my humble opinion, this collection paid her the respect and honor she deserves.

Also, the artwork was so impressive and such a pleasure to behold:

Artists Drew Johnson, Matt Haley, Richard Ortiz, Jason Badower, and Cat Staggs provided penciling and coloring that made Diana Prince and Wonder Woman shine in every single panel. And Steve Trevor be Steve Trevor, in all his Waggonerian glory. Plus, the celebration of all things 70s throughout the artwork and stories inspired quite a bit of uncontrollable smiling and laughter from me. That’s why they note in the collection’s title that this is Wonder Woman as she appeared in the 1977 season of her show. ABC dropped the show after one season, which they had set during World War II. When CBS then picked up the show for its second season, they decided to move it to modern times. I don’t know if DC Comics plans on doing anything in this series that might hearken back to Diana Prince’s time in the WAVES and the war, but I’m more than happy to get my paws on the next collection to find out.

Final Verdict: I’m pretty sure I just let that cat out of the bag. Again, not earth-shattering storytelling in any way, but so respectful and so fun to read and enjoy. Also, I do believe that DC Comics has done something similar for Adam West’s Batman ’66…I also believe that the next collection of Wonder Woman ’77 comics might even cross streams with that series. Oh, and don’t even get me started on the fact that they’ve just started another crossover with Lynda Carter’s Wonder Woman in which she gets to team up with Lindsay Wagner’s Bionic Woman. Seriously, my heart might explode from all the love that I have for both these characters when I finally get my hands on that collection.

BookBin2016: Adventures of Supergirl

And so it begins.

This is it, denizens. This is my “head-over-heels, haven’t felt like this about a show since Voyager went off the air, OMG I can’t stop absorbing everything I can about it, I will drive you crazy if you let me because I also can’t stop thinking about it and if I’m not careful I’ll just start randomly talking about it like you know what the hell I was just thinking, absolutely don’t want to stop but trying really hard to contain myself so I don’t drive you away” crush.

Even now, I’m reeling back everything that I would love to write about the show itself, because I need to focus on just reviewing this graphic novel. I’m letting you know, though, that if you encounter me elsewhere? Don’t ask. Because I will tell. I will tell you everything I think about this show. EVERYTHING. And it just keeps coming. You have been warned.

Well then. Now that we’ve got that out of the way, let’s get to the point: Adventures of Supergirl is the first volume to collect all the comics based on the Supergirl television series. It’s important to make that clarification, because these comics have nothing to do with the regular DC Comics Supergirl run. They’re solely linked to the show. However, from what I’ve read recently, the Supergirl Rebirth story line that they’ve been doing for the comics does draw some elements from the show into Kara Zor-El’s new story (including going with the Supergirl costume from the show rather than that horrible costume they designed for the New 52 Supergirl, which honestly just gets a WTAF every single time I see it). It’s pretty much the primary reason that I’m finally interested in following the comics version of the character.

For these comics, though, you don’t need to know anything more than what you’ve seen on the first season of the show, and even that is mostly character-dependent. The story itself doesn’t really have anything to do with any of the show’s plots, although it does pull in some tangential elements (but nothing that would cause problems if you didn’t know the show). Writer Sterling Gates does well in giving us a story arc that respects the essence of the show, with ample parts bubbly and cute mixing with the darker (though not too dark) and more serious moments. It’s definitely the sorbet to my last reviewed graphic novel, but enjoyable nonetheless.

Interestingly, most of this collection’s artists chose not to make these characters look like their Hollywood counterparts. I know that a lot of times, the comics will make this choice as a way of distinguishing the character from the actor, allowing the character to exist in a manner that isn’t dependent on one person representing them (also, it might have something to do with needing to pay the actors for using their likenesses? I don’t know). I’ve seen them do it with the CSI comics and, to some degree, the Star Trek comics. I point it out in this instance, though, because of the next review I will be doing here at the lair. For that collection, it was critical that the artists drew that character according to how her Hollywood counterpart looked.

Ooh, whatever could be my next review?

Anyway, the artwork for these comics is very light, very G (slightly PG here and there, I suppose), very flowy and…dare I say it?…girly. Supergirl more often than not looks waify with large eyes and pink cheeks and a blindingly bright smile (which, to be fair, does sound very similar to her television representation, but ultimately comes across as lacking when compared to Melissa Benoist’s go as the Girl of Steel). Oh, and pink nail polish. Because girly:

(Seriously, I have a huge problem with Supergirl wearing anything like nail polish or even earrings. You’re supposed to be trying to keep Supergirl your secret identity, so wearing anything that could link you back to Kara Danvers? Just seems a little dangerous to me.)

Clearly, the marketing is on-point for the younger female audience who watches the show. It’s admittedly a little disappointing to someone who is used to bigger, bolder, stronger artwork, but even I can concede that it works for its focus.

One of the delights that I took from this collection, however, comes in the appearance of one character in particular: Alex Danvers. Created specifically for the television show, Agent Danvers appears in this collection for the first time in comics form:

(P.S., I really like how this artist handled the artwork for this section; I believe it was Emanuela Lupacchino, who is working on the Rebirth Supergirl.)

I’ve read that Alex might even end up becoming part of actual comics canon, if the Rebirth creators decide to add her to Supergirl’s world. Since they’ve already brought in the DEO, National City, and Cat Grant to the Rebirth world, it might be possible, but I don’t know. One can only hope, I suppose.

Another high point from this collection is one of the stories that shows Supergirl in a dream world in which at one point she is riding an armor-plated cat (cannot make up this shit, denizens; also, there’s a fanfic-inspired Freudian slip if I ever saw one) and at another point cycles through several different iterations of herself, including this one:

I love the way the costume morphs from the show version to the Bombshell version designed for Kara Starikov (although there does seem to be an imminent structural issue about to happen with that bustier).

Final Verdict: It’s cute and quick and provided a lovely few hours’ respite from reality. Also, I’m all about supporting this show, so I will happily keep this volume and check out any other volumes that might come along in the future.

BookBin2016: Injustice: Gods Among Us: Year One

I’ve been on a comics bender lately. It’s kind of a combination of reasons, really. I’m having technical difficulties with one aspect of reality at the moment. My response to such problems has always been to pull away, to sequester myself away from whatever it is that’s bringing me down, usually within the safety of one of my many geeky obsessions. Healthy? No, probably not. Enjoyable? More so than what’s bringing me down. Also, when I do finally reconnect myself to reality, I feel a little better and a little more clear-headed.

Other reasons? Well, I’m sure I’ll write about it later (read: in my next book review), but I’m totally crushing on a new geek obsession. Crushing hard, denizens. Like Star Trek-level crushing. Like “probably (definitely) driving people who know me in other realms on teh Interwebz crazy” crushing. And it’s connected me back to one of my earliest geek obsessions: comics. Believe it or not, I used to be quite the comics nerd (no, Loba, we could never imagine you being EVEN NERDIER THAN YOU ALREADY ARE!). Not like Comic Book Guy-level, but I started down a comics obsession path around the same time as my Star Trek obsession started. Turns out, though, that I only had enough focus for one critical-level obsession at a time. Star Trek won. Comics simmered on the back burner.

Until the past few years. I have several friends who are hard-core comics fans. Their knowledge drew me back out of curiosity. Reading what they were writing elsewhere about certain comics piqued my interest and showed me pathways that I hadn’t known existed previously. Pathways that greatly appealed to me. Plus, there have been some…interesting changes to some characters (coughcough Batwoman coughcough) that lured me deeper into the darkness.

Darkness has always drawn me in. But then there is Darkness.

Injustice: Gods Among Us? That’s some serious darkness, my friends. Surprisingly dark, to be honest, from what I expected to be a fun but empty introduction to a video game. That’s what this is: a graphic novel written as a companion piece to a similarly named video game. I don’t even remember how I ended up learning about it, but when I read the description, it sounded like something I would enjoy for its welcome escapism.

I did enjoy it, but for much deeper reasons than I ever anticipated. This is one of those alternate universe stories in which recognizable and (overly) familiar characters take paths that skew far afield from what we know them to take in “reality.” For this, the primary AU character is Superman. I’ve spoken at length about my feelings about where they’ve gone in recent years with Superman: making him emo and (IMHO) whingy about being all-powerful. Oh, and funky dark. I don’t like funky dark. However, for this novel, they take Superman down a dark and twisted path that…honestly? It works. It works shockingly, brutally well. You have no doubt that the catalyst they use would absolutely work the way it did to cause Superman’s…change. Which actually isn’t a change of personality but instead a change of approach.

As you can tell, though, I don’t want to give away a whole lot about the story. It’s full of enough surprises and twists that I would hate to ruin this for anyone. I will say that it was great to see so many DC Comics heroes used throughout this first volume. Some I know a lot about. Some I know a little about. Some? Some I’m getting to know better right now, so it’s interesting to see this take on them in comparison to who they are where I’m seeing them elsewhere.

The heart of Injustice is the DC Triumvirate: Superman, Batman, and (to a lesser degree) Wonder Woman. I have mixed feelings about Wonder Woman’s role in the story. I’m hoping that her role will shift with time. Batman, however, is surprisingly…sane. And while still intrinsically grave and untrusting, he’s also likeable (in his own way). Likeable, too, is the relationship built between Superman and Batman in this story. It’s far more complex than I was anticipating from this novel. Obviously, I greatly underestimated writer Tom Taylor. Also? The artwork is exquisite throughout. Jheremy Raapack and Mike S. Miller provided artwork that could rival Williams, Perez, Ross. Fantastic.

Final Verdict: Definitely keeping. Definitely checking out Year Two. Apparently, they’re all the way up to Year Five now? I don’t know if I will stick it out through the whole series, but this hooked me tightly enough that I’m antsy to see where it will go next. If you are a DC Comics fan, then I would highly recommend you give Injustice a proper go. I have a feeling you, too, will be pleasantly surprised.

BookBin2016: Wonder Woman Unbound: The Curious History of the World’s Most Famous Heroine

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I am still reading, denizens. I don’t have nearly the same amount of time I used to have for one of my favorite pastimes, but I scrape together what time I can and make the most of it. I’ve also been working my way through a large series of novels, which I decided to review all together rather than separately. Sneak preview on that? It’s going to be a highly positive review.

Spoilers.

In the interim, however, I recently found myself spending a significant amount of time stationary. I love flying for many reasons, one of which is the fact that I literally have nothing more pressing to do with my time than read and cat nap. In between copious open-mouthed snoring sessions (yeah, I’m that passenger) I made my way through Tim Hanley’s Wonder Woman Unbound: The Curious History of the World’s Most Famous Heroine.

I learned of Hanley’s book through an Amazon recommendation a few weeks after I purchased another recently released book on Wonder Woman’s history (a book sitting patiently next to my night stand). Amazon wanted to offer me the Kindle version of Hanley’s book for something like five bucks at the time. Who can pass up such an offer? Clearly not me.

I’m delighted that I couldn’t refuse this offer. Curious history, indeed! I already knew a great deal about how Wonder Woman came into existence. Even a passing knowledge makes for fascinating conversation. However, Hanley goes much deeper than cursory facts and provides a compelling examination of Wonder Woman’s debut and her evolution through the Golden, Silver, Bronze, and Modern Age (the book released in 2014, so it’s a relatively holistic history, to be sure).

I honestly wish I had read the other Wonder Woman book first, to be able to answer the question of is this book worth reading if you’ve already read the larger recent publication. I can’t, unfortunately, answer that question. However, regardless of which provides the most information, I can state emphatically that this book is a marvelous resource for all things pertaining to Princess Diana of Paradise Island (she didn’t come from Themyscira until the late 1980s). Wonder Woman is quite the curious creation, her impact resonating with generations of women who grew to embrace the character as one of the penultimate feminist icons (even as her male writers tried to rein her back “under control” during the 70s when real women had the audacity to expect things like equal rights), while mainstream comic fandom never really latched on to her with the same tenacity that those “other” DC Comics legends enjoy. Whereas Superman and Batman are stalwarts within the superhero pantheon, their stories replayed again and again with mind-numbing frequency, Wonder Woman skirts the perimeter (perhaps she should step out of the invisible jet so more people notice her?), never really rooting herself into fandom mythology. We know of her, but we don’t know her.

Maybe this upcoming movie will change all that. Maybe it will finally bring Wonder Woman the populist acclaim that she more than deserves after 75 years of mainly merely being Wonder Woman, the first major superheroine. Maybe. Whatever it brings, be it pleasure or pain, at least it won’t have Batman or Superman in it. That’s always a bonus.

Final Verdict: Definitely saving this on my Kindle. It was a pleasure to read and definitely made me want to read that other book. Guess it’s time to move it closer to the top of my pile. Maybe it can even be next…after the series I’m reading at the moment.

BookBin2016: The Dark Knight Returns

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I’ve had a copy of Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns on my shelf since, I think, Christmas 2009. While I knew that this was one of those “must reads” for anyone who even dabbles in comic fandom, as I do, my feelings toward Batman have dropped precipitously in recent years. I loathed Christian Bale as the Dark Knight and I loathed the influence that those movies had over other superhero reboots. Dark and dismal affairs, the whole lot of them.

See, I grew up with the 1960s Adam West television show. My Batman was benevolent and odd. A quirky rich man who liked to dress in a onesie and fight cartoonish villains with his young ward. Plus, there was Eartha Kitt. And Julie Newmar. And Yvonne Craig.

My Batman was fun.

Then Tim Burton came along, and while his Dark Knight was decidedly darker than those campy capers of the Caped Crusaders, there was still a level of hilarity and silliness, mingling with the darkness. Because Burton.

Apparently, though, Gotham needed to lose all that because modern audiences are far more sophisticated and serious. We need the Dark Knight to be DARK. Even in the New 52, he’s moody and volatile, almost to the point of some kind of mental instability. I suppose that this take on Batman wouldn’t be that far off if you really considered the origin of the character. Seeing your parents murdered is bound to leave you with some serious issues. Why Alfred didn’t just get the boy into therapy is beyond me. Instead, he let him faff about with bats, feeding some kind of hero delusion until, older and reveling in the kind of privilege that stinking rich provides, he begins to build the ultimate cosplay fantasy world for himself.

Yeah, if you think about it, Batman should be bat-shit crazy. But that doesn’t mean he needs to be moody and boring, too.

What the hell was I talking about? Oh yeah, Frank Miller’s graphic novel. It’s not bad. It’s dark, but I kind of like his take on what would happen if Batman retired and tried to live a normal life. It was kind of prescient. It’s like when Michael Phelps retired but then was all like, “Hey, I kinda miss all those medals.” So he came back with a vengeance.

So did Batman. But not for medals. Just criminals. Which I guess are kind of like superhero medals.

I have no idea what I’m writing anymore. Clearly, I have forgotten how to blog.

Final Verdict: I liked the graphic novel. I’m keeping it. I’m also going to try to get back in the blogging game.

BookBin2016: Wonder Woman Volume 1: Blood

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I’ve always felt guilty that I didn’t regularly read Wonder Woman. I love Wonder Woman. For some reason, however, I have never dedicated myself to following her comics run the way I did with characters like Batwoman or Batgirl. A little while ago, I decided I needed to rectify this, so I took the first step and purchased Blood, the first volume of her New 52 run. I already had misgivings about this choice, however, given the creative team assigned to restart her series. Writer Brian Azzarello and artist Cliff Chiang received the assignment to revamp Diana of Themyscira for the New 52 reboot. I’ve already voiced my disdain for Azzarello’s handling of Joker in his eponymous graphic novel, and I’m not really a fan of Chiang’s blocky art style that he too often uses for comics. I know he can do solid art. I’ve featured it here before at the den. However, for this run, he chose to go with this unimpressive, somewhat unfinished, rather juvenile art style, which is wholly unfitting for Greek royalty.

However, it’s the changes that Azzarello made to Wonder Woman’s origin story that ultimately twigged me off completely. There are certain things that are fundamental to Wonder Woman’s existence. Not physical things, like her invisible jet or lasso of truth or bullet-deflecting arm bracers. No, more elemental than that. More important. More significant.

One of the most significant points of Wonder Woman’s origin story was that she was never born of man. At all. Period. She was the purest form of woman to exist, formed by her mother’s hands from the clay of Themyscira and granted life and her powers by the gods themselves. No man played a role in her birth or upbringing. No man interfered in her existence until the unanticipated and jarring arrival of Steve Trevor to the island of the Amazons.

Clearly, this is not something that’s a big deal to Azzarello, but it’s a huge deal to the character. Yeah, the “man” in question is a god, but this change matters. You’ve taken away Wonder Woman’s uniqueness and basically made her the unanticipated end result of a one-night-stand. That’s a big deal. Just like changing her “weapons” are a big deal (for all her strength, Wonder Woman was always a pacifist; yeah, she could do damage to you if she really wanted to, but rarely did she ever want to harm). Just like changing her association with WWII is a big deal.

Okay, this is a total tangent, but humor me for a moment here. World War II was a huge turning point for women, both in the military and in the general workforce. It was finally women’s chance to move into professional roles traditionally reserved for men and show our viability as workers as well as (or, for some, instead of) wives and mothers. Women played an incredibly significant role during the second World War, across all the military branches. My grandmother served during this time, in the U.S. Navy WAVES. Just like Diana Prince, when she came to “man’s world” to help defeat the evil that was raining fire and horror down upon Europe.

Wonder Woman is so intrinsically linked with World War II that changing this part of her origin story would be as sacrilegious as saying that Superman’s world didn’t explode or Bruce Wayne’s parents weren’t murdered when he was a boy. In fact, I would argue that it’s even worse, because the representation embedded in Wonder Woman’s WWII connection is based in reality (sorry, Krypton and Mr. and Mrs. Wayne, but you simply are not real). Her role in WWII was emblematic of the real roles of all the women who served, who similarly stepped out of the familiarity of their previous lives to serve a greater purpose, even while facing opposition from the very men they were trying to help…and in so doing, learned more about the depths of their own strength. This wasn’t the case with WWI. It makes no sense to now change Wonder Woman’s storyline for this new movie. The only reason that I can assume why they really made the change? Because Captain America is associated with WWII. Well, so what? Just because everyone dragged their feet on greenlighting a Wonder Woman movie until after Captain Übermensch hit the big screen, that doesn’t mean that you have to rewrite one of the most important aspects of Wonder Woman’s introduction to the human race.

Changing Wonder Woman’s association with the war that helped women open doors that previously showed no signs of budging and changing her birth origin are moves made by people who fail to see the importance these elements have to feminism itself. There was a reason she was on the cover of the inaugural issue of Ms. magazine, FFS.

Then again, I guess feminism doesn’t sell movie tickets. Or comic books.

I can see from the reviews I’ve read of Azzarello and Chiang’s first novel that most people loved it. Most were happy that Azzarello had finally brought some action to Wonder Woman’s world. I’m not most people. All this collection did was make me sad that Wonder Woman was altered so un-impressively. Same feeling I have about the screenwriters altering her history for the movie.

Final Verdict: I will hold on to this volume, but I don’t really see myself buying any further collections. I’m sorry, Wonder Woman, but I need someone else to take over your story before I can give you another go.

BookBin2016: DC Bombshells Volume 1: Enlisted

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Not only am I on a bit of a graphic novel kick at the moment, but I’m also still focused on my own books rather than ones from the library. This one is the latest graphic novel I procured from Amazon: the first volume of collected comics for the DC Bombshells story line.

I love the “organic” way that this series came about (I use organic in quotes because I’m pretty sure that this was ultimately DC’s plan right from the start. Because jaded.). What began as a series of one-off variant comic covers depicting DC heroines and villainesses as WWII-era “bombshell” pinups has spun into this special edition series of stories detailing how these characters played a role in the global fight against the Nazis.

I suppose that one could state that this feels a little flippant. It trivializes the bravery of real people. However, when you keep in mind that several comic heroes rose from the turmoil of this particular piece of history, including Wonder Woman (who should remain linked with World War II…but I’ll have more to say about that later), it brings things into better context. Horrific events sometimes require a different lens through which to process truths that we oftentimes do not wish to contemplate. An even better example of a graphic novel that deals with this devastating stain upon humanity would be Art Spiegelman’s Maus. If you haven’t read that one yet, then I highly recommend it.

Does this series deal with WWII with the same level of success as something like Maus? Oh, no. But that’s why Maus is a Pulitzer prize-winning effort and this is…not. It’s just different. It’s sometimes serious but mostly with this first volume, it’s more about introducing us to the various Bombshell variants chosen for this series. I love the characters chosen so far. Of course, my favorite is Kate Kane. I’m still mourning the demise of her solo run at the hands of DC Comics ineptitude (and possible homophobia). Seeing her in this series made that disappointment a little less tender. Also, I love how writer Marguerite Bennett pretty much erased Batman from this particular timeline thanks to Batwoman. Given my increasing apathy toward the Dark Knight (more on that to come as well), I really enjoyed this particular timeline shift. Also, I’m not really giving away any spoilers since this happens on the first page of the graphic novel.

Interestingly, my last encounter with Bennett’s writing style left me feeling a strong sense of meh-laise (yes, I have created a new word; you’re welcome). She wrote some of the final Gail Simone run for Batgirl. This time around, Bennett was much stronger in storytelling. Her words also garnered accompaniment from some beautiful time period-inspired artwork. Heavy line work, appropriate palette, and gorgeous renderings of our lovely ladies of DC in the styles of the times made a great visual impact upon a solid opener to this series.

Final Verdict: Keeping this volume and patiently awaiting the release of the next one this June.

BookBin2016: Batgirl Volume 5: Deadline

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What? Two reviews in an hour? What is this madness?

It’s called quick reviews of lackluster graphic novels. #spoilerz

I finally got around to reading Volume 5 in the New 52 Batgirl reboot. Apparently, Deadline also is the last in this series before they rebooted the character again, moved her to a different location, changed her look, and changed her appeal to be more “youth-centered.” Translation: Batgirl ain’t for my old ass anymore.

Of course, this final Batgirl from the Gail Simone run wasn’t really for me either. I felt totally disconnected and confused by several of the stories in this collection. I’ve either forgotten key plot points from the previous four volumes or DC did to me what Marvel used to do all the time when I read X-Men comics (and that pissed me off just as much then as it did now with this collection).

I hate when comics become part of a story arc that runs across several titles. I mean, it’s okay every now and then, especially if you have a huge story that you know will require more than just one particular superhero and will deserve the wider audience (as I seemed appeased when they pulled this same thing in the third collection). However, I felt as though several themes in this collection were pieces from several different (and mediocre) puzzles that I simply didn’t care enough about to piece together. Also, it strikes me as frustratingly and offensively greedy of comics companies to demand that readers invest so much money into being able to get the whole story when all they might care about is one faction of the comics universe.

[Loba Translation: I don’t give a damn about Batman. Stop trying to make me give a damn.]

Final Verdict: Just as it was with my last Batwoman experience, I’m drawing the line at 5 with Batgirl. I won’t be following Babs and her roomie Alysia to Burnside.

BookBin2015: Batwoman Volume 5: Webs

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This, sadly, is going to be both my shortest Batwoman review and my last Batwoman review. At least for now. They’ve ended her solo run and, while there is one final graphic novel out there, I have no intention of buying it. I couldn’t care less how Marc Andreyko ended this series. By the time I finished this graphic novel, I was left so apathetic that I couldn’t even muster the energy to be furious that the last two pages pretty much seemed to imply that Batwoman was about to be raped by her new nemesis, Nocturna.

Okay, not completely bereft of fury. Seriously, DC? It’s not okay for Batwoman to marry her girlfriend but it’s okay for her new enemy to mentally Roofie her as she’s trying to fall asleep and trick her into believing she’s someone else so that Batwoman won’t fight her off? Oh, and really subtle artwork in that last panel, of Nocturna, who is apparently a vampire or vampire-like character, penetrating Batwoman with her fangs while Batwoman arches back against her while wearing just a camisole and undies. And with a look on her face as if she were enjoying what was happening to her. Great message there. Absolutely.

What utter bullshit. Sorry, but there’s no tactful way to put it. The whole novel was just example after example of piss-poor writing and some of the most mediocre artwork to ever grace a Batwoman comic. There was nothing satisfying about any of this collection, starting with Andreyko’s terribly anticlimactic ending to the story arc that Williams and Blackman started (and should have been allowed to end, dammit). And then to end the novel on that so-not-kosher, rapey WTAF were you thinking note? Allow me to be thoroughly clear with this sentiment, DC Comics. Fuck. You.

So utterly disappointing. Thanks, DC, for ruining my current favorite character from your comics line. Oh, and it looks like you’ve turned Batgirl into a character I don’t really want to follow anymore either. Thanks. For nothing.

Final Verdict: The only redeemable thing about this collection is the clean copy of that great WWII-era artwork of Batwoman as one of the ball players from the All American Girls Professional Baseball League. I think I’m probably just going to slice that out and then get rid of the rest of the book. Not even going to donate it. Just going to toss it in the recycle bin. That’s how much I hated this collection.

BookBin2014: Batgirl Volume 3: Death of the Family and Volume 4: Wanted

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It seems to be that I’m locked in a ménage à trois with Kate Kane and Barbara Gordon. I spend time with one…I inevitably then spend time with the other. It’s not a bad relationship, to be sure…especially when you’ve got someone like Gail Simone still plotting the course for Batgirl (I can’t really deal with Batwoman’s future right now).

Simone is still at the helm, thankfully, for Batgirl’s third and fourth graphic novel collections, Death of the Family and Wanted. The third volume is part of an umbrella story arc that ran through a few other Gotham-related characters’ comics as well, but was still compartmentalized quite nicely enough that you don’t need to read the others if you’d rather not (which I’d rather not, thank you). There were a couple of elements that I was a bit curious about, but the wonderful thing about teh Interwebz is that you can find the answers to almost any of life’s lesser mysteries with the click of a few mouse buttons or the swipe or two of a finger. It’s fantabulous, is what it is.

I love that one of the holdovers from the “clean slate” reboot that continues to remain a significant part of Batgirl’s storyline–being previously shot and paralyzed by the Joker–returns in this collection, full-throttle. I love that the writer who helped Barbara Gordon deal with the aftermath of that moment in her life is once more leading our heroine through the fray. I also love that Simone is one of those rare gems of a writer in that she’s able to balance between the action and the interpersonal connections of her characters with the dancer’s grace of Batgirl herself. Sometimes, she falters a bit…but she is mostly on-point the entire time.

Same continues into the fourth collection, which deals with the aftermath of how the third collection ended. Cliffhangers are cliffhangers, denizens. They keep you hanging on and hanging around. I would love to give more details regarding the action…but spoilers. I don’t necessarily mind mentioning something like Batgirl’s former paralysis by the Joker because that original action happened many moons ago at the hands of a Joker wielded by the pen of Alan Moore. The expiration date on keeping that secret ran out a long time ago. However, all this action is new and fresh–and quite enjoyable. Again, I feel a bit guilty stating this, but I think Batgirl is having the better run in the Bat Race between her and Batwoman.

Why do I say this? More holistically solid writing. Less misogynistic artwork. Way less. Again, I can’t help but wonder if this is because Simone is at the helm of the writing, but the artwork for Batgirl not only has been consistently beautiful, but it also rarely ever feels exploitative. It’s celebratory of the female form, yes. It’s depicting physiques that are physically impossible, yes. It’s a comic book. That’s allowed. What shouldn’t be allowed is wanton sexism and objectification of women. And that is something that has been blissfully absent from each one of Batgirl’s collections. I wish I could say the same of Batwoman.

The other thing that I will mention in this review, that happened in a beautifully understated and naturalistic way, is this moment:

yeoh

Alysia Yeoh is Barbara Gordon’s roommate. If you’d like to know more about Simone’s rationale for this character, you can read it here.

With what transpired with Batwoman and the fallout of Williams and Blackman leaving before they could even finish their story arc, I’m admittedly skittish about this revelation. I’ve no idea where it will go from here. If it were up to Simone only? I’d have no worries at all. She is brilliant and kind and will give this character the respect she deserves. However, there’s always the shadow of DC itself, hovering over its characters and making rash decisions for no logical reason. I hope nothing bad happens to Alysia. I’ll be watching, DC. Make note.

Final Verdict: Keepers, they both are. I was a little meh about the revelation at the end of the fourth collection, but mainly because it was predictable in that genre fiction way. However, cliffhanger failure notwithstanding, these two were solid entries into the New 52 continuation of Batgirl’s story.