Hench-Sized Comic Book Reviews – 9/26/15
Short and sweet week for comics for me! Marvel is still mired in Secret Wars delays, so I didn’t grab anything from them this week. And none of my regular indie titles came out. Granted, this would make for a great week to pick up a new indie title…but I have more Witcher 3 to play! I can’t remember the last time I was this absorbed in a new video game. It feels great — while being simultaneously bad for business!
Fortunately, DC Comics put out three of my favorite comics: Batgirl, Grayson and We Are Robin. All three were fun to read, but Grayson edges out as the Comic Book of the Week for a milestone-ish issue.
I love me some Bat-Family times.
In other comic news, I read the latest volume of Empowered this week, and it’s as much fun as the rest of the series. Anybody else read Empowered? I keep wanting to find some way to spotlight that indie series. It’s a real gem.
Comic Reviews: Batgirl #44, Grayson #12 and We Are Robin #4.
Writers: Cameron Stewart and Brenden Fletcher
Oh noes! Babs Tarr misses an issue of Batgirl! That’s pretty devastating, but fortunately, Bengal steps up and kicks butt. And it’s quite fitting that an artist named Bengal helps out on the tiger issue. That’s cosmic balance right there.
Batgirl tracks down the Velvet Tiger, but the villainess gets away. So teaming up with Qadir and Luke, they figure out that Velvet Tiger is actually Lani Gilbert, the CEO of Gilcom, and the ex-girlfriend of Babs’ friend Jeremy. So Babs pumps Jeremy for information and learns about the Gilbert family estate on the outskirts of Gotham. She breaks in and fights some tigers, while Alysia uses the distraction to rescue her fiancee Jo. Babs gets in a little over her head, but she’s rescued by her motorcycle, which not only seems to be operating by itself, but is also talking to her. The motorcycle gets Batgirl to safety and leaves Velvet Tiger for the police.
After the day is saved, Babs and Luke Fox share some flirting and a kiss, then Babs invites him to the wedding. And it’s revealed that Frankie has somehow developed the technology to control Babs’ motorcycle! Looks like she’s going to become the new Oracle.
Comic Rating: 8/10 – Very Good.
Bengal’s art did a great job of carrying the Babs Tarr load. It’s fun, colorful and very friendly, just like Tarr. So I say DC should consider Bengal the official fill-in. Bengal keeps the action exciting and the characters personable, and that’s what you want from an artist. This was another all around very good issue of Batgirl. We’ve got a nifty crime that needs to be solved, we’ve got Batgirl relying on her skills as a detective and her host of awesome allies for help, and we’ve got added personal stakes by having Alysia help out and rescue Jo herself. This is one of the richest, fullest comics on the stands.
The romance with Luke Fox kind of comes out of nowhere, but maybe Stewart and Fletcher have some good ideas in store. I guess he’s no longer Batwing…or is he? I dunno. Did anybody care about Batwing? Do you even remember that Luke Fox was the second Batwing? Weird.
Writers: Tom King and Tim Seeley
Artist: Mikel Janin
This is the issue we’ve all been waiting for! As great as Grayson has been, I love it most when he’s interacting with the rest of the Bat-Family! He finally gets to tell everybody that he’s still alive, and hopefully this will lead to more crossovers between Grayson and the rest of the DCU.
Having quit Spyral last issue, Dick Grayson returns to Gotham City to reconnect with his family. First he meets with Bruce Wayne, who recently lost his memory. So Dick goes in disguise (with Alfred’s help) just to get a chance to check in on how Bruce is doing these days. The meeting is interrupted by Agent Zero, who isn’t ready to let Dick go just yet. She gives him 24 hours to say his goodbyes before he has to return to Spyral, or they’ll reveal that Bruce is Batman. So Dick spends the next day meeting and doing his best to make amends with Red Robin, Red Hood, Batgirl and Damian. Some are happy to see him, some are pissed off that he lied to them. But in each meeting, Dick does his best to smooth things over, and even gives them some gifts.
Then it’s revealed that he was actually passing along a code at each of those meetings, and the gifts all contained clues towards his overall object: defeating Spyral. Dick knew that Spyral would have people watching him, so he used a code when speaking with his friends. And when he returns to Spyral at the end of the issue, his friends follow his clues and are able to hack into the hypno-devices that Spyral uses. So while Agent Zero and Spyral are confident that Dick Grayson is doing what they want, they don’t know that the Bat-Family has helped give Dick the upper hand.
Comic Rating: 8/10 – Very Good.
If I’m being completely honest, this issue wasn’t as fulfilling as I’d hoped. That’s probably because A) Bruce Wayne lost his memory, so that reunion was bunk. And B) King and Seeley had to build towards that secret code thing, so the reunions had to double as part of the ongoing Spyral story. But they were still pretty nice. I liked the reactions of the various Bat-Family members, they all rang true. And I love the idea of the Family helping Dick gain the upper hand in his ongoing struggles. I suppose I even got my answer as to why Dick doesn’t just step up as Batman again.
In the New 52, Dick Grayson has become my favorite member of the Bat-Family. And while I’d love to see him return as Batman, that’s already been done. King and Seeley have a great spy story going, and now it has the potential to get even better. The creative team has already teased that Starfire will crossover with Grayson at some point soon, and that’s a great sign of things to come!
We Are Robin #4
Writer: Lee Bermejo
Artist: James Harvey
With the first story out of the way, Bermejo and a new guest artist take a step back and start fleshing out the Robins. That’s going to be key for this title to really take off. I want to know who they are and why they’ve taken on this role. This new issue is off to a good start — even if the art won’t be to everyone’s liking.
In the wake of Troy’s death, all of Gotham City is talking about the Robin activists and whether or not what they’re doing is good or bad. But Riko is having none of it. She still believes in the cause, and she goes out one night to keep up the work. She finds a bunch of punk kids who have set a fire on a rooftop. Turns out they are ‘Cape Catchers’, people who commit minor crimes in order to get vigilantes to show up, so they can take selfies for Facebook. Riko tells them to put out the fire, but they’re arrogant assholes and try to start a fight — she handles herself pretty well. Then Batgirl shows up and really gives them a thumping.
Afterwards, Batgirl gives Riko a peptalk about what it means to be a vigilante in Gotham, and how she has to take this all very seriously. It’s a nice chat.
Comic Rating: 7/10 – Good.
Call me a philistine if you want, but I just didn’t care for the art in this issue. It’s very stylized, very ‘pop art’, and I completely understand what they were going for. This is a comic that should embrace new and fascinating styles, that should be as counter-culture as possible. I applaud that sort of idea. But for me personally, I prefer nice, normal comic book art.
Beyond the art, this was a fine little chapter. I don’t necessarily feel that I know and understand Riko’s reasons for becoming a Robin, but any step to flesh out these characters is a good one. She’s heroic, she means business, and she has a nice scene with Batgirl. Bermejo draws a lot of allusions to Lord of the Flies in this issue (Riko’s school reading assignment), but since I never read that book in high school, I’m definitely missing out on all the deeper literary stuff. That’s on me.
This is a solid character exploration issue, and I hope we get even more going forward. It also helps that Bermejo added some short character bios in the back of the issue so that we can put names, ages and background to our Robins. That’s a big bonus.
As much as I applaud the use of new and interesting art choices in We Are Robin, I’m still going to be a stickler. It’s purely personal. Fortunately, the weird art didn’t drag down my overall enjoyment of this issue.
The comics I review in my Hench-Sized reviews are just the usual comics I pick up from my local shop any given week, along with a few impulse buys I might try on a whim. So if there are any comics or series you’d like me to review each week, let me know in the comments!