Posted in Uncategorized

A Batgirl Annual #3 Review – Ladies Night

Batgirl Annual #3TITLE: Batgirl Annual #3
AUTHORS: Cameron Stewart, Brenden Fletcher
PENCILLERS: Bengal, David Lafuente, Ming Doyle, Mingjue Helen Chen
PRICE: $4.99
RELEASED: July 29, 2015

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

In my experience annuals are, by and large, nothing to get too excited about. More often they’re not, an annual is simply a bonus standalone issue of a series that’s a little longer, and a little more expensive. No more, no less.

Batgirl Annual #3 is a rare exception to that rule.

Penned by series writers Cameron Stewart & Brenden Fletcher, the issue pairs Babs with a several different heroes as she works to uncover the secret of a superweapon with a power to destroy the world. The mystery willl reunite our hero with Dick Grayson (sort of) and Batwoman, as well as introduce her to The Spoiler, and later Olive and Maps of Gotham Academy.

Batgirl Annual #3As good comics are prone to doing, Batgirl Annual #3 switches artists to coincide with Batgirl switching partners. Bengal gets the lion’s share of the issue with our inciting incident, and Barbara’s run-in with Dick and the Spyral crew. Bengal’s European/Asian style is a nice fit for this version of Batgirl. It’s light and funny when it needs to be, and has a certain intensity when it’s called for. As for the story itself, Babs and Helena Bertinelli agree to work together in a manner so quick it’s unintentionally funny. It takes less than a page. You’d think someone as smart as Barbara Gordon would be a little more cynical about a new partner in the field. As for Dick and Barbara, their being so close, with the latter completely oblivious, is seemingly played for comedy at times. At one point their fingers are nearly touching, yet Batgirl can’t tell there’s another human being mere inches from her. Purely from a fan perspective, I was feeling Dick Grayson’s agony at deceiving her. So the comedy not only landed with a thud, but was out of place.

Bengal passes the baton to David Lafuente for Babs’ brief meeting with The Spoiler. As a huge fan of the Stephanie Brown Batgirl series, seeing Barbara and Steph at the same age is surreal. Still, I suppose they mesh well. Lafuente is certainly no stranger to drawing teenage superheroes (see Ultimate Comics Spider-Man), so I’ve got no issues with his work. Stewart and Fletcher also do Stephanie justice.

From a writing standpoint, the Batgirl/Batwoman team up is fine. But Ming Doyle’s art is, at times, very awkward. This is particularly true of her work on Barbara’s face, so much so it takes you out of the story. Her figure rendering, particularly during a battle scene, leaves something to be desired as well. Doyle has done some great work, but it won’t be found here.

Batgirl Annual #3, Mingjue ChenWe cap things off with what looks like something out of an old Disney 2D animated film. In this case, that’s a good thing. Minjue Helen Chen very much captures the spirit of Gotham Academy. Olive, Maps, and Batgirl hunt for answers in the school library in a sequence that’s very reminiscent of Harry Potter, Hogwarts, etc. Chen captures some of the manga vibe that Karl Kerschl brings to the monthly book, while adding her own sense of wonder and excitement. She’s tailor made for this “Youth Gotham” line DC is marketing.

 It’s very much fitting that Batgirl Annual #3 is the exception to the annuals rule. For the past year, the series itself has been the exception to what were seemingly a lot of rules about the Bat-books. Gotham City can, and should, be a dark and scary place. But it should also be a fun place to read about, and lose yourself in. That’s the true appeal of Batgirl, and the Young Gotham line in general: DC remembering that comics can be fun.

Image 1 from the Image 2 from 3 from @mingjuechen.

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Posted in Comic Books/Graphic Novels

First Impressions: Mara #1

Mara #1, 2012, Image ComicsTITLE: Mara #1
AUTHOR: Brian Wood
PRICE: $2.99
RELEASED: December 26, 2012

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

Before he takes on the Star Wars universe at Dark Horse next month, Brian Wood tries to sell us something even more far fetched than worlds of wookies, ewoks and droids: That America will one day embrace volleyball as a major national sport. And yet in doing so, he manages to give us a story that is high on intrigue.

In an nation apart by war and racial divides, 17-year-old Mara Prince is the biggest sports star in the world. She’s “a global celebrity and commercial brand, worth more than she could ever spend.” Then, something happens during a game. As a result, Mara’s life and career are tarnished forever (or at least that’s what we can assume at this point). In this high-tech age of global turmoil and economic chaos, what happens to a sports superstar when she falls from grace? In any event, Mara’s life will never be the same.

Mara #1, 2012, Ming DoyleTo an extent Mara is very much a mirror into our own culture, not just in terms of sports heroes, but celebrities and public figures in general. Once your image is tarnished, it is often tarnished forever. In sports alone, we’ve got names like Tiger Woods, Pete Rose, Mike Tyson, and perhaps the most despicable of them all, Jerry Sandusky. Those are rather extreme examples compared to what we see in this issue, but it’s the same sort of theme. Wood and Doyle also explore the idea of sports as escapism, which is as prevalent today as ever. When we open the issue, Wood gives us some newscast dialogue, then tosses in some sportscast dialogue and gradually shifts the balance completely in that direction. It creates the feel of flipping channels back and forth until settling on the escapism, instead of the grim reality.

Ming Doyle is also in great form here. There’s an absolutely wonderful full page shot of a swimsuit clad Mara in a Sports Illustrated or Esquire-style photo shoot pose. Her cover is also very well done, with the blemish on Mara’s face obviously serving as a metaphor for her now blemished reputation.

Mara is one to watch. Obviously, there are a variety of ways any book could go wrong at this point. But I have a good feeling about this one.

Image 1 from 

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