Tag Archives: Helena Bertinelli

A Batgirl and the Birds of Prey: Rebirth #1 Review – The Never-Ending Joke

Batgirl & The Birds of Prey: Rebirth #1, 2016, Yanick PaquetteTITLE: Batgirl and the Birds of Prey: Rebirth #1
AUTHORS: Julie Benson, Shawna Benson
PENCILLER: Claire Roe. Cover by Yanick Paquette.
PUBLISHER: DC Comics
PRICE: $2.99
RELEASED: July 20, 2016

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

I’ve been looking for a reason to write about The Killing Joke, what with the animated movie coming out. I didn’t expect to find it here. But I’ll take it!

Someone is sending information to mafia families using the name Oracle, Barbara Gordon’s handle during her days in a wheelchair. This obviously strikes a personal chord, and Batgirl asks Black Canary to help her investigate. Babs is looking to get the Birds of Prey back together. But Dinah isn’t interested (“I’ve moved on. So have you.”). Still, she tags along for her friend’s sake. They cross paths with Huntress, who inexplicably knows some big secrets. But the identity of this mysterious new Oracle? That’s still a secret.

In reviewing how Babs became Oracle, we flash back to The Killing Joke. We see Claire Roe’s take on some of the famous shots from that story: Joker in the Hawaiian shirt, Barbara getting shot with the coffee mug in her hands, her laying looking up at him. Interestingly, Roe puts Barbara in a tank top and pants, as opposed to the skirt and blouse she was wearing in that story.

Batgirl and the Birds of Prey #1, Killing Joke flashbackI read an article recently on DC’s refusal to put The Killing Joke behind them. Though heralded as a landmark story, it’s unquestionably brutal and cruel. It also spawned an era of creators seemingly trying to mimic The Killing Joke by having female characters face awful acts of violence (see Women in Refrigerators). Yet the story lives on. Why? For the same reason DC won’t give up on Watchmen or The Dark Knight Returns. Name value.

Those three stories were arguably the three tentpole works of the “grim and gritty” movement in the ’80s. If you’ve been into comics at all over the last 30 years, chances are you’ve at least heard of them. In one way or another, they’re masterpieces that changed the industry. So by connecting those stories to their new books, DC creates a bridge to readers that have either left them behind, or simply aren’t reading comics anymore.

That’s one of the reasons why the first several issues of the New 52 Batgirl series weren’t just about Barbara being a superhero again. They were about her recovering, and coming to grips with being able to walk again. Just like in this issue, in 2011’s Batgirl #1 we relived the Joker shooting scene, and went over Barbara’s trauma. Eventually Babs even winds up confronting a nameless henchmen from that story.

I’m not disputing The Killing Joke is a great story, albeit one that inspired a bunch of bad creative choices. I just hope a day comes where we don’t have to go back to it every time Barbara has a new series. There are other stories out there, after all…

Huntress church sceneSo what’s with Dinah not wanting to put the Birds of Prey back together? The New 52 Birds of Prey series wasn’t exactly their highest of highs. But Babs and Dinah are still good friends. Why the cold shoulder?

Huntress makes her first appearance in a church confessional. I’m not as familiar with this version of Helena, but it looks like she’s as much a believer as her pre-New 52 counterpart was. The visual messaging in the church scene makes sense, particularly the shot of her walking out. By that point, you know her mission is to kill mafia hitmen. To say the least, she’s become a lapsed Catholic. You’ll notice this version of the Huntress costume doesn’t include a cross necklace.

The panels in the confessional are lit very interestingly (some shown above). Colorist Allen Passalaqua does great things withthe faint light coming in from the church and the resulting shadows on Helena’s face. The panel where her elbow is on the ledge is the best in the book, giving us an image more natural than what we see in most superhero books.

In contrast, Batgirl has what I’ll call some “mouth issues.” Not Barbara. Just Batgirl. I can’t decide if Claire Roe draws it in a way that’s somehow conspicuous, or if she just came out a little toothy. In certain panels, she almost looks like a buck-toothed Pipi Longstocking in a cowl. It’s one thing if that’s the look she’s going for. I don’t think it is.

Batgirl and the Birds, just a nameIt’s hard to believe, but Birds of Prey turns 20 this year. The group has had a variety of incarnations. But the most successful, at least creatively, have always had two ingredients: Barbara Gordon and Dinah Lance. At its core, Birds of Prey is a buddy superhero series about two women who bonded through their work and found friendship. If you’re missing one of them, you don’t have Birds of Prey. Thankfully, Batgirl and the Birds of Prey has its core intact. Now they simply need to built on top of that. With two female writers and a female penciller, I’m hopeful they build a series unlike any other on the stands.

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A Nightwing: Rebirth #1 Review – Better in Blue

Nightwing: Rebirth #1, 2016, coverTITLE: Nightwing: Rebirth #1
AUTHOR: Tim Seeley
PENCILLER: Yanick Paquette. Cover by Javier Fernandez.
PUBLISHER: DC Comics
PRICE: $2.99
RELEASED: July 13, 2016

***WARNING: Spoilers lay ahead.***

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

This issue should really be called Nightwing Returns. For yours truly, that’s what it is. Not just in terms of Dick Grayson putting the costume on again. It’s as simple as him wearing blue.

I can’t even tell you how hung up I was on that New 52 costume. I’ve discussed this before, but it bears repeating: Nightwing should never wear red on a permanent basis. Red is a Robin color. In switching from Robin to Nightwing, the change from red to blue was more important than many people realize. The shift to the opposite end of the color spectrum was a visual representation of his shift toward independence. To put him in red moves him back toward Batman, intentional or not. Plus, when you realize Jason Todd, Tim Drake, and Damian Wayne all wear red and have dark hair, the whole legacy of Robin starts to look like a creepy cult. All in all, everything is better when Dick is in blue.

With his secret identity now restored, Dick stops and smells the proverbial roses with his Spyral cohorts and surrogate family members before moving on to the next phase of his life. The Parliament of Owls (a larger version of the Court of Owls) continues to target Dick. The time has now come for Dick to infiltrate the group using the identity they tried to corrupt and make their own: Nightwing!

Nightwing: Rebirth #1, Yanick PaquetteThis issue tells us Dick’s identity is now a secret again.  To the best of my knowledge, this happened off page somewhere. As I recall, Helena Bertinelli told Dick that Spyral could use its tech to make the world forget what they saw in Forever Evil. This kind of trick isn’t new. You’ve got to get the genie back in the bottle somehow, of course. I just wish we’d actually seen it happen. We don’t even know for sure it was Spiral that restored Dick’s secret. Let’s hope he didn’t make a deal with Mephisto…

The whole stopping by to talk thing is a very Dick Grayson thing to do. We’ve seen it a bunch over the years. His talks with Tiger King and Midnighter feel like a transition out of the Grayson era. Though I wouldn’t be at all surprised to see him team with the latter again soon. He briefly speaks with Helena through a door, leaving us longing for a sense of closure between the two. Though Yanick Paquette treats us to a splash page of her in the Huntress costume, practically guaranteeing they’ll meet again down the line. Paquette is also on cover duty for Helena’s adventures in Batgirl & The Birds of Prey, which is a nice connection between the books. Oddly enough, the variant cover by Babs Tarr gives us another Nightwing/Batgirl connection. That can’t be accidental, can it?

So…does Lincoln March die in this book? He takes an arrow through the eyeball, so that’s definitely the implication. If this is the end for him, that’s a disappointment. His big quarrel was with his alleged brother Bruce Wayne. There was unfinished business there. Even factoring in his Grayson role, to see him snuffed out in a Nightwing book feels like a whimper. I’m hoping the Owls restore him, keep him in stasis, or something to that effect.

Nightwing: Rebirth #1, Dick and Damian, yanick PaquetteI’ve been high on Yanick Paquette in the wake of Batman #49. But some of his renderings of Dick and Damian are weirdly off in this issue. For instance, the image at right. What, pray tell, is wrong with Damian’s face? Is it contorted because his eyes hurt? Is he rolling his eyes at the thought of Spyral being on the side of the angels? At certain points he also looks like he’s hunching.

On the plus side, he ends on a splash page of Dick in the Nightwing suit, and it instantly satiated my craving for blue Nightwing. Well done, sir.

Just to clarify, I’m not downing Kyle Higgins, or anyone who worked on the red Nightwing book. Eddy Barrows did some nice work with Dick, and I was pleased when Higgins moved the setting to Chicago. Grayson also turned out better than many of us imagined. But this issue feels like a homecoming. Just as so much we loved about the old DCU has come back in this Rebirth initiative, so has the Nightwing we know and love.

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A Grayson #1 Review – “Dick” Jokes, Guns, and The Midnighter

Grayson #1 (2014)TITLE: Grayson #1
AUTHOR: Tim Seeley, Tom King
PENCILLER: Mikel Janin. Cover by Andrew Robinson.
PUBLISHER: DC Comics
PRICE: $2.99
RELEASED: July 9, 2014

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

Though this issue just hit the stands this week, Grayson has, for my money, had problems for months…

First and foremost, the series tag line: “You think you know Nightwing…You don’t know Dick.” That’s literally the worst promotional line I’ve ever read for anything, ever. His name is Dick. Dick is also a phallic euphemism. So let’s go ahead and use the same stupid, third grade quality pun we heard in that timeless cinematic classic, Batman and Robin. That’ll hook the fans! To me, that line borders on disrespecting the Dick Grayson character, who by the way, is one of the founding heroes of the DC Universe. Having made his debut in 1939, he predates Wonder Woman, Green Lantern, and most of the other pillars of the company’s mythos. “You don’t know Dick.” What a joke.

Grayson #1, Robin, NIghtwingSecondly, while putting Dick Grayson in this super spy role does indeed have some interesting storytelling potential, exactly how much desire was there from a fan’s perspective to have him removed from the Nightwing role? Nightwing possesses that oh-so-important cool factor that many of DC’s heroes are (arguably) lacking. At the tail end of his career as Robin, he stood up to Batman and opted to become his own man, with his own set of principles. That being said, he still loved Bruce like a father, and would chip in and help when he needed to. Then in the ’90s he got that awesome black costume with the blue “V” stripe, he got his own city to protect, his own series, and he was off to the races. He also had plenty of sex appeal for female readers. Dick was a ripped, athletic superhero with a dark and tragic origin who you could also take home to mom. Mind you, some of his appeal has been watered down since the New 52 reboot. But it was still a fact: Nightwing rules. Yes, this spy stuff has potential. But why fix what isn’t broken?

Thirdly, the cover. Dick Grayson with a gun. No. BIG no. Granted, Tim Seeley has said they’re going to dive into the issue of Dick having to use a gun on the job, which is fine. But still, no. There were plenty of other directions they could have gone in. And even if they had to use the gun, this cover still sucks. I like the use of color, but what does Dick’s face say? Nothing. It’s essentially a blank expression. His body also looks too slim and lanky for my taste. Oddly enough, somewhere along the line his hair got changed. In the original solicitation (shown left), his hair was short, and bit more militaristic looking. Now it’s longer, and more reminiscent of his Nightwing look. I’ll give them this much: That was a positive change.

Grayson #1, rescueAnd so, with all that working against it, we open Grayson #1 and find something that’s really not so bad.

After the events of Forever Evil, Dick Grayson/Nightwing is thought to be dead. In reality, he’s been dispatched by Batman to be a mole in the top secret espionage organization known as Spyral (see Batman Incorporated). Now, guided by the mysterious Mr. Minos, Grayson and his new partner Helena Bertinelli must save the life of a Russian man carrying a bioweapon inside his body. And in this first issue, Dick crosses paths with none other than The Midnighter of The Authority fame.

Our first page is somewhat akin to what we saw when we opened All Star Superman #1. Four panels, each with sentence fragments to fill us in on Dick’s backstory. It’s not nearly as epic as it could have been, because we’re stuck with the crappy New 52 Robin and Nightwing costumes. But Seeley and Janin got most of the exposition out of the way early, so I give them credit for that.

Grayson #1, MidnighterDick starts out the issue in a blonde wig, which is pretty damn surreal. But once he takes it off and the action kicks in, it becomes apparent that this is in fact the Dick Grayson we know and love. As a longtime Nightwing fan, that was a big relief. Seeley and King have changed the character’s M.O., but they’ve kept his personality intact. What’s more, Seeley writes a better Dick Grayson than I’ve seen in awhile. Maybe the best since the New 52 began.

The Midnighter’s appearance in this issue came as a surprise, though not an unwelcome one. It serves as an interesting reminder that there are other black ops heroes out there whose interests could collide with Spyral’s (Checkmate also gets name-dropped in this issue). The motion effects do a lot to accentuate the fight, and add a certain flow to the proceedings. There’s also some pretty good dialouge in there…

Midnighter: “Disciplined, but not averse to improvisation. You fight like jazz.”

Dick: “…you talk an awful lot for the grim and gritty type.

We also get a little more time with the New 52 incarnation of Helena Bertinelli (not to be confused with Huntress, who is from Earth-2). Now an African American agent of Spyral, she’s apparently attracted to her new partner. But Dick isn’t keen to let her get too close, as he’s a mole in the Spyral organization. That’s obviously an interesting dynamic, and of course, plays up Dick’s status as the company’s resident male sex symbol. So the pieces are in place for some interesting storytelling there.

In the end, Grayson #1 is flawed. But it’s not nearly as flawed as it could have been. Tim Seeley, Tom King, Mikel Janin, and everybody involved with this series has turned it into a potential hot commodity. But let’s make sure we underscore potential. It’s only one issue, folks. There are a lot of places we can go from here.

Images 1 and 2 from newsarama.com. Image 3 from dreamwidth.org.

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