Don’t have time for long reviews of comics? Then check out Graphic Bits: bite sized chunks of comic book goodness designed to get behind the panels and into your hearts.
Longer versions of all three of Richard’s reviews can be found at Newsarama this week – because he’s so fancy.
Gotham Academy #1
It’s taken DC about nine waves of new books since the birth of the New 52, but Gotham Academy might represent one of the first truly original concepts of the relaunch, and one aimed at a growing youth audience that exists outside the direct market. Taking teen drama and positioning it firmly within the ever-growing family of Batman titles, the prestigious prep school setting provides the backdrop for adolescent mysteries that are just as much Famous Five as they are morning cartoons. The oddball academy, filled with spooky looking teachers and forbidden wings, welcomes its latest student in first-year Mia ‘Maps’ Mizoguchi. So named because she never goes anywhere without a flashlight or compass, as ready for adventure as she is. She finds it when her reluctant school-appointed ‘buddy’, Olive Silverlock (herself dealing with mysterious issues concerning her mother) accompanies her to a crumbling tower and they have to scale down the side of it to safety – all while visiting speaker Bruce Wayne is present. The artwork is simply gorgeous too, lifting elements of manga and animation cels in a glorious mixture of nostalgia and freshness. The aforementioned tower sequence, set against a blood-red sunset, is breathtaking.
Bottom Line: From the art style to the freewheeling attitude, Gotham Academy is a truly welcome addition to the Newish 40-something. Cloonan and Fletcher have managed to plug into the core triggers that make teen drama fun, never burdening the tale with didactic lessons or needless exposition. With its gorgeous art and sense of adventure, this should be the benchmark for all future DC releases.
Lobo began as a parody of the excessive violence of Marvel’s Wolverine and The Punisher in the 1980s, and despite fond fan memories, he was just a parody of himself by the mid-1990s. A figure of some controversy in the New 52, first appearing in the current chronology in the pages of Deathstroke and Stormwatch as his familiar cigar-chomping guise, he was later revealed as an impostor in last year’s “Villain’s Month” event. The unfairly maligned, slimmer, sophisticated and sometimes labelled “emo” Lobo serves as the hero to this new series, categorically dispatching with his doppelgänger in the opening pages and sending a clear message to readers. So it’s a partial shame that most of the issue plays out like a fairly straightforward anti-hero narrative, albeit with a few brief glimpses into his past. The urbane Lobo of Marguerite Bennett in Justice League #23.2 has been watered down into something slightly less sophisticated, as if DC aren’t entirely willing to go all the way in the reinvention of the character. Even Reilly Brown’s stylish art lacks the delicacy of Ben Oliver’s clean vivisections. Here Lobo simply cleaves his way through the pack. A minor exception is the flashback dream sequence, in which light pencils and pastels transition into a deeper and darker reddish hue in the matter of three pages.
Bottom Line: Lobo has the promise of being a strong and interesting addition to the New 52, but at the moment it feels as though it is caught between two worlds. Still partly tied to the former conventions of the character, and not entirely willing to completely be the stylish assassin that would conclusively kill any memories of the original Lobo. Yet Cullen is skilled at transforming villains into anti-heroes, as we have seen in Magneto and Sinestro, and as such this title remains one to watch.
Green Arrow #35
Television’s Arrow writers Kreisberg and Sokolowski are one half of the new creative team taking over Green Arrow this month, and from the opening lines of “My name is Oliver Queen”, it seems as though the book and the show were destined to merged into one. After all, a now financially broke Ollie only has Diggle (a creation from the TV show) as his backup, and the writers have conveniently brushed aside Jeff Lemire’s Emiko and Naomi as being “somewhere else” for the purposes of this launch. Curiously, Green Arrow is kept out of costume for most of the issue, a key sequence being a meeting with Bruce Wayne and Lex Luthor, who want to jointly buy into Queen Industries and help change the world with Ollie. His ego gets the better of him and he refuses, but it’s an interesting indicator of where the series is headed. When he does suit up, he is sent headlong into meeting another TV creation, and a character familiar to long-term readers will also serve as a major plot device by the time the issue is done. The art is a shock to the system after Andrea Sorrentino’s groundbreaking work over the last 18 months, his utilitarian feel to the costume replaced with the original plastic New 52 designs. The art works best when Glapion and Eltaeb are allowed to go darker and deepen the shadows in the final pages.
Bottom Line: You can’t blame DC for wanting to bring the comic more in line with the popular TV show it spawned, and for the most part it is a happy marriage. This is ultimately a positive thing, as comics can only progress beyond the current era if they are the union of all of their cultural influences. Green Arrow #35 may not be perfect, but it’s headed in the right direction.
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