A Gotham City Sirens: Strange Fruit Retro Review – Hate that Joker!

***Retro Reviews are pieces of Primary Ignition‘s past (i.e. the old site) dug from the archives and returned to their rightful place. They’ve been minimally altered. The text has been cleaned up just a little, and I’ve updated the artistic credits to go beyond just the penciller. But this is mostly the content in its original form. At the end, I’ll throw in a bit of hindsight.***

TITLE: Gotham City Sirens: Strange Fruit
AUTHORS: Tony Bedard, Peter Calloway
ARTISTS: Andres Guinaldo, Jeremy Haun, Guillem March
INKERS: Lorenzo Luggiero, BIT, Walden Wong
COLORISTS: JD Smith, Tomeu Morey
LETTERER: Steve Wands, Travis Lanham, Dave Sharpe
COLLECTS: Gotham City Sirens #1419
FORMAT: Hardcover
PUBLISHER: DC Comics
PRICE: $22.99
RELEASED: August 16, 2011

By Rob Siebert
The same Rob from up top.

It was somewhere during this story that I gave up on Gotham City Sirens ever being the book I wanted it to be. As it started out as a title written by Paul Dini, I was hoping we’d get something more light-hearted, akin to the work Dini did with Harley Quinn and Poison Ivy on Batman: The Animated Series. Over the first several issues, we did get that. But it tapered off as different writers started to come on to the book.

Strange Fruit is fairly low on humor, and it’s the first trade in the series without Dini’s name on it, but a high-stakes storyline keeps the title from taking a steep plunge in quality.

The first two issues continue the story that was started in the last book. It’s about Poison Ivy helping an alien or something. In all honesty, my distaste for a random alien appearance in a Bat-book pretty much took me out of the story. It’s not terrible. But I wasn’t a fan.

We then move into a story in which Talia al Ghul and Zatanna are trying to stop a group of bad guys from targeting Catwoman so they can learn Batman’s true identity. What further complicates things is that Catwoman lied to Harley and Ivy, telling them she didn’t know his identity. Trust issues galore can be found in this story, which will lead to Harley making a VERY dramatic decision.

Something’s been nagging at me about Gotham City Sirens for awhile, and it traces back to the events of this book. The way Andres Guinaldo draws the Joker (see below) irritates me terribly. We only see him through sporadic flashbacks, but I’m consistently bothered with the way Guinaldo puts those Dark Knight-ish red etches at the corners of his mouth. He’s not the first artist to do it, but the way he does it is really distracting. They’re much too big. It looks like he’s smeared lipstick on his cheeks. I understand part of it is just Guinaldo’s style. But The Joker’s Dark Knight look doesn’t lend itself to that style.

The story with Zatanna and Talia isn’t the strongest I’ve ever seen, but it’s good. Both have been romantically linked to Bruce Wayne in the past, and those connections make for interesting storytelling. Selina and Zatanna also have a history, which adds to the fire.

While there are a few Harley Quinn moments that harken back to the tone the series started with, the book sets more of a traditional tone, which essentially makes it just like all the other Bat-books, which means it loses a huge part of its selling point. At least for me. I’m certainly not heartbroken this series won’t be part of the New 52 reboot.

***In Hindsight***
My mind about Andres Guinaldo’s Joker has not changed. Thankfully, that trend has died down in the years since.

At the time, I gave this book a 6/10. Upon re-reading, that feels about right. I liked that they played with Selina’s knowledge of Bruce’s identity. Though ironically this was post-Final Crisis, and the Batman we see in this book is Dick Grayson.

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

A Red Hood: The Lost Days Review – Aw, It’s a Rerun…

Red Hood: The Lost DaysTITLE: Red Hood: The Lost Days
AUTHOR: Judd Winick
PENCILLER: Pablo Raimondi, Jeremy Haun. Cover by Billy Tucci.
COLLECTS: Red Hood: The Lost Days #1-6
FORMAT: Softcover
PUBLISHER: DC Comics
PRICE: $14.99
RELEASE DATE: June 22, 2011

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

I feel like a good title for this book would have been I Know Who Killed Me. But instead they gave that title to a Lindsay Lohan movie. Cheeky bastards…

The Lost Days is a prequel to Judd Winick’s Under The Hood story, in which he brought Jason Todd back to life as an anti-hero, determined to rid Gotham City of crime the “right” way with guns, killing, and capital punishment in general. This book serves as the bridge between Jason’s resurrection and his return to Gotham in the Hush storyline. He gets some fresh combat training and becomes skilled with explosives before he’s finally ready to take on the man who killed him…The Joker. But can he bring himself to do it?

It doesn’t matter, since both characters have to make it to Under The Hood. But it’s the thought that counts!

Red Hood: The Lost Days, Jason ToddThis book isn’t perfect by any means, but it has its moments. What really sucks is that Winick has to devote an entire issue to exposition for people who didn’t read Under The Hood. I put down the first issue thinking: “I read all of that already!”

I’ve talked before about how great Winick is with raw emotion. There’s a scene in the second issue where Jason learns Batman hasn’t killed The Joker that’s very well done. To a degree, the reader understands Jason’s outrage, frustration and pain. His surrogate father didn’t love him enough (at least that’s how Jason sees it) to break his rule about killing. We can’t relate to Jason’s situation, but we can understand that rage.

Oddly enough, one thing we don’t learn in this book is why Jason chose the Red Hood moniker. From a creator’s perspective, it’s obviously meant to connect him to The Joker (before he became a killer clown, Joker called him self The Red Hood), but from a character standpoint, we don’t know why Jason did it. You’d think that would have been one of the first things Winick would want in the story.

Red Hood: The Lost Days, Jason Todd ,Talia al GhulAlso, don’t be fooled by Billy Tucci’s wonderful issue covers. While they do display Jason in that awesome red helmet (at least I think it’s awesome) and combat gear, he doesn’t put that stuff on until the last page of the last issue. With some of these issues, the covers were more exciting than the story could hope to be.

Jason spends two issues foiling Russian mobsters, which is okay I guess. It works to establish the fact that he’s not just a heartless killer, and he still believes in justice.We see a lot of Talia al Ghul in this story, as she helps Jason obtain the resources he needs. There’s a bizarre sexual element to their partnership that doesn’t make much sense. In the first issue, Ra’s al Ghul flat out tells Talia that helping Jason won’t make Bruce Wayne love her. So then she not only helps him, but goes that way with him? Yeah, THAT made a lot of sense.

All in all, The Lost Days really doesn’t give us any information that wasn’t implied before, save for the Talia/Jason awkwardness that shouldn’t have been there in the first place. It’s not necessarily a bad story, but I get the impression the only reason this was all brought up again was to coincide with the DVD release of Batman: Under The Red Hood, which conveniently, Winick worked on. This book was never going to be a 10, but it certainly could have been better.

RATING: 4.5/10

Image 1 from comicvine.com. Image 2 from cornflakepizza.tumblr.com.

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