Posted in Comic Books/Graphic Novels

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.

Posted in Comic Books/Graphic Novels

A Robin War #1 Review – Teenage Wasteland

Robin War #1TITLE: Robin War #1
AUTHORS: Tom King (story), Khary Randolph, Alain Mauricet, Jorge Corona, Andres Guinaldo, Walden Wong.
PENCILLERS: Emilio Lopez, Chris Sotomayor, Gabe Elitaeb, Sandra Molina. Cover by Mikel Janin.
PUBLISHER: DC Comics
PRICE: $4.99
RELEASED: November 2, 2015

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

Robin War is a crossover that kicks off with a teenager, a cop, and a couple of guns.

*tugs at collar* G’aahhhh….

Per the 75th anniversary of the Robin character, we have Robin War, a crossover event that pits the various characters that have worn the mantle of Robin against The Court of Owls. After a showdown between one of the many youngsters acting under the banner of Robin (See We Are Robin) accidentally kills a policeman, Gotham City strikes back at the movement. Anyone even wearing Robin-like attire is subject to arrest, via the “Robin Laws” enacted by a city councilwoman with ties to the Court of Owls. The ensuing conflict will draw the attention of not only Batman (Jim Gordon), but the four young men who worked aside the original Batman as Robin. Dick Grayson, Jason Todd, Tim Drake, and the current Robin Damian Wayne are headed back to Gotham.

Robin War #1, title pageConceptually, in terms of celebrating the anniversary of Robin, I appreciate this crossover more than Batman & Robin Eternal. Though I’m not sure what it’s long term effects may be, the event itself is concise. It also touches books like Robin: Son of Batman, Teen Titans, Red Hood & Arsenal, and even Gotham Academy. It’s a nice illustration of how widespread Robin’s influence on the DC Universe has been. It also keeps the event contained within the span of about a month, which is nice.

Police brutality and the ethics of law enforcement are topical right now, for obvious reasons. It’s tough to read this book and not think of kids like Trayvon Martin. Especially when we get to the scene where Duke Thomas is arrested for simply wearing red shoes. I doubt they’re going for political commentary with this issue, but they’re certainly playing off that controversy here. Whether that’s tacky or not is subjective, I suppose. Either way, it gives Robin War an impactful opening.

Robin War #1, RobinsFor obvious reasons, Dick Grayson will play a big role here. The cliffhanger implies teases pretty interesting about his future. When we first see him here, he’s wearing a black and white suit that’s so James Bond it’s almost funny. At one point, the Court refers to him as the “Gray Son of Gotham,” so I guess we’re going back to that crap again. There’s also a splash page in which Dick, after getting a summon from his Gotham comrades, jumps out a window. Between the splash and the previous page, his full line is: “At the end of the day, from the beginning of the day…first and always foremost…I am Robin!”

I don’t like this bit. Firstly, the line is terribly redundant. They could have cut a lot of fat there and just had him say, “First and foremost, I am Robin!” Secondly, I’m not sure I appreciate that sentiment. Yes, Dick Grayson was Robin before he was anything else. But he’s been a lot of other things too. What so many modern writers seem to be forgetting about is the independence Dick gained when he broke away from Batman to become Nightwing. He’s loyal to his Gotham family, but he’s also his own man. I get what they’re going for with this line, but it turned me off.

On the flip side, I like how Damian is played up in this issue. He is Robin, after all. He also has some really good reactions to both the Robin movement with Duke Thomas and Jim Gordon acting as Batman. Solicitations indicate he’s staying in Gotham after Robin War, which is a good thing from where I sit.

Robin War #1, Robin introWe have a revolving door of artists on this thing, which is always frustrating. There’s an especially awkward transition when we go from Damian’s confrontation with Bat Cop, to Red Hood and Red Robin appearing on the scene. The styles and the colors just clash. It’s not necessarily the artists’ fault. It’s just a bad transition.

Robin War #1 has its flaws. In my experience, things tend to get a little messy when you have so many people collaborating on a single issue. But generally, I’m interested to see where it’s going. Batman’s apprentices against The Court of Owls doesn’t sound like the worst thing in the world.

Image 1 from io9.com. Remaining images from author’s collection.

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