Weekly Comic 100s: Negan Lives, Ghostbusters, and More!

***”Weekly Comic 100s” keeps it nice and simple. Comic book reviews in 100 words or less. Straight, concise, and to the point.***

By Rob Siebert
Fanboy Wonder

So can we all just stop with this “The Walking Dead comics are over” thing?

Negan Lives!, Robert Kirkman’s commendable attempt to drive readers back into comic shops came out this week. The Walking Dead #173, the “final” issue of the series, came out almost a year ago to the day. So they barely made it through another 12 months before coming back to the well. Mind you, no one could have predicted COVID-19. But my point still stands: The Walking Dead is not done. There’s too much money on the table, there’s still fan interest, and most importantly, the creators clearly still love doing it.

It might not come back as a monthly series. There might be years at a time where we don’t see it. But mark my words, The Walking Dead will rise again.

For the record, that’s not a bad thing. It’s a very, very good thing.

TITLE: Negan Lives!
AUTHOR: Robert Kirkman
ARTISTS: Charlie Adlard, Cliff Rathburn (Gray Tones), Rus Wooton (Letterer).
RELEASED: July 1, 2020

Negan Lives! is pretty much what you want it to be: A return to the Negan character, with the door left open for more stories. It’s a fun time, but nothing shocking enough to wake the dead.

For better or worse, this return to form did make me realize how much I miss The Walking Dead. All the more reason to cut the BS and bring it back, already.

TITLE: Ghostbusters: Year One #4
AUTHOR: Erik Burnham
ARTIST:
Dan Shoening, Luis Delgado (Colorist), Neil Uyetake (Letterer)
RELEASED:
July 1, 2020

This issue gave me the warm fuzzies for Harold Ramis. I suspect that sentimental factor is partially why they saved Egon for last.

Ghostbusters: Year One ends on an open-ended note related to Egon. As this book is meant to be a prelude of sorts to Ghostbusters: Afterlife, I’m wondering if this leads into something in the movie. On the other hand, it could be another Burnham/Schoening comic. Either way, the fans win.

TITLE: Devil’s Highway #1
AUTHOR: Benjamin Percy
ARTISTS:
Brent Schoonover, Nick Filardi (Colorist), Sal Cipriano (Letterer)
RELEASED:
July 1, 2020

Like Dead Body Road last week, the success of Devil’s Highway largely hinges on the likability of its female protagonist. In that sense, it’s successful. But thus far the book doesn’t have much else going for it in terms of uniqueness. It’s a standard horror story, with art that’s not particularly memorable.

I’ve been a fan of much of what AWA Studios – Upshot has been putting out lately. But I can’t say Devil’s Highway will be a high priority for me going forward.

TITLE: I Can Sell You A Body #4
AUTHOR: Ryan Ferrier
ARTISTS:
George Kambadais, Ferrier (Letterer)
RELEASED:
July 1, 2020

I’m not sure how I expected this book to end. But I enjoyed what they did. Denny and Henrietta don’t get a textbook happy ending. But they don’t get a tragic one either. They wind up in a fun middle-ground.

All in all, I’d call this book an overachiever. It managed to be both intriguing and funny. Moreover, it’s memorable. It stays with you after you close an issue. I’ll be keeping an eye out for both Ferrier and Kambadais going forward.

TITLE: Batman: The Adventures Continue #7
AUTHOR: Alan Burnett, Paul Dini
ARTISTS:
Ty Templeton, Monica Cubina (Colorist), Joshua Reed (Letterer). Cover by James Harren.
RELEASED:
July 2, 2020

This one is a mixed bag. I appreciated the different sort of way Azrael was introduced, the way Catwoman was involved, and that they let him have his original costume before putting him in the Knightfall Batman suit. But I’m not so much a fan of how the suit is created in the DCAU. It’s almost done as an afterthought. Or worse, something they did just to sell toys.

And in all fairness, maybe that’s why they did do it.

TITLE: That Texas Blood #1
AUTHOR: Chris Condon
ARTIST:
Jacob Phillips
RELEASED:
June 24, 2020

Think Criminal meets early Southern Bastards. Then you’ve got a decent idea of what That Texas Blood is all about. At least at this juncture.

Solicited as a “neo-Western crime series,” the issue has a certain southern-fried charm to it. Case in point, our main character, 70-year-old Sheriff Joe Coates, is trying to retrieve his wife’s casserole dish when he stumbles into trouble. Coates has a simple likability that should balance well with the violence that’s sure to ensue in the coming pages.

Email Rob at primaryignition@yahoo.com, or check us out on Twitter.

Weekly Comic 100s: Dark Nights: Death Metal, Wynd, and More!

***”Weekly Comic 100s” keeps it nice and simple. Comic book reviews in 100 words or less. Straight, concise, and to the point.***

By Rob Siebert
Fanboy Wonder

You know what I miss? Star Wars comics. C’mon Marvel. DC is cranking out its silly heavy metal event comic. The least you can do is get back in the full swing of things!

I also miss TMNT comics. But at least we get half of one this week…

TITLE: Dark Nights: Death Metal #1
AUTHOR: Scott Snyder
ARTISTS: Greg Capullo, Jonathan Glapion (Inker), FCO Plascencia (Colorist), Tom Napolitano (Letterer)
RELEASED: June 16, 2020

If this Metal stuff is your cup of tea, then by all means I encourage you to drink. The comic book industry could use your bucks right about now. But boy is it not mine…

While Dark Nights: Metal did have some nice moments, to me this stuff has always come off overly indulgent and stupid. Need proof? Batman not only wears a duster in this book, but one with spikes on the shoulders. I’m a Greg Capullo fan, but *barf*.

TITLE: Wynd #1
AUTHOR: James Tynion IV
ARTISTS: Michael Dialnyas, Aditya Bidikar (Letterer)
RELEASED:
June 17, 2020

As much of a Tynion fan as I am, Wynd isn’t really my cup of tea. Just like The Woods, also by Tynion and Dialnyas, wasn’t really my thing. But obviously there’s an audience for this sort of thing, and I think Wynd will do well among them.

The most interesting thing about this issue is we have a kid, Wynd, who’s clearly been touched  by magic, as he’s living in this renaissance type world where magic is outlawed. We steer away from that a little too soon for my tastes. I’d have devoted the entire issue to Wynd himself.

TITLE: Batman: The Adventures Continue #6
AUTHORS:
Alan Burnett, Paul Dini
ARTISTS:
Ty Templeton, Monica Cubina (Colorist), Joshua Reed (Letterer)
RELEASED:
June 18, 2020

“Mentors” wraps up in more or less the way you’d expect. As a bonus, this issue also establishes that Tim Drake has been with Batman for about a year.

At the end, we’re left with more questions about our mystery observer, who we know is actually Jason Todd. Most notably, the question of what he wants. Thus far, Jason has occupied that gray area between hero and villain. In the main DCU, it was crystal clear that Jason was back as a villain. So I’m thrilled to see they’re taking things in at least a slightly different direction.

TITLE: Mighty Morphin Power Rangers/Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles #5
AUTHOR: Ryan Parrott
ARTISTS:
Simone Di Meo, Alessio Zono (Pencil Assist), Walter Baiamonte (Colorist), Igor Monti (Color Assist), Ed Dukeshire (Letterer)
RELEASED:
June 17, 2020

This finale pulls a hell of a rabbit out of the hat for the big zord battle. I won’t spoil it, except to say it’s pretty damn cool.

My only critique of said battle is Di Meo’s Dragonzord is a little awkward in its body language. It looks very rigid.

I maintain that MMPR/TMNT was pretty paint-by-numbers. But in the end, that’s exactly what we wanted from it. We wanted these characters to meet and interact. That’s precisely what the story gives us. No harm, no foul.

TITLE: Superman #22
AUTHOR: Brian Michael Bendis
ARTISTS:
Kevin Maguire, Alex Sinclair (Colorist), Dave Sharpe (Letterer). Cover by Ivan Reis, Joe Prado, & Sinclair.
RELEASED:
June 16, 2020

I love me a good Kevin Maguire interlude. When you haven’t seen him in awhile and then he pops up for an issue, you really get to see just how good he is.

It certainly helps that he’s got some great subject matter. As an FBI agent questions Lois Lane, we have Superman in an intergalactic space battle with Mongul. Obviously, Maguire’s exaggerated faces tend to skew him more toward the comedic side of things. But if he’s fairly selective about the “acting” choices he makes, he’s every bit as capable as anyone else of delivering that epic battle sequence.

TITLE: Young Justice #15
AUTHOR: Brian Michael Bendis, David Walker
ARTISTS:
John Timms, Scott Godlewski, Gabe Eltaeb (Colorist), Wes Abbott (Letterer). Cover by Ben Caldwell & Eltaeb.
RELEASED:
June 16, 2020

I didn’t realize just how much I missed this book. It’s definitely one of my favorites at DC right now. Especially now that they seem to be taking a Justice League Unlimited sort of approach, with lots of different members as opposed to a single core team. Any kind of JLU approach is rarely a bad thing…

We finally get some answers about Superboy in this issue. If you’ve read a fair amount of DC multiverse stories, the answers we get shouldn’t be too surprising. Not bad. Just not particularly surprising.

TITLE: X-Men #5
AUTHOR: Jonathan Hickman
ARTISTS:
R.B. Silva, Marte Gracia (Colorist), Clayton Cowles (Letterer). Cover by Leinil Yu & Sunny Gho.
RELEASED:
January 9, 2020

This is a good issue if you aren’t as familiar with who some of the newer X-Men are. Hickman uses Wolverine, Cyclops, Storm, and Xavier to lead into a re-introduction to X-23, Darwin, and Synch.

It also introduces is to “the Vault.” Its inhabitants, according to Xavier, are “the single greatest existential threat to mutantdom.” What it is and how time works inside are a little complex. But the Vault does have a Sentinel head on top of it. So it’s got that going for it.

Email Rob at primaryignition@yahoo.com, or check us out on Twitter.

Weekly Comic 100s: Go Go Power Rangers Finale, Batman, and More!

***”Weekly Comic 100s” keeps it nice and simple. Comic book reviews in 100 words or less. Straight, concise, and to the point.***

By Rob Siebert
Fanboy Wonder

A slightly abbreviated version this week. I wouldn’t expect that to become a trend. As we continue to get back in the swing of things, they’ll get consistently bigger.

TITLE: Go Go Power Rangers #32
AUTHORS: Ryan Parrott, Sina Grace
ARTISTS: Francesco Mortarino, Simona Di Gianfelice (Inking Assist), Raul Angulo (Colorist), Ed Dukeshire (Letterer). Cover by Eleonora Carlini and Angulo.
RELEASED: June 10, 2020

Fracesco Mortarino draws Rocky with a mullet in this issue. That was most certainly not how he looked on the show…

While I’m very sad to see Go Go Power Rangers…uh…go, the series does end on a satisfactory note. We close with Jason, Zack, and Trini giving up their powers to take on a secret mission in space as the Omega Rangers. But it’s less about the original team splitting up, and more about the growth into two teams. It’s like we’ve gained four new Rangers instead of losing three.

TITLE: Batman Secret Files #3
AUTHORS: Vita Ayala, Phillip Kennedy Johnson, Mariko Tamaki, Dan Watters, James Tynion IV.
ARTISTS: Andie Tong, Victor Ibanez, Riley Rossmo, John Paul Leon, Sumit Kumar. Cover by Guillem March and Tomeu Morey.
COLORISTS: Alejandro Sanchez, Jordie Bellaire, Ivan Plascencia, Leon, FCO Plascencia
LETTERERS: Rob Leigh, Troy Peteri, Tom Napolitano, Deron Bennett Carlos M. Mangual
RELEASED: June 9, 2020

This issue spotlights the various assassins sent to kill Batman in the latest story in the titular series. Obviously this includes Deathstroke. Batman scribe James Tynion IV gives us a story about the Joker pitching Slade a plan that will presumably come to pass in the upcoming Joker War story.

From an overall quality standpoint, the story about Mr. Teeth is probably leading the pack, followed by a story featuring Merlyn and Green Arrow. All in all, some great character spotlights make this an issue that’s definitely worth picking up.

TITLE: Something is Killing the Children #7
AUTHOR: James Tynion IV
ARTISTS: Werther Dell’Edera, Miquel Muerto (Colorist), Andworld Design (Letters)
RELEASED:
June 10, 2020

Tynion is slowly peeling back the layers in terms of what the monsters are, and who this group fighting against them is.

For instance, in this book we learn Erica Slaughter belongs to the “Slaughter House,” and that there’s some kind of hierarchy to it. But of course, we don’t find out what that is or how it works. The approach is effective.

We also get an important bit of info as to why Erica kept young James at her side in the first story. It doesn’t paint her in the best light. But it does make sense.

TITLE: Lois Lane #11
AUTHOR:
Greg Rucka
ARTISTS: Mike Perkins, Andy Troy (Colorist), Simon Bowland (Letterer)
RELEASED: June 9, 2020

This thing was disjointed before the COVID interruption. Sadly, things haven’t changed in that regard. I love Greg Rucka, and Mike Perkins gives us some awesome art. But what the hell is going on in this story???

Email Rob at primaryignition@yahoo.com, or check us out on Twitter.

A Catwoman 100-Page Super Spectacular Deep Dive – Aliens and Feminism

TITLE: Catwoman 80th Anniversary 100-Page Super Spectacular
AUTHORS: Paul Dini, Ann Nocenti, Tom King, Mindy Newell, Jeff Parker, Liam Sharpe, Mindy Newell, Chuck Dixon, Will Pfiefer, Ram V, Ed Brubaker.
ARTISTS: Emanuela Lupaccino, Robson Rocha, Mikel Janin, Jonathan Case, Sharpe, Lee Garbett, Kelley Jones, Pia Guerra, Fernando Blanco, Cameron Stewart. 1940s variant cover by Adam Hughes.
INKERS: Mick Gray, Daniel Henriques, Danny Miki
COLORISTS:
Laura Allred, Alejandro Sanchez, Jordie Bellaire, Alex Sinclair, Steve Oliff, FCD Plascencia
LETTERERS:
Wes Abbott, Saida Temofonte, Clayton Cowles, Tom Napolitano, Tom Orzechowski, Gabriela Downe
PUBLISHER: DC Comics
PRICE: $9.99
RELEASED: June 3, 2020

By Rob Siebert
Fanboy Wonder

She’s undoubtedly the hottest 80-year-old woman you’ll ever see.

That’s right, folks. Like several other pillar characters in the DC Universe, Catwoman turns 80 this year. So like those characters, she got her own 100-page celebration. I can’t say she doesn’t deserve it. In terms of feminist icons, there are some who would place her in Wonder Woman’s orbit. I’m not sure I’d go that far, but one simply can’t dispute how iconic she is. Thus, DC assembled a brilliant assortment of talent for her big birthday celebration.

We kick things off with Paul Dini, who is always welcome in the Batman universe. Though I can’t say this is one of his most memorable outings. He uses his eight pages to introduce is to a villain called the Taxidermist. That, as Selina herself says in the story, is very “Gotham.” The Taxidermist seems like the kind of idea that was good on paper, but in actual execution…meh. I wouldn’t expect to see him on a best villains list anytime soon.

On the plus side, what little the Taxidermist offers looks absolutely gorgeous. Emanuela Lupaccino, Mick Gray, and Laura Allred give us something truly worthy of Catwoman’s 80th. It’s funny, I wondered why I was so reminded of Mike Allred, despite him not being credited. Once Laura Allred’s name popped up, it was all quite clear.

We dive into Batman Returns territory for “Now You See Me,” as Robson Rocha quite obviously draws Selina in her stitched black leather costume. We even get a brief appearance from the Penguin. Thankfully it all looks pretty. Though the story itself, about Catwoman duking it out with a dirty security guard, is pretty forgettable.

Much less forgettable is Tom King’s follow-up to his “Some of These Days” story from Batman Annual #2. It presents a scenario where a (presumably) married Selina and Bruce Wayne get pregnant and have a baby. Ironically, Selina once had a canonical daughter, though not with Bruce. Poor kid got retconned out of existence by the New 52.

It’s a pretty story that puts King back with Mikel Janin. That chemistry between Bruce and Selina was always his greatest strength during his Batman run. That two-issue “Rooftops” story from issues #13 and #14 will go down as one of the best Batman/Catwoman stories ever published.

My only complaint? We get at least one night of a pregnant Catwoman fighting crime with Batman, costume and all. Ladies? If you happen to be expecting, please don’t try this at home. (As if you needed me to tell you that…)

Our old Batman ’66 friends Jeff Parker and Jonathan Case return for a story about Catwoman and…aliens? I’m sure it’s happened before. But it’s still such an odd match-up. Which, of course, is the point.

Parker and Case take full advantage of the absurd premise, giving us absurd aliens with absurd names and looks that could easily have come from the original Star Trek series. Not to mention the absurdity that the world gets saved by a villainess. Because wouldn’t ya know it, aliens just happened to land when Batman was out of town. Don’t cha hate when that happens?

Things get surprisingly bloody for “A Cat of Nine Tales,” written and drawn by Liam Sharpe. Once again, we have Catwoman and a security guard. When confronted, Selina proceeds to tell the poor guy about nine ways this scenario can end. Most of which involve somebody dying.

I’m not sure the Selina Kyle of 2020 would be this chatty. But I can’t find it in my heart to sling too much mud at this. Aside from Wes Abbott on the lettering, what we see here is all Sharpe. And he manages to tell a coherent story in only three pages. So while by no means perfect, this story is still an achievement.

“Little Bird” is written by Mindy Newell and drawn by…LEE GARBETT!!!! When was the last time he was in Gotham? I’ve still got such fond memories of his work on the Stephanie Brown Batgirl series from…what was it, a decade ago?!? And the man hasn’t lost a step since, as he turns in some fine work here. He and colorist Alex Sinclair do a fine job channeling Batman: Year One. We get a scene where Selina is in similar…er, we’ll call “escort gear” as we see in that story. They also do a hell of a job on the gray David Mazzucchelli Catwoman costume, tail and all.

I was, however, initially confused. The story involves Selina stealing an old mezuzah that belonged to a woman who cared for her as a child. It took me a moment or two to figure out what a mezuzah is, and the identity of this elderly woman in a nursing home. I initially thought we might have jumped into another alternate future for Selina…

Still, they stick the landing. The story speaks to the idea that underneath all the theft and crime, Catwoman has a heart of gold. A great destination, even if the road to get there was a little rocky.

Chuck Dixon, one of the unsung heroes of modern Batman lore, returns alongside Kelley Jones for a Clayface story. Though I hate to say it, this isn’t one of his better outings. Not much to this one. I assume they went with Clayface to suit Jones’ horror strengths. Catwoman finds him, a confrontation ensues, rinse and repeat. I get the sense the only real purpose for this story was to have Selina be in the purple costume from the ’90s.

I know Kelley Jones has his crowd. I’ve just never really been one of them. I will say, though, that his Catwoman is very expressive here. I was pleasantly surprised to see that from him.

Things get downright meta for author Will Pfiefer’s return to the book, as he takes Selina to a comic book convention. He creates a world where the characters themselves are the autograph-signing, question-answering celebrities.

As someone who’s been to a number of these conventions, I found this story charming. Once I got the hang of it, that is. I initially found it difficult to get my bearings. But its a nice little anniversary story, and Pia Guerra’s art is very accessible.

I confess budget constraints caused me to fall off the monthly Catwoman series, so I’m not sure if her sister Maggie has been a regular or not. I have to assume she is, as “Addicted to Trouble” is about the sisters road tripping back to Gotham from Villa Hermosa. Naturally, it’s got a cool car in it. Hijinks ensue.

Thanks to the actions of Black Mask in an early 2000s story by Ed Brubaker and Cameron Stewart (who oddly enough are on the next story), Maggie is unable to speak. But she still makes a nice road-trip buddy for Selina, and we even focus a little bit on that inability. I wish they would have at least mentioned Black Mask in passing, as he wound up being one of Catwoman’s most-hated rivals.

Brubaker and Stewart evoke memories of 2000s Catwoman the same way Kelley Jones does 90s Batman. So their closing story, “The Art of Picking a Lock,” is an automatic sentimental favorite for yours truly. This book wasn’t cheap, but seeing Stewart draw Selina, Holly, and Slam Bradley again is almost worth the price of admission by itself. And as you’d expect, Brubaker’s pulpy writing style is right at home in Gotham City. God damn I miss him being on a Bat-book.

I wouldn’t call this collection memorable. But it’s a nice little tribute to Catwoman with some A-listers contributing, and a couple of nice nostalgia trips to boot. If nothing else, it should make Selina’s fans smile. I certainly did.

Email Rob at primaryignition@yahoo.com, or check us out on Twitter.

Weekly Comic 100s: Batman, Superman, and Shazam Return! Plus, Superhero of the Year?

By Rob Siebert
Fanboy Wonder

Ahhhh yes. Action and Detective are back. Now it really does feel like comics have returned.

I find it funny that on this week’s Action Comics cover (shown below) and several recent Superman covers, they’ve felt the need to tell us about Entertainment Weekly naming Superman the “Superhero of the Year.”

In case you’ve been trapped in a Fortress of Solitude since birth, Superman was the original comic book superhero and is an American icon whose legend has inspired millions. How many more issues could “Superhero of the Year” possibly be selling?

I love DC, and I love these characters. But it reeks of desperation. “Look at us! Entertainment Weekly knows who we are!”

TITLE: Batman: The Adventures Continue #5
AUTHOR:
Alan Burnett, Paul Dini
ARTISTS:
Ty Templeton, Monica Cubina (Colorist), Joshua Reed (Letterer). Cover by Joe Quinones.
RELEASED:
June 4, 2020

There’s a 9/11 reference in this issue. That’s really surreal considering The New Batman Adventures was on the air in the late ’90s.

We get something here that ties back to the first issue, which is kinda cool.

Is Deathstroke British in the DCAU? Some of his lines in this book sound like they should be coming from Alfred. Or perhaps a friend/relative of Alfred’s.

The last panel leaves some doubt as to whose side Jason Todd will be on when the chips are down. That’s definitely a tweak to what they did in Under the Hood.

TITLE: Action Comics #1022
AUTHOR: Brian Michael Bendis
ARTISTS: John Romita Jr., Danny Miki (Inker), Brad Anderson (Colorist), Dave Sharpe (Letterer). Cover inks by Klaus Janson.
RELEASED: June 2, 2020

This is the best issue of Action Comics in awhile, and not just because it’s the first one in awhile. We’re finally diving into who Conner Kent is and how he returned, so there’s a lot of intrigue here.

When it comes to how he’s drawn the past several issues, I’ve been pretty hard on John Romita Jr. Specifically, his figure rendering is positively jarring at times. But he’s on his best behavior here. I’m not sure if that has to do with all the additional lead-in time involved with the pandemic. But I ain’t complainin’.

TITLE: Batman/Superman #9
AUTHOR: Joshua Williamson
ARTISTS: Clayton Henry, Alejandro Sanchez (Colorist), John J. Hill (Letterer).
RELEASED: June 2, 2020

Good issue. Very accessible. We reference a lot of recent event comics, but with editor’s notes so readers can follow along. Williamson also provides some good exposition for Atomic Skull, who obviously meets a tragic end. Our villain doesn’t get the same treatment, but hopefully that comes next issue.

Clayton Henry’s art is clean, but avoids that over-the-top spotless look you sometimes see for artists going for that look. My only critique would be, oddly enough, the shape of Superman’s head on the cover. Something looks off…

TITLE: Shazam #12
AUTHOR: Jeff Loveness
ARTISTS: Brandon Peterson Mike Atiyeh (Colorist), Rob Leigh (Letterer)
RELEASED:
June 2, 2020

I wouldn’t call Shazam! #12 a page-turner. But it is a fun team-up issue. Jeff Loveness, who’s worked on Rick and Morty, Jimmy Kimmel Live!, and has also worked on Spider-Man and Groot over at Marvel, injects a lot of charm into the Big Red Cheese. Especially when it’s time for Billy Batson’s scenes with Freddy Freeman.

To the best of my recollection, this is my first exposure to Brandon Peterson. It’s a very solid outing for him. His work is nice and clean. Of course, Michael Atiyeh helps him out a lot with great coloring.

TITLE: Detective Comics #1022
AUTHOR: Peter Tomasi
ARTISTS: Brad Walker, Andrew Hennessy (Inker), Brad Anderson (Colorist), Rob Leigh (Letterer)
RELEASED:
June 2, 2020

The early part of this issue is structured quite like the second part of a Batman ’66 story. You know, where they escape whatever death trap they were put in last time, and then sometimes fight off a bunch of henchmen? In this case, they’re literally named Vice and Versa.

We also build for Joker War in this book, and if I’m reading this right, it’s suggested that the events of that story were actually the second part of Joker’s plan from Death of the Family. Tomasi was also involves in that story via the Batman & Robin ongoing. Interesting…

Email Rob at primaryignition@yahoo.com, or check us out on Twitter.

A Batman, Vol 11: The Fall and the Fallen Deep Dive – Too Much Canvas

TITLE: Batman, Vol. 11: The Fall and the Fallen
AUTHORS:
Tom King, Andy Kubert, Collin Kelly, Jackson Lanzing, Mairghread Scott, Steve Orlando, Tim Seeley
ARTISTS:
Mikel Janin, Jorge Fornes, Amancay Nahuelpan, Carlos D’Anda, Giuseppe Camuncoli, Cam Smith (Inker). Eduardo Risso, Patrick Gleason. Cover by Kubert.
COLORIST:
Jordie Bellaire, Trish Mulvihill, Luis Guerrero, Tomeu Morey, Dave Stewart, John Kalisz
LETTERER:
Clayton Cowles, Steve Wands, Andworld Design, Tom Workman, Tom Napolitano
COLLECTS:
Batman #7074, Batman: Secret Files #2
PUBLISHER:
DC Comics
PRICE:
$24.99
RELEASED:
December 18, 2019

By Rob Siebert
Fanboy Wonder

As a whole, City of Bane, which essentially starts here, is Tom King’s version of The Dark Knight Rises. Or if you want to go back further, the Knightfall storyline from the ’90s.

It’s also where the wheels come off King’s Batman run. I take no joy in saying that. But the proof is in the pudding, kids. So let’s dip our spoons in…

1. Daddy’s back.
The Fall and the Fallen is when we finally see Bane and Flashpoint Batman, a.k.a. Thomas Wayne from an alternate universe, team up to break our hero once and for all.

Yes friends, Thomas Wayne, one of Bruce Wayne’s parents, is here. You know about Bruce Wayne’s parents, right? They were murdered in front of their young son. It was that heinous act of violence that inspired Bruce’s vow to wage war on criminals for the rest of his life, and ultimately the creation of Batman. We saw these two come face-to-face in The Button, and it was a tremendously emotional experience for Bruce. One can only imagine what would go through his head if his father, even an alt-universe version, masterminded some kind of plot against him…

So tell me something: Why is Bane our big bad in this story? Why bring him into this when Bruce’s father shakes his son’s world to its core simply because he exists? Add the fact that this version of Thomas Wayne is his universe’s Batman, and Bane becomes redundant by comparison.

Batman #72 takes us back through the events of the series and outlines Bane’s plan, which all centers around the Bruce/Selina marriage. In the end, Thomas proposes a partnership.

But picture this, Thomas Wayne somehow survives the destruction of the Flashpoint universe and winds up in the DC Universe proper. He initially wants to seek out his “son,” but this alternate world intrigues him. So he opts to lay low, observe, and learn.

Remember, in The Button, Thomas pleaded with Bruce to stop being Batman and simply live his life. Devastated that Bruce hasn’t heeded his words, he decides he’s the only one that can stop his “son.” So he opts to do what must be done, by any means necessary.

In the end, it comes down to Batman against Batman. Father against son. It can be on the rooftops of Gotham, the Batcave, or anywhere really. All we need is the emotional impact of that showdown.

In the end, Catwoman shoots and kills Thomas in an act of desperation. Bruce then has to decide if he can forgive her or not. This would pay off the revelation from The War of Jokes and Riddles.

Not bad, huh? But no, instead we got another big fight with Bane. Yippee…

2. Father/Son Time
And what of what we actually get from father and son? They journey through the desert to get to a Lazarus Pit, occasionally stopping to fight members of Ra’s al Ghul’s personal guard. They take turns riding a horse, which is dragging a casket behind it. I won’t say who’s in it. But if you consider who we have in this scene and where they’re going it’s not too hard to figure out. There’s a really nice subtle reference to Batman: Knight of Vengeance, which is low key one of the best Batman stories of the last decade.

Old timey music has been a theme during Tom King’s run. In issue #73, he has Flashpoint Batman singing “Home, Home on the Range” to himself. Fun fact: It’s really weird to read that scene while playing Bing Crosby’s version of the song in the background…

Issue #74 is where things finally boil over between our Batmen. Thomas’ motivation, as always, is to get Bruce to surrender his life as Batman and live a normal life. That’s a hell of a premise for an issue. The trouble is, King spends far too much time harping on a story about a bedtime story Thomas told Bruce as a child about a bunch of animals eating each other in a pit. If I’m not mistaken, it’s an actual story written by Alexander Afanasyev, who’s widely considered to be the Russian counterpart to the Brothers Grimm. Father and son talk about the horror of it all, and why Bruce supposedly liked the story. They eventually get to the real meat of their conflict. But by the time they do, you feel frustrated because they’ve spent so much time talking about that damn story. Even during their inevitable battle in the pit, King uses the story as a narrative backdrop.

And all the while, I can’t help but think…Thomas Wayne, Batman’s dad, is standing right there. And this was the best they could do?

3. Dump the Duster
Okay DC, we get it. Batman v Superman was a thing. You guys liked the image of Batman in a duster and goggles, so you decided to use it. Fair enough.

But these issues came out in 2019. The movie came out in 2017. There was no need whatsoever to put the Flashpoint Batman in a duster and goggles just like the ones his “son” happened to wear several issues earlier in The Rules of Engagement.

If it looked cool, that would be one thing. But it doesn’t. Plus, it’s impractical and redundant even by superhero standards, and therefore silly.

What’s done is done. But let’s make this right. If you want to have Batman wearing his costume in the desert, that’s fine. Heck, if you want to have Bruce Wayne wear a duster and goggles, that’s fine. But you can’t have Batman wearing his costume in the desert with a duster and goggles. The two ideas are mutually exclusive. That’s got to be a rule in writing Batman from now on.

4. Batman Gone Batty?
Issues #70 and #71 focus on a needless, and at times silly plot point about people thinking Batman is losing it, and Jim Gordon severing ties with him.

When we open the book, our Caped Crusader is punching his way through Arkham Asylum, facing off with most of the supervillains you’d expect to see. It’s a great opportunity for Mikel Janin and Jorge Fornes to draw virtually all of the iconic rogues gallery.

The trouble is, King once again supplies us with bad Batman dialogue. Not the least of which is: “You challenge me with…nightmares? I live the nightmare! Bane! Why can’t you understand! I’m Batman! I am the nightmare.”

Shut up, already.

Given how convinced Batman is that Bane is faking insanity to remain in Arkham, and how intense and violent he is in his pursuit of the truth, Gordon becomes convinced that the Dark Knight has gone off the deep end. In issue #71 he tries to kick him off the roof of police headquarters (shown above).

That skepticism spreads to his extended family of superheroes, who are convinced Bruce is still grieving over his broken engagement to Selina Kyle. The situation is punctuated when he punches Tim Drake in the face.

There’s no worthwhile payoff to any of this. It all comes off like padding. Because it is padding. You can revolve an entire story arc around either of those moments. But instead they just come and go. That’s particularly a shame when it comes to the Gordon story, as there could have been some real substance to that.

5. Where’s Wesker?
This trade also contains Batman: Secret Files #2, which in theory is supposed to spotlight all “the villains who broke the Bat.” Okay, sure.

For what I think is the first time since Batman #23.1, Andy Kubert gets to write a Batman/Joker story. Things fare much better this time, largely because he goes the comedic route. Also, Amancay Nahuelpan draws a hell of a Clown Prince of Crime.

Colin Kelly and Jackson Lanzing put together a so-so story about the Psycho-Pirate leading a cult. Artist Carlos D’Anda overachieves on this one, which I did not expect.

Mairghread Scott and Giuseppe Camuncoli turn in a Riddler story that holds up pretty well. More amusing to me is the fact that “Sideburns Riddler” is still a thing.

Steve Orlando and Eduardo Risso steal the show with a Hugo Strange tale featuring multiple Batman “specimens.” Given he’s a mad doctor, I’ll let you jump to your own conclusions on what that story is about…

Tim Seeley teams with one of my personal favorites, Patrick Gleason, for a story late in Bane’s pre-Gotham days. I’m used to Gleason working with a much brighter color palette than John Kalisz provides here. That’s not a bad thing. It’s just different.

My big problem with this issue? No story about Arnold Wesker, a.k.a. the Ventriloquist. He’s on the cover, and plays one of the more interesting roles in Bane’s big scheme, as sort of Bane’s counterpart to Alfred. It’s a little disturbing, considering what happens to Alfred in the next volume.

6. Consistence and Versatility
The Secret Files issue notwithstanding, our drawing duties are split between Mikel Janin and Jorge Fornes. While The Fall and the Fallen may have its share of story problems, I can’t find much to complain about artistically. Both these men are awesome Batman artists very much in their element.

Mikel Janin was a star coming into this series. But he’s a superstar coming out of it. Speaking for myself, Janin’s art can now sell a book on its own. His line work is always super clean, his figure work consistent, and his character acting on point. I now look forward to specifically seeing his versions of Batman, the Joker, and even less flashy characters like Alfred and the Penguin. The fact that he’s got colorist extraordinaire Jordie Bellaire backing him up in this book does nothing but help, of course. But Janin’s style on its own is versatile enough to handle any story. Whether we’re on the streets of Gotham, the Source Wall at the edge of the universe, or anywhere in between.

Objectively, Janin’s best work in this book is probably issue #74, as that’s where the book hits its emotional crescendo and is really firing on all cylinders. But selfishly, I’m partial to issue #70 because Janin gets to draw some of the more obscure Batman villains. Calendar Man, Doctor Phosphorus, the Cavalier, etc.

It’s difficult to look at Jorge Fornes’ work without thinking of what David Mazzucchelli did with Batman: Year One. The figure rendering is similar, the texture is similar. Bellaire’s coloring doesn’t have the same faded palette that Richmond Lewis’ did. But it’s still reminiscent.

I can’t bring myself to complain about the similarities, because Year One is obviously one of the all-time greats. But that means Fornes is better in environments that are a little more mundane, and can have that noir-ish spin put on them. Street level scenes, Wayne Manor and Batcave scenes, etc. It’s no accident that a hero like Daredevil is also on his resume. But something tells me that, like Janin, he’s got a versatilty to him. One that isn’t necessarily apparent here. I’m anxious to see what he does next.

7. Too Much Canvas
When someone mentions Tom King the first thing that comes to mind, at least for me, is his 12-issue run on Vision. That was such a masterclass in comic book storytelling. It’s frustrating to think that someone who wove such a classic at Marvel could make these kind of mistakes on Batman.

What it all comes down to is too much canvas. Give an artist too much canvas to work on, and suddenly the focus of the art wavers. If any story has ever had too much canvas it’s City of Bane.

Email Rob at primaryignition@yahoo.com, or check us out on Twitter.

Weekly Comic 100s: Frankenstein Undone, Justice League, and More X-Men

***”Weekly Comic 100s” keeps it nice and simple. Comic book reviews in 100 words or less. Straight, concise, and to the point.***

By Rob Siebert
Fanboy Wonder

We’re going halfsies for this one. We’ve got two releases from this week, as well as two X-Men back issues. I’ve been diving further into Jonathan Hickman’s Dawn of X stuff. I must say, even if some of it has that typical X-Men level of convolutedness to it, I’m enjoying revisiting these characters and their world. And this is the first Hickman project I’ve really been able to immerse myself in. So it works two-fold.

TITLE: Frankenstein Undone #2
AUTHORS:
Mike Mignola, Scott Allie
ARTISTS:
Ben Stenbeck, Brennan Wagner (Colorist), Clem Robins (Letterer).
RELEASED:
May 27, 2020

I’m hardly offended by Frankenstein Undone #2. But I can’t say I’m incredibly enthralled either. Hopefully readers who speak Hellboy will be a little more invested.

Still, the art is on point. I really like the look of Undone‘s Frankenstein. He’s got a lot more bolts and has a more deformed and monstrous look to him, as opposed to the conventional Universal movie-inspired look the monster tends to have. It definitely lends itself to more interesting action sequences, as we see here when Frank fights off a big snow wolf.

TITLE: Justice League #45
AUTHOR:
Robert Venditti
ARTISTS:
Eddy Barrows, Eber Ferreira (Inker), Romulo Fajardo Jr. (Colorist), Tom Napolotano (Letterer). Cover by Francis Manapul.
RELEASED:
May 26, 2020

I can’t say I know this for a fact, but so far this story feels like it was meant for a DC Giant. As we’ve discussed previously, those sold at retailers and meant for average joes. Thus, everything is drawn very simply and spoken plainly. I’m sure a few lines were inserted to indicate John Stewart is the leader. We’ve even got some paint-by-numbers mind-control fights between League members. Batman vs. Superman, Wonder Woman vs. Aquaman, etc.

That being said, none of this is meant as a dig. The issue, and thus far the story overall, is enjoyable for what it is.

TITLE: Marauders #1
AUTHOR:
Gerry Duggan
ARTISTS:
Matteo Lolli, Federico Blee (Colorist), Cory Petit (Letterer). Cover by Russell Dauterman & Matthew Wilson.
RELEASED:
October 23, 2019

Other potential titles for Marauders: Put the Kitty Outside and What If the X-Men Were Superhero Pirates, and Places to Buy Booze for Wolverine.

No, it’s true. Kitty Pryde buys Wolverine a bunch booze in this issue.

I jest, but I really like this book a lot. It reminds me of the most recent volume of X-Men: Gold, which Kitty also happened to be the lead in. It’s got an easy concept with familiar characters. Gerry Duggan also gives us some fun character moments and dialogue. I had no idea about Marauders until recently. But I’m sticking with it going forward.

TITLE: Excalubur #1
AUTHOR:
Tini Howard
ARTIST:
Marcus To, Erick Arcinega (Colorist), Cory Petit (Letterer). Cover by Mahmud A. Asrar.
RELEASED: October 30, 2019

I’ve loved Marcus To’s work on Red Robin and Nightwing. So I was very excited to see his name here. He delivers accordingly.

But despite To’s presence, this book didn’t do much for me. Blasphemous as it may be to say, I tend to zone out when Marvel or DC go into Arthurian lore. And of course, that’s the centerpiece of Excalibur. A mysterious plant shows up in Avalon, and Morgain La Fey traces it back to Krakoa.

Apocalypse being on the team is intriguing. But it’s not enough to keep me hooked. Not now, at least.

(Special thanks to Super Fan Productions for an advance review copy of Frankenstein Undone #2.)

Email Rob at primaryignition@yahoo.com, or check us out on Twitter.

Weekly Comic 100s: Year Zero, Disaster Inc, DCeased, and More!

***”Weekly Comic 100s” keeps it nice and simple. Comic book reviews in 100 words or less. Straight, concise, and to the point.***

By Rob Siebert
Fanboy Wonder

It seems like this is more or less the last “COVID-19 comic book week” we’ll be having, as next week things start shipping from Diamond again. (DC is a notable exception. But that’s another story.) Planned comics on the docket next week include Justice League, Suicide Squad, Alienated, and Frankenstein Undone. And of course, more X-Men back issues.

But in the meantime…

TITLE: Year Zero #1
AUTHOR: Benjamin Percy
ARTISTS: Ramon Rosanas, Lee Loughridge (Colorist), Sal Cipriano (Letterer). Cover by Kaare Andrews.
RELEASED:
May 20, 2020

I’ve always wanted to see a story like The Walking Dead, or a similar zombie apocalypse story take this route. It’s even more relevant now that the COVID-19 pandemic has happened. How does a zombie apocalypse effect different parts of the world in different ways? This story is seemingly going to show us via characters in the U.S., Mexico, Japan, Afghanistan, and a polar research base.

I think we’ll get a sense if this book fulfills its potential in about six issues. Which is unusual, for me it usually takes only one or two.

TITLE: Disaster Inc. #1
AUTHOR: Joe Harris
ARTISTS: Sebastian Piriz, Carlos M. Mangual (Letterer).
RELEASED:
May 20, 2020

I’ll credit Disaster Inc. for being educational. I’d forgotten all about the Fukushima power plant disaster of 2011. Just goes to show you how screwed up things are nowadays. I certainly didn’t know about the “nuclear samurai.” (Google it. It’s worth the read.)

Disaster Inc. is a delicious horror/mystery/ghost story that, thus far, is packed with intrigue and just the right amount of truth. It’s also got a highly unsettling butterfly theme going for it.  I’ll definitely be back for more.

TITLE: DCeased: Hope at World’s End #1
AUTHOR: Tom Taylor
ARTISTS: Dustin Nguyen, Rex Locus (Colorist), Saida Temofonte (Colorist). Cover by Ben Oliver.
RELEASED:
May 20, 2020

I’ve mostly stayed away from DCeased. Nothing personal. It’s just not my thing. This issue didn’t change that. But I appreciate a few little things about it. Perry White finally saying how proud he is of Jimmy Olsen. What appears to be a brief appearance by Stephanie Brown in her Robin costume. There’s also Dinah Lance as a Green Lantern. Didn’t realize that was a thing.

It’s always great to see Dustin Nguyen’s work. He’s great with content for young readers. But if this issue shows us anything, it’s that his style is versatile enough to handle more mature content.

TITLE: Batman: The Adventures Continue #4
AUTHORS: Alan Burnett, Paul Dini
ARTISTS: Ty Templeton, Monica Cubina (Colorist), Joshua Reed (Letterer).

We continue with the Deathstroke story here. I’d previously thought he’d have some kind of previous connection with Dick Grayson, given he’s widely known for being the New Teen Titans’ arch nemesis. But as it turns out Tim Drake, the Robin from The New Batman Adventures, is an ill-advised admirer of Deathstroke’s. That’s a cool little twist.

Another cool twist? This issue also makes Firefly is an exotic bug collector, as well as a pyromaniac.

TITLE: Star Wars: The Clone Wars – Battle Tales #1
AUTHOR: Michael Moreci
ARTISTS: Derek Charm, Arianna Florean & Mario Del Pennino, Luis Delgado (Colorist), Valentina Taddeo (Colorist), Jake M. Wood (Letterer).
RELEASED:
May 20, 2020

Nothing super special here. But nothing bad either. A flashback from Captain Rex about Anakin being a hero.

Florean and Del Pennino handle the flashback, while Charm handles things in the present. I’m partial to Charm’s work as his style is a little closer to the cartoon. As well as, incidentally, Ty Templeton’s style. But Florean and Del Pennino do just fine.

TITLE: X-Men #4
AUTHOR: Jonathan Hickman
ARTISTS: Leinil Yu, Gerry Alanguilan (Co-Inker), Sunny Gho (Colorist), Clayton Cowles (Letterer)
RELEASED: January 1, 2020

Magneto at the World Economic Forum. That’s really all you need to know about this issue.

Yes, Xavier, Apocalypse, Cyclops, and Gorgon are there too. But Magneto does most of the talking. And yes, there’s violence. But it’s not necessarily what you think it’ll be.

Credit to Yu, Alanguilan, and Gho for spending most of the issue drawing a dinner conversation. That’s not necessarily what people will ask for in their superhero comics. But they make it work. The novelty of Apocalypse is sitting there in a suit certainly helps.

Email Rob at primaryignition@yahoo.com, or check us out on Twitter.

Weekly Comic 100s: Lost on Planet Earth, Justice League, and More!

***”Weekly Comic 100s” keeps it nice and simple. Comic book reviews in 100 words or less. Straight, concise, and to the point.***

By Rob Siebert
Lost on Planet…Wait…This is Earth, Right?

A special thanks goes out to Superfan Promotions this week for an advance review copy of Lost on Planet Earth #2.

If you’re an independent creator who’d like to have their work spotlighted in “Weekly Comic 100s,” please feel free to reach out to yours truly at PrimaryIgnition@yahoo.com. I’m (almost) always happy to lend a helping hand!

TITLE: Lost on Planet Earth #2
AUTHOR:
Magdalene Visaggio
ARTISTS:
Claudia Aguirre, Zakk Saam (Letterer)
RELEASED:
May 20, 2020

When you take away all the space age dressings, Lost on Planet Earth is about a quarter-life crisis. The concept that translates surprisingly well into this medium. But this book still needs to earn its sci-fi elements. In other words, convince me why this story needed to happen in a space environment. Because thus far it seems rather needless.

On the plus side, despite a touch of overacting, Claudia Aguirre delivers the goods artistically. Lost on Planet Earth is a fun read, despite being a bit of an underachiever thus far.

TITLE: Justice League #44
AUTHOR:
Robert Venditti
ARTISTS: Xermanico, Romulo Fajardo Jr. (Colorist), Tom Napolitano (Letterer). Cover by Francis Manapul.
RELEASED: May 12, 2020

I haven’t looked at Justice League in quite awhile. I tagged out early in Scott Snyder’s run. Don’t @ me.

Venditti’s doing some great work on Superman: Man of Tomorrow, and this issue is very much in the same vein. Things are written and drawn very simply and are easy to digest.

As our team faces mythological beasts released from Tartarus, I was surprised to see John Stewart is now the team leader. I like that. It reminds me of when Brad Meltzer made Black Canary the leader back in the day.

TITLE: Lois Lane #10
AUTHOR: Greg Rucka
ARTISTS: Mike Perkins, Andy Troy (Colorist), Simon Bowland (Letterer)
RELEASED:
May 12, 2020

Christopher Reeve and Margot Kidder got snuck into this issue. Look at the first two-page spread where Montoya talks about the multiverse. They’re near the top. Perkins gives Lois some great facials in this issue as well.

Maybe it’s just been too long since issue #9, but I got lost when they brought the multiverse into things. To the point that I got a little frustrated. I’m waiting to see how Rucka starts to tie things together. But despite my love for him, my enthusiasm is waning.

TITLE: Bruno Sammartino #1
AUTHOR: John E. Crowther
ARTISTS:
Rich Perotta, Vito Potenza (Colorist). Cover by Nathan Smith.
RELEASED:
May 13, 2020

This Patreon-sponsored biography of Bruno Sammartino from Squared Circle Press looks very much like an indie comic. But as a wrestling fan who appreciates was Sammartino meant to the business, I can very much appreciate where this issue’s heart is.

We start during Bruno’s childhood in (*stops to count the syllables*) Pizzoferrato, Italy. I can only assume the book will take us up to his death in 2018.

The amateuer-ish look of this issue would normally be enough to get me to drop it. But the subject matter is strong enough to bring me back for another issue.

TITLE: X-Men #3
AUTHOR:
Jonathan Hickman
ARTISTS:
Leinil Yu, Gerry Alanguilan (Co-Inker), Sunny Gho & Rain Beredo (Colorists), Clayton Cowles (Letterer).
RELEASED: December 4, 2019

This series has a habit of slapping in big text pages filled with exposition. It’s unorthodox and a little off-putting. But I, for one, am just happy the exposition is there to begin with.

Emma Frost has a fantastic issue here. First a really fun little exchange between Jean Grey, then an encounter with a villain who’s more than a little honest about her costume. The art by Yu and the team compliments that moment brilliantly.

The villainous Hordeculture group returns for this issue. They’re botanists and terrorists. God, I love comics.

Email Rob at primaryignition@yahoo.com, or check us out on Twitter.

A Shadow of the Batgirl Deep Dive – Opportunities and Errors

TITLE: Shadow of the Batgirl
AUTHOR: Sarah Kuhn
ARTISTS:
Nicole Goux, Cris Peter (Colorist), Janice Chiang w/Saida Temofonte (Letterers)
FORMAT: Softcover
PUBLISHER: DC Graphic Novels For Young Adults
PRICE: $16.99
RELEASED: January 29, 2020

By Rob Siebert
Fanboy Wonder

There’s always been something special about the Cassandra Cain character. A certain X-factor that I can’t quite put my finger on. Perhaps it’s her unique origin story. Or the fact that she initially couldn’t communicate the same way everyone else did. Maybe it’s the diversity element. In the late ’90s, she was a young Asian girl among Batman’s other apprentices, who were primarily white males with dark hair. Perhaps it’s all that and more.

In any event, Cass may not be the most popular Batgirl there’s ever been. But she has a special connection with her fans. Thus, I was pleased to see her get the YA graphic novel treatment.

I enjoyed Shadow of the Batgirl. It’s a fresh and modern look at Cassandra Cain, and I’d argue the young-adult lens is perfect fit for her. But the book has some blaring flaws that I can’t seem to get past.

Cass’ origin is essentially unchanged. She’s the daughter of world-famous assassin David Cain, who trained her since birth to become a living weapon. Her regimen was so all-encompassing that she never learned to speak. Her language was combat. But when she runs away from that life to start anew in Gotham City, she must discover for herself who Cassandra Cain really is. But she won’t do it alone. She’ll have help from a few new friends. One of whom, a librarian named Barbara Gordon, knows quite a bit about the legendary Batgirl…

The Barbara Gordon stuff goes exactly where you think it’s going to go. Actually, Shadow of the Batgirl as a whole goes where you think it’s going to go. Which isn’t a bad thing. It hits all the right notes for a story about a young hero trying to find herself.

What’s more, Nicole Goux’s art is a tremendous fit for Cass. I don’t know if I’d call it “edgy,” as the promo copy on the back of the book does. But there’s an obvious Eastern influence to her work which fits the character like a glove. Personally, I found Goux’s art to be better suited to the dramatic and the dynamic. Her action sequences have a hard-hitting feel to them. Naturally, that’s an awesome quality to have if you’re working on Cass. Generally speaking, if Cass was fighting or moody, Goux was at home. Colorist Cris Peter also deserves a lot of credit for complimenting Goux’s work so well. His palette is a few shades darker than standard, and a little bit deeper. When Cass is in the dark, the result is delightfully moody.

While Cass’ supporting cast could easily have consisted of just Barbara, perhaps making for a more intimate feel between mentor and student, Sarah Kuhn fleshes out our supporting cast. Case in point, noodle shop owner and resident wise old sage Jackie Fujikawa Yoneyama. She’s got a nice Mr. Miyagi feel to her, offering wisdom, guidance, and even discipline to our young heroine. Like a surrogate parent, or the book’s answer to Alfred. Generally speaking, I enjoyed Jackie’s scenes a lot.

I was less fond of Erik, our love interest. There’s nothing wrong with him, per se. He just doesn’t do much to stand out. I’ll give Kuhn credit for making him sensitive and even a bit vulnerable, in contrast to Cass’ remarkable physical prowess. But other than that, he’s really only there to be pined over.

While very much enjoyable, for my money Shadow of the Batgirl has one major problem, one minor problem, and also misses a big opportunity

The minor problem involves Cass’ Batgirl costume. Not the thrown-together one we see her wear for a good portion of the book (shown at left). Rather, it’s the one she ends up with at the end. The one that’s supposed to be her officially-endorsed costume. Granted there’s a makeshift quality to that one as well, as Cass makes it herself. But the book lacks that all important awe-inspiring moment where she takes the legacy and the grandeur of Batgirl on her shoulders. Come to think of it, Cass’ original Batgirl costume wasn’t much to write home about either.

The major issue, at least in my mind, is almost funny. But it annoyed me and left me scratching my head for the first half of the book. When she first comes to Gotham, Cass creates a home for herself at the library. It’s there that Barbara is teaching a young writers class. The subject of which, at least while Cass happens to be watching, is Batgirl. We hear Babs say things like, “There’s nothing boring about Batgirl – she’s a hero!” and call her “Gotham City’s beloved daughter.”

In Shadow, Barbara is in her wheelchair but has yet to become the information broker to superheroes known as Oracle. The book doesn’t tell us what put her in the chair, but it seems like she’s still grieving. Thus, I could understand her using this writing class to work through some of her feelings about not being Batgirl anymore. The problem is the book never refers to it as such. So when we find out Babs’ secret, it feels very strange. Even egotistical. Certainly not behavior befitting either a hero or mentor.

Sadly, the book’s worst offense is that it doesn’t capitalize on what really made Cassandra Cain special in the first place. She wasn’t just unique amongst the Batman family. She was different than any other superhero you’d ever seen because she lacked conventional communication skills. Cass could barely speak, so she’d have to find other ways to express herself.

So many teens and young adults struggle to accept qualities that make them different, stand out, and in certain cases a little bit freakish. They see them as liabilities rather than potential strengths. While a dramatic example, Cassandra Cain certainly falls into that freakish category. I don’t think the book should have centered around her communication issues. But instead of giving her a standard YA love interest, why not use those pages to show her facing those challenges? It’s certainly not something you’d see in any other book. (At right is a small example from Cass’ original Batgirl run in 2000.)

Instead, Shadow opts for a more conventional route. Which is a shame, as Goux and colorist Cris Peteri certainly have the artistic chops to handle the increased emphasis on visuals rather than dialogue.

I definitely recommend Shadow of the Batgirl, especially for those who aren’t familiar with Cassandra Cain. It’s good book. In fact, I believe if it could have been a great book, had the raw materials been used a little bit differently…

Email Rob at primaryignition@yahoo.com, or check us out on Twitter.