Comics Round-up 15.01.2014

Batgirl v3 Vol.1

Shadowhawk and Bane of Kings welcome you to the first comics round-up of the new year.

“Just one title for me this time, but it was a pretty good one, so that’s that. I’m getting into reading some older Batgirl comics and across three different trades, the experience has paid off. I think I’m developing into a fan of Bryan Q. Miller’s Batgirl with Stephanie Brown as the titular character.” ~Shadowhawk, The Founding Fields

Death of the Family hits Red Hood and the Outlaws and Nightwing in trade. Whilst Lobdell is able to make Red Hood one of the most relevant books to the crossover out of the entire Bat-family he’s unable to do Jason Todd justice. On the other hand, Kyle Higgins’ Nightwing story is the better of the two, but not the character’s best outing.~Bane of Kings, The Founding Fields

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Comics reviewed by Shadowhawk: Batgirl v3 Volume 1: Batgirl Rising (DC Comics).

*****

Batgirl v3 Vol.1

 Batgirl v3 Volume 1: Batgirl Rising

Up until I got back into comics in 2012 and started to frequent comics message boards, I had no idea that Barbara Gordon was not the only Batgirl. I had no idea that she had once forcibly given up the suit and that other characters had stepped in to fill that void over the years. Last month, I finally took the plunge to read some of the stories around these other characters and I started with the six-issue arc that marked the second run of Batgirl, under Adam Beechen and Jim Calafiore with Cassandra Cain in the titular role. This mini-series was preceded by a much longer run, which I really should get around to reading, and will hopefully.

This new series, volume 3, marks the continuing adventures of Stephanie Brown, the character who replaces Cassandra Cain as Batgirl sometime during the events of Batman’s death and disappearance, or so I understand. This first arc marks her growth into that role, eventually involving Barbara Gordon’s blessings and full support. In many ways, this arc parallels their stories as they continue to deal with a world that is new to them, and very different from what they have known before. I really liked Cassandra Cain as Batgirl and I can see a lot of the same positives in Stephanie Brown as well. Her monologue is a bit too teen for me at times, and can kind of get really annoying, but by and large Bryan Q. Miller writes her really well and does a lot to flesh her out. Her romance with Tim Drake, the third Robin, is something that I found shallow and is one of the few criticisms I have about Miller’s writing but I’m not too concerned about it since there is a lot more backstory to their relationship that I am missing, not having read any previous comics involving Stephanie.

There are a lot of villains featured in this arc, and they all get mostly good outings throughout. The story moves quite quickly so we don’t get to spend too much time with either of them, but I liked that. No particularly long arcs like what is the norm today, and that’s quite welcome. It helps to break down the overall story into nice, manageable chunks as a reader, and I’m all for that.

A lot of artists are involved on this arc: Lee Garbett, Trevor Scott, Phil Noto, Cully Hamner and others. Taken together, I think the artwork is pretty solid. There is extremely little sexualisation of the character, certainly nothing gratuitous, and for that I’m very grateful. The character is treated with respect, and since we also have no less than two prominent disabled characters here, that’s all the more important, as a balance. There are a few panels where Stephanie is drawn a bit weird and the overall art isn’t quite polished as it could have been, but such instances are thankfully few and far in between. Good pencils, good inks, good colours, good everything basically.

I’ve already read the second arc, and quite liked it too, so this is definitely a series that I’m looking to continue on with and finish soon. Let’s hope all the other arcs are just as good at the least!

Rating: 8/10

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Comics reviewed by Bane of Kings: New 52: Red Hood and the Outlaws Volume 3, and, New 52: Nightwing Volume 3 (DC Comics).

*****

Red Hood and the Outlaws Vol. 3

 Red Hood and the Outlaws Volume 3

Story: Scott Lobdell, Fabian Nicieza, Scott Snyder | Art: Pascual Ferry, Ig Guara, Brett Booth | Cover: Mico Suayen | Publisher: DC Comics | Collects: Red Hood and the Outlaws #0, #14-18, Teen Titans #15-16, Batman #17

In these stories from RED HOOD AND THE OUTLAWS #0 and 14-17 and TEEN TITANS #15-16, it’s Red Hood and Red Robin vs. The Joker! And how will the death of Damian Wayne drive Batman into battle against Jason Todd?

One of the many Lobdell written titles of the New 52, Red Hood and the Outlaws is now being run by James Tynion IV who is weaving an incredible tale with Talon right now. Red Hood and the Outlaws however based on this Volume is one of Lobdell’s better works, not quite like the mess that is Superman or Teen Titans, but that doesn’t mean that it’s good, and as his work continues to suffer from crossover after crossover, Red Hood and the Outlaws is dragged into yet another one – even if it might not have been one of his own making, Death of the Family. And what does Lobdell do but decide to pull in the Teen Titans as well? As if constant Superboy crossovers weren’t enough – it seems like Lobdell is like Hickman would be if he was a bad writer – you have to be reading all of his books to understand what the hell is going on. Thankfully, due to NetGalley, I have knowledge of everything that goes down in the Death of the Family events apart from Catwoman, Detective Comics and Suicide Squad – and I can safely say that Red Hood and the Outlaws Vol. 3 is actually something that’s not completely bad. It’s decent. In fact, it’s one of the only books that truly deserves the title of the “Death of the Family” tie-in, with the action being largely focused on the Joker all the way through. Dragging in Tim Drake and the Teen Titans as well, Lobdell weaves a decent book – or at least decent by his standards, but still is let down by several crucial elements.

The way Red Hood and the Outlaws Vol. 3 is structured makes it feel like the event was not about Batman but about Jason Todd all along. If you’ll remember, Jason was killed by the Joker during his Robin days. These events led him down a darker path to become the Red Hood – and #0 is a must read if you’re looking for more on the character and his confrontation with the Joker. Whilst I’m not going to say that it’s good – it does provide a handy information about the origin of Jason Todd and whilst Lobdell does a decent job at capturing Jason’s voice and covers everything in his life from his birth to his death by the Joker. Three artists worked on this issue displaying its inconsistency and the four-page backup story is somewhat odd and out of place. And when you add Lobdell’s take on the Joker as well it doesn’t really fit – breaking the fourth wall doesn’t work as well as it does with Deadpool and the whole Joker orchestrating Robin’s origin doesn’t really work, especially when you consider that you have to accept that the Joker knows who Batman is under the mask.

Overall, the #0 issue is weak and not a strong start to the book. Don’t worry though, if you were put off by this issue, by and large – it doesn’t get better. Sure, it might be decent and does improve slightly but there are no leaps and bounds that make it a must read comic like Green Arrow, Batman and Swamp Thing are at the moment. In fact, Red Hood and the Outlaws, based on this Volume is probably one of the weaker additions to the New 52.

After the origin story’s done we’re back in familiar territory or at least familiar territory with Lobdell and the tie-ins come at us full force. This book collects material from Red Hood and the Outlaws and Teen Titans and it especially helps that you should have full knowledge of Batman Vol. 3 before you delve into this book otherwise it won’t make sense, and trust me – you should. Tim Drake makes an appearance here and it was nice seeing him with Jason but to be honest I could have done without the rest of the Teen Titans or even Arsenal and Starfire at all. This should have been Tim and Jason vs. The Joker.

And the plot half of the time doesn’t make sense. How the hell did the Joker have the time to set up everything? And to top it all off an attempt is made to tease future issues with Hugo Strange and Deathstroke but they simply just don’t work here. The best part of the Volume overall is probably the reunion between Jason and Tim Drake, something that you will probably be picking up anyway based on your liking of the characters. (As a side note, Tim, or at least Pre-New 52 Tim for me is my favourite Robin – whilst Dick’s my favourite DC character I think he’s better suited to the role of Nightwing).

And of course there’s the obligatory inclusion of Batman #17. How many times has this been collected in trade paperback now? But regardless, overall – this book is pretty decent. It’s not anywhere near the must-read status  and it’s certainly not near “I’ll read it because I have some extra cash” status as well. But for people looking for the reunion of Tim Drake and Jason Todd then this book may well be right up your street.

Rating: 2.5/5

 *****

Nightwing Vol. 3

 Nightwing Volume 3

Story: Kyle Higgins, Tom DeFalco, Scott Snyder, | Art: Andres Guinaldo, Eddy Barrows, Juan Jose Ryp, Greg Capullo | Cover: Eddy Barrows, Eber Ferreira | Publisher: DC Comics | Collects: #13-18, Batman #17

The Joker returns to Gotham City, and he’s more dangerous than ever! The Joker sets his twisted sights on the members of the Bat-Family and hits them where it hurts—and for Dick Grayson, that means going after the family he’s built up for the past year at Haly’s Circus!

I read the first six issues of Nightwing when I was first getting into comics and really liked what I saw. Kyle Higgins had impressed and weaved an entertaining storyline and when I started the switch to print comics it would only be a matter of time before I jumped back in on the series – with #19, and I haven’t looked back since with the character swiftly becoming my favourite of DC’s rooster. So, when Death of the Family hit NetGalley I thought to use it as an opportunity to explore Nightwing’s pre-Chicago days further. And as it turns out, whilst it’s not as strong as the Tony Zucco arc, Death of the Family is  pretty good tale nonetheless – fast paced, action packed and fun. The artwork is a problem because of the lack of a good consistent artist for this title, seemingly swapping places every arc or so. The majority of Nightwing Vol. 3 doesn’t even connect to the events going down in Death of the Family – to add to the problems that this Volume has, but overall, it’s still a lot of fun and I ended up really enjoying what I saw here, and couldn’t help but feel that this is my third favourite Death of the Family title, coming closely in behind Batgirl Vol. 3 and of course Batman itself.

The main strength of Nightwing Vol. 3 is its Lady Shiva storyline. Forget the Death of the Family crossover, Nightwing is at his best when he’s on his own and I believe that’s one of the main reasons why Higgins chose to move Dick Grayson from Gotham to Chicago following the events of this Volume. The Lady Shiva storyline was interesting fun and typical Nightwing in all respects, providing a enjoyable read. The Death of the Family section is quite decent as well – Higgins portrays a Joker that’s almost as good as Snyder’s and is brought to life by some strong artwork that is unfortunately inconsistent throughout the whole Volume – something else that bugged me was the fact that they didn’t really get the take on Alfred completely right as well.

Reading all the Death of the Family graphic novels at the same time (like I did as I got them all from NetGalley) does tend to pose a bit of a problem. They all repeat some elements of the material found in the core Batbook and this does tend to get frustrating after a while. It’s likely that if you’re reading Nightwing you’re reading Batman you’ll already have read it by now. It’s something that’s bearable however and can be easily skipped if you’re reading this as a TBP in print. I just had to click through it as quickly as I could on my computer, but print readers shouldn’t have a problem with it.

Overall then, Nightwing Vol. 3 is a good book but not without its problems. It’s not quite as good as Gail Simone’s Batgirl but if you’re a Dick Grayson fan then this will be right up your street. Like with the Red Hood and the Outlaws its worth reading Batman Vol. 3 whilst you can, ideally beforehand so that you know what’s going down in this Volume.

Rating: 4/5

Shadowhawk is a regular contributor to TFF. A resident of Dubai, Shadowhawk reads, reads and reads. His opinions are always clear and concise. His articles always worth reading.

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