Tag Archives: Gail Simone

A Convergence: Nightwing/Oracle #2 Review – Hello, Goodbye

Convergence: Nightwing/Oracle #2TITLE: Convergence: Nightwing/Oracle #2
AUTHOR: Gail Simone
PENCILLER: Jan Duursema. Cover by Jill Thompson.
PUBLISHER: DC Comics
PRICE: $3.99
RELEASED: May 6, 2015

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

When I reviewed Batman #40, a few people got on my case for my subtitle being “Dead Again.” It was, “Spoilers, man! Spoilers!”

Well, take a look at your primary cover for Nightwing/Oracle #2. Not much I can do about this one, kids. So don’t blame me!

Indeed, Gail Simone gives us a little bit of closure on pre-New 52 Nightwing and Oracle here. But not before a showdown with Flashpoint Hawkman and Hawkwoman. It may seem like Dick Grayson is fighting alone. But as always, Barbara Gordon has more than a few resources to call on, including one that longtime Simone fans will very much appreciate.

Naturally, much of what I said about the first issue still applies here. So lets hit our bullet points…

Convergence: Nightwing/Oracle #2, Jan Duursema– Nightwing’s costume is too overdone, much akin to what was done in Injustice: Gods Among Us. That said, it’s great to see him back in blue.

– Duursema nails the older version of Barbara. It’s awesome to see her back, and in the hands of the writer who arguably wrote her the best.

– Hawkman and Hawkwoman have a nice bird motif that’s very fitting for Gail Simone, but other than that, I’m not hugely invested in them as villains.

It’s interesting that the Chip Kidd-designed variant covers for both Nightwing/Oracle issues featured art by Don Kramer. Jan Duursema’s art definitely has a Don Kramer vibe to it at times. For whatever reason, I see it whenever a character it looking toward the camera with a determined look. Oracle, Nightwing, and our two Thanagarians all have moments like that. It brings back fond memories of Kramer’s runs on Nightwing and Detective Comics.

Convergence: Nightwing/Oracle #2, BarbaraThis issue has a surprise guest, and if you haven’t figured it out yet, I’m not going to tell you who it is (Spoilers, dude!). It’s a nice surprise, but there is once drawback to it. In order to conceal this person’s identity from the reader for a bit, Simone has them dressed in brown robes during a scene with Oracle. That struck me as an odd choice. Why the robes? Is there a risk of them being recognized by the Thanagarians? Even if there is, why keep the disguise on while you’re in a private setting with Oracle? That was a head-scratcher.

The wedding of any incarnation of Dick Grayson and Barbara Gordon is obviously pretty cool to see. Sadly, we only see it for half a page. But it’s still pretty impactful to not only see our couple in a matrimonial setting, but some pretty notable guests in the foreground. One might argue this is a moment we should have gotten several years ago. Then again, DC’s recent track record with superhero marriages isn’t exactly stellar…

Convergence: Nightwing/Oracle #2My only nitpick with the wedding scene is Barbara’s dress. That’s a weird thing to pick at (especially considering I’m a guy), but it bothered me a bit. On the cover, Jill Thompson draws Barbara wearing a white dress with something of a computerized texture, which obviously wraps around and envelopes most of the image. In the issue, the lower portion of Barbara’s dress has the same texture. For yours truly, that ventured into hokey territory. It’s simply a matter of something working in the context of a cover, but not in the actual issue.

And with that…here they go, out of our lives again. DC brings them back, just to put them right back on the shelf. *sigh* It’s painful to see this happen to Oracle in particular. That character had so much depth to her, and on top of that, she was so damn cool. Obviously, a lot of good has come from DC giving Barbara her legs back and making her Batgirl again. The recent issues by Cameron Stewart, Brendan Fletcher, and Babs Tarr come to mind immediately. But many longtime fans like myself have never stopped missing Oracle.

What can I say? It still hurts, damn it. It still hurts.

Image 1 from bleedingcool.com. Image 2 from comixology.com. Image 3 from shadowneko003.tumblr.com.

Follow Primary Ignition on Twitter @PrimaryIgnition, or at Facebook.com/PrimaryIgnition/

Advertisements

A Convergence: Nightwing/Oracle #1 Review – Under the Dome

Convergence: Nightwing/Oracle #1 coverTITLE: Convergence: Nightwing/Oracle #1
AUTHOR: Gail Simone
PENCILLER: Jan Duursema. Cover by Jill Thompson.
PUBLISHER: DC Comics
PRICE: $3.99
RELEASED: April 8, 2015

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

Having Gail Simone write Oracle again is almost worth DC not publishing any New 52 content for two months. That’s how badly this character has been missed. At least by me. And to see Nightwing wearing blue again, as opposed to red? Bonus!

Via the events of Convergence, Gotham City in the pre-New 52 Gotham City has been under a mysterious impenetrable dome for a year. Some, like Dick Grayson/Nightwing, have adapted to the situation as best they can. Others, like Barbara Gordon/Oracle and Mr. Freeze, have begun to lose their resolve. The city is struggling to survive amid depleted resources. Oddly enough, Poison Ivy has supplied the city with produce. (“I think of the times I jailed her, laughing about it, and I’m ashamed.”) But as Dick is preparing for a monumental moment in his relationship with Barbara, the dome comes down, and Hawkman and Hawkwoman of the Flashpoint universe are looking for a fight. And while Oracle might not be much of a physical challenge for the super-powered Thanagarians, they would be fools to underestimate her…

Convergence: Nightwing/Oracle #2The notion of Barbara losing her hope is obviously off-putting. This is a character that’s been through so much already. Not just with the loss of her legs, but everything that’s happened to her father, and her discovering that her brother is a psychopath. This development in a character so famously full of resolve is hard to swallow at first. But Gail gets us there. It does make sense that a character whose passion in life revolves around the flow of information would grow depressed being cut off from the world at large for a year. To the best of my recollection, she’s never been in a situation quite like this before.

From an artistic standpoint, this is very much the Oracle we remember. She’s a bit older, with the longer hair and the familiar glasses. We also get her narration via familiar green text boxes. It’s all wonderfully familiar.

Convergence: Nightwing/Oracle #1, NIghtwing, Mr. FreezeOn the downside, while it’s great to have Nightwing’s blue V-stripe back, the rest of his costume is a disappointment. It’s very overdone, complete with built-in abs and shoulder pads that don’t really make sense. It’s very much in line with what we’ve seen from Injustice: Gods Among Us and the Arkham games. I gave DC a lot of crap over their putting red into the New 52 Nightwing costume, the artists on that book were able to maintain the costume’s sleekness most of the time. This one just seems too…lumpy.

I’m not hugely invested in Flashpoint Hawkman and Hawkwoman being the bad guys in this book. But it makes sense, what with the whole bird motif. The ending was enough to get me to come back for part two next month. The impression we get is that next issue, Oracle strikes back. That, along with Nightwing being in the mix, is more than enough to get me to put down another $3.99.

Image 1 from blacknerdproblems.com. Image 2 from dangermart.blogspot.com.

Follow Primary Ignition on Twitter @PrimaryIgnition, or at Facebook.com/PrimaryIgnition/

A Batgirl #27 Review – Um…White Lantern Babs?

Batgirl #27, 2014, Alex Garner coverTITLE: Batgirl #27
AUTHOR: Gail Simone
PENCILLER: Robert Gill. Cover by Alex Garner.
PUBLISHER: DC Comics
PRICE: $2.99
RELEASED: January 15, 2014

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

Bluebelle, huh? Well, at least it’s better than Catbird.

Yes, in this Gothtophia tie-in, Barbara Gordon is not Batgirl, her relationship with her mother is hunky dory, and her brother is apparently an emotionally stable individual. In Batgirl’s place we have Bluebelle, a hero clad in white and blue, who is more than grateful to have a family that loves her, and a fulfilling life. Her partner and best friend is Charise Carnes, who is the villainous Knightfall in the Gotham we know. But in this utopia, she patrols the city as Daybreak (which I think is meant to be a take-off of Nightwing). But when terror strikes at the Joker Ice Cream Factory, Bluebelle and Daybreak are forced to face a tragedy unlike any they’ve ever seen. And for Barbara, it may be time for a reality check…

From a story standpoint, this issue is pretty much what you’d expect. Babs enjoys her joyful reality, until she gradually realizes all is not what it seems. The Joker ice cream thing is a bit interesting, only because you’d think John Layman and Jason Fabok might want to use a Gothtopia version of him for the main story in Detective Comics. Perhaps they will, but for some reason he won’t have his clown motif. Either way, having the Joker hanging over the story is fitting for Barbara, given The Killing Joke is still somewhat canonical.

Batgirl #27, Spoiler?From a writing standpoint, the only other thing that stood out to me about this issue was something Barbara says via text box in the middle of the issue. It’s in a panel where Daybreak has fallen to the ground, and the first box we see says: “Okay, she’s a bit spoiled.” I can’t help but wonder if the word “spoiled” is a little wink at the audience related to Stephanie Brown and the Spoiler. Given Daybreak’s purple hood and cape, not to mention Charise’s long blond hair, it’s hard to imagine it’s a coincidence.

Robert Gill fills in on this issue, and does a decent job of it. His work didn’t make or break the issue as far as I’m concerned, though I did enjoy some of the enthusiasm he was able to inject into Barbara, particularly in the first few pages. There’s also a panel where she’s leaping across rooftops, and simply spreads her arms, enjoying the ride. He did a nice job of drawing a Barbara Gordon who is physically the same, yet still very different.

As a series, Batgirl has been frustrating for the past few months. In November, the issue crossed over with Zero Year, then in December we wrapped up the “Batgirl: Wanted” storyline, and now this month we’re in yet another crossover. There’s nothing wrong with the issues on their own, but we’re doing an awful lot of jumping around. Hopefully the series won’t get sucked into another cross over as we head into spring. It’s taken a couple of years, but I’m finally starting to get used to Gail Simone writing this Barbara Gordon, as opposed to the one she wrote in Birds of Prey.

A Batgirl #21 Review – “She’s a Fan of Murder”

Batgirl #21 (2013), cover by Alex GarnerTITLE: Batgirl #21
AUTHOR: Gail Simone
PENCILLER: Fernando Pasarin. Cover by Alex Garner.
PUBLISHER: DC Comics
PRICE: $2.99
RELEASED: June 12, 2013

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

So…were the Batman baddies always slasher flick characters, and I just didn’t notice? You’d think after all these years reading comics, I’d have picked up on it. Granted, most of them have always been crazy. But while most of them weren’t necessarily opposed to killing, it wasn’t their trademark the way it was for, say, the Joker.

With Death of the Family, Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo gave the Joker a very Leatherface-type look. Of course, that came courtesy of the Dollmaker from Detective Comics, who had an obsession with wearing other people’s skin. If you’ve been following Gregg Hurwitz’s work on Batman: The Dark Knight, you know he’s taken the Scarecrow and the Mad Hatter to some really twisted, scary places. Some of it works really well, and some of it falls flat. Obviously Batman’s nature as a “dark” character lends him to stories like this. But honestly, I’ve had my fill of that kind of thing for now. Or at least the high volume of it we’ve had lately. That’s probably why I’m so sour on Batgirl #21.

Batgirl #21, Fernando PasarinThis issue sees Barbara take on the New 52 version of the Ventriloquist. The character was originally created as a middle-aged man who carried a gangster puppet named Scarface, who was the “brains” of the operation. The puppet we see here, Ferdie, was obviously inspired by the Jigsaw character from the Saw movies. And the Ventriloquist, now an 18-year-old reality TV reject named Shauna Blazer, is very much a play off of horror flicks we’ve seen in the last 10 years. She dresses in white, has long dark hair and pasty skin. Think The Ring, The Grudge, that kind of stuff. She can throw her voice and mimic others effectively enough that it confuses her enemies, and she apparently has telekinetic powers, which means she can control Ferdie from a distance.

The climactic fight takes place in a dark, dirty, run down home, which stinks of rotten meat. There are two corpses sitting at a table, which Blazer proceeds to control using her telekinesis. There’s a decent amount of blood here, as Barbara gets stabbed by a drill protruding from the puppet’s hand. The corpses also wind up dismantled, which in turn causes our hero to vomit…icky.

These aren’t bad ideas, per se. But the tone it’s done it is has been so overdone lately it’s a turn off. You know what I miss right about now? The Greg Rucka/Ed Brubaker style Batman stories, i.e. content which wasn’t afraid to be bloody when the story called for it, but in the end focused more on on the crime drama elements. Heck, what about what Gail Simone used to do with Birds of Prey? The whole thrilling adventure elements mixed with the camaraderie and banter between characters? Can’t we do a book like that? If we’re going to have all these Bat books, can’t we diversify them a little bit? Does everything have to be a horror story?

Batgirl #21, Fernando Pasarin, interiorIn terms of what Simone is doing with Barbara’s character here, I’m in better spirits. After what happened with her brother a couple of issues ago, it makes sense for her to undergo a bit of a crisis of conscience. Not even in terms of giving up her crime fighting career, but of being worthy to wear the Bat symbol. I think that’s a cool idea.

In contrast, Simone will occasionally give Babs a downright brutal line that taints the whole issue. During Death of the Family, it was “You make be believe there is a Satan, Joker.” In this issue, when Batgirl sees a collection of newspaper clippings on Shauna’s wall which deal with homicides, we get: “She…she’s a fan of murder.” Sorry Gail, but…*gag*.

In all fairness, when judged on its own merits, Batgirl #21 really isn’t that bad. Yes, that one line was a face-palmer. But it’s only when you start looking at it next to the other Bat books that the real problems arise. Ferndando Pasarin’s pencils look great, and there’s still no one else I’d rather have writing this book than Gail Simone. But I’m still holding out hope that this book will one day be as fun as her work on Birds of Prey was. But I suppose the longer we wait, the less likely it is…

Follow Primary Ignition on Twitter @PrimaryIgnition, or at Facebook.com/PrimaryIgnition.

A Batgirl: The Darkest Reflection Review – Walking Tall

Batgirl, Vol. 1: The Darkest ReflectionTITLE: Batgirl, Vol. 1: The Darkest Reflection
AUTHOR: Gail Simone
PENCILLER: Ardian Syaf. Cover by Adam Hughes.
COLLECTS: Batgirl #1-6
FORMAT: Hardcover
PUBLISHER: DC Comics
PRICE: $24.99
RELEASED: July 8, 2012

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

Man, I miss Stephanie Brown.

Yep, good ol’ Spoiler. She was Batgirl for just two short years before the New 52 apparently retconned her out of existence. *sigh* She was such a fun, flawed character to read. And then she was just…poof. Gone. Full disclosure: It’s really hard for me not to compare Batgirl: The Darkest Reflection to Bryan Q. Miller’s books with Stephanie, even though this book does feature the return of the iconic Batgirl, Barbara Gordon. But I’m going to try my best to be unbiased here.

At least I’m not the only one who feels a bit iffy about this book. Babs’ return as Batgirl via the New 52 reboot came at the expense of her run as Oracle, the DCU’s post-The Killing Joke wheelchair bound tech guru and queen of the information superhighway. Jill Pantozzi over at Newsarama wrote an awesome piece about this change that I won’t even attempt to top. But in short, a lot of fans feel that giving Barbara her legs back took away an extremely compelling, and at times inspirational aspect of her character.

Batgirl, wheelchairThe Darkest Reflection realizes what a radical and controversial character shift this is, and as such we spend most of the book dealing with it. Our first villain is Mirror, a character who sees miracles as God’s mistakes, and sets out correct them. We also meet Gretel, a mind control villainess who Barbara sees a bit of herself in. All the while, our heroine must come to terms with the fact that she can walk again, and what it means for her as both Barbara and Batgirl. Then later, amidst all of this, the last person in the world Barbara expected to see again comes back into her life!

The book explains Barbara’s return to her feet with a couple of lines about a clinic in South Africa that performed a “neural replacement” operation on her. I suppose this is as good an explanation as any. The less we spend on the pseudoscience of Barbara getting her legs back, the better. I imagine it’s more comfortable for people that way….

From a writing standpoint this story is tricky. Barbara is dealing with a change most people can’t relate to. As a reader it’s sometimes tough to project yourself on to her. But there’s no way they could have gotten away with not telling this story. DC wanted to meet Oracle fans halfway by keeping her in continuity, and they had to have a transition story of sorts. In addition to setting up a new status quo for Barbara and planting some seeds for future stories, that’s basically what this book is. In that sense, the book does its job. We see Barbara’s survivor’s guilt, we see her uncertainty in the field, and we see Batman and Nightwing work with her again. It’s not nearly as fun as Gail Simone’s work on Birds of Prey, or any of the stuff Stephanie Brown did as Batgirl (sorry!), but it’s what we need to see to get us to the next part of Barbara’s story.

Batgirl #3, Nightwing, Ardian SyafIssue #3, which examines Barbara’s relationship with Dick Grayson/Nightwing, sees Dick ask Barbara a pretty heavy question: “Come on, Babs, you’re recovering…I’ve seen the records, Barbara. Do you want to be back in that wheelchair? Is that what this is all about?” Commissioner Gordon also brings up the question of whether Barbara is doing too much too soon, and he (presumably) doesn’t even know about the her superhero career. The book tells us that Barbara learned about the neural replacement procedure about a year before these events play out. Which means she’s been back on her feet less than a year. Even when you take her previous experience into account, that makes for a pretty quick return to swinging from rooftops, trading blows with homicidal maniacs and jumping on to speeding trains. I’m wondering if placing more emphasis on Babs’ quick return to action might have made it a little easier for readers to identify with her plight. Most people know how it feels to sit on the sidelines due to sickness or injury, and want to get back in the game as soon as possible. Seeing Barbara in a position like that, albeit in an exaggerated manner, might have helped play up the returning underdog angle a little better.

Batgirl: The Darkest Reflection, MirrorThat said, Mirror is a great villain for Barbara in this book. His M.O. about miracles being mistakes of the Divine make him the perfect opponent for the returning Batgirl. He’s got a really great look to him as well. His hooded costume mixed with the mirrors give him a Grim Reaper vibe that works really well. Since the reboot, DC has made a point to put their heroes up against all new villains, and Mirror was one of the best ones they came up with. Kudos to Ardian Syaf for making him, and the rest of the book look great.

The second villain, Gretel, is essentially a throwaway character who got her mind control powers in a way that’s never really explained. I understand why she’s there, but she’s obviously filler.

I’m not convinced that The Darkest Reflection is ultimately as good as it could have been. Gail Simone is certainly no stranger to Barbara, but I think she handled the character much better as part of a group dynamic in Birds of Prey. Now that Barbara’s return is out of the way, hopefully we can look forward to bigger and better things.

RATING: 6.5/10

Image 1 from christopherbowsman.blogspot.com. Image 2 http://eddiedangeroncomics.blogspot.com. Image 3 from booknerdreviews.com.

Follow Primary Ignition on Twitter @PrimaryIgnition, or at Facebook.com/PrimaryIgnition/