BATGIRL ANNUAL #2 & MORE! [Mini-Reviews]

Batgirl 26 CoverBATGIRL #26/ Written by MAIRGHREAD SCOTT/ Pencils by PAUL PELLETIER/ Inks by NORM RAPMUND/ Colors by JORDIE BELLAIRE/ Letters by DERON BENNETT/ Published by DC COMICS

Review by MATT MORRISON

Picking up where the “Value” story in Batgirl #25 left-off, Batgirl #26 sees Batgirl chasing after art-thief turned murder-artist Grotesque. A shocking encounter temporarily shorts out the microchip that restored Barbara Gordon’s mobility, but the criminal may have robbed Batgirl of something even greater than her ability to walk unaided!

Sadly, my assessment of this series’ new creative team from a few weeks ago still stands. I like the way Mairghread Scott writes, but I have no interest in a dark, depressing Batgirl book more focused on gruesome murders than the slice-of-life aspects of Barbara Gordon’s life outside of her costume. The artwork by Paul Pelletier and Norm Rapmund is competently executed but that’s the best thing I can say about it, beyond noting that Jordie Bellaire’s colors are as excellent as always.

I fear Hope Larson and Chris Wildgoose have forever spoiled me on this series. Batgirl #26 is not a bad comic but I found no joy or sense of hope in reading it. Perhaps those who missed the tragic bleakness of the New 52 run on Batgirl will be pleased by this book, but I was not. As far as I’m concerned, this is a step back away from what Rebirth was meant to accomplish.

 

Batgirl Annual 2 CoverBATGIRL ANNUAL #2/ Written by MAIRGHREAD SCOTT/ Art by ELENA CASAGRANDE/ Colors by JORDIE BELLAIRE/ Letters by DERON BENNETT/ Published by DC COMICS

Review by MATT MORRISON

The most tragic thing about this Batgirl annual is that Elena Casagrande’s artwork blows the work of the creative team on the monthly Batgirl title out of the water. Better that she should have gotten that assignment along with Jordie Bellaire, whose color artwork here is also great, as is Deron Bennett’s lettering.

As for the story, Mairghread Scott brings back the murderous James Gordon Jr. – a character I can’t recall anyone missing – and basically retells The Silence of the Lambs with Barbara Gordon tracking another serial killer and using her brother’s expertise to help her.

I think the ultimate problem here is the problem I have with James Gordon Jr. as a concept and my vision of Batgirl as a character. Barbara is unique among the Bat-Family as being the only major member whose life is not defined by tragedy. She didn’t lose a parent to crime like Bruce Wayne, Dick Grayson or Tim Drake. She didn’t grow up hard like Jason Todd or Cassandra Cain or Dinah Lance. Barbara became a hero purely because she wanted to help people. Giving her a “bad seed” younger brother whose crimes motivate her to be the good child adds an unnecessary level of darkness to Barbara’s character and makes her less unique.

Ultimately, the biggest problem with Batgirl Annual #2 is that the story is predictable and the artwork far better than the script deserves. Between this and Batgirl #26, I feel secure in my decision to drop my subscription to the monthly Batgirl book. It is not bad in terms of quality, but there is enough darkness in Gotham City already and I’ve grown accustom to Barbara Gordon’s stories being ones that affirmed hope rather than spitting on it. It may be good for what it is, but I don’t think it’s a good thing.

Catwoman Tweety Sylvester Special 1 CoverCATWOMAN/TWEETY & SYLVESTER SPECIAL #1/ Written by GAIL SIMONE & SHEA FONTANA/ Pencils by INAKI MIRANDA & WALTER CARZON/ Inks by INKAKI MIRANDA & HORATIO OTTOLINI/ Colors by EVA DE LA CRUZ & SILVANA BRYS/ Letters by TAYLOR ESPOSITO & WES ABBOTT/ Published by DC COMICS

Review by MATT MORRISON

A cat. A bird. An age old conflict, renewed again. But this time the stakes are the lives of every bird and cat in all reality! Sylvester has one night to eat his sworn enemy Tweety and Tweety has all night to evade him. They need help and in Gotham City, where the duo find themselves, that means Catwoman and Black Canary.

Whoever had the idea not to mention Black Canary in the title of this series really screwed the pooch. I know Dinah Lance isn’t as big a draw as Selina Kyle to casual readers, but advertising a Gail Simone comic with Black Canary is money in the bank to serious readers. So consider yourself informed, Birds of Prey fans!

There’s quite a few other fun cameos in this issue, but I shan’t spoil them. Suffice it to say half the fun of this special is spotting the gags in the background and this is one you’ll want to pick up if you’ve enjoyed Simone’s work on Secret Six. On that note, much praise to Inaki Miranda for doing such a fantastic job of rendering the classic Looney Tunes characters in a more realistic fashion and fitting everything into the backgrounds. The color art by Eva De La Cruz is phenomenal, with a number of neat gradient effects throughout.

Bottom line?  Black Canary is in this book too and the story and art are amazing. This is easily the best of the DC Comics/Looney Tunes crossovers to date and a must read for anyone who likes both. Even the back-up story, rendered in a traditional Looney Tunes house-style, is a hoot!

 

Venom First Host 1 CoverVENOM: FIRST HOST #1/ Written by MIKE COSTA/ Pencils by MARK BAGLEY/ Inks by ANDREW HENNESSY/ Colors by DONO SANCHEZ-ALMARA/ Letters by VC’S CLAYTON COWLES/ Published by MARVEL COMICS

Review by MATT MORRISON

There are two stories to be told in Venom: First Host. One is a brilliant work of retroactive history, revealing the origins of the Venom symbiote and the first person to bond with it. The other is a fairly standard story that establishes the status quo of the symbiote and Eddie Brock in the modern day, before tying both tales together in the final pages.

Mike Costa spins a riveting tale in the first story but leaves too much assumed in the second half. For instance, Eddie is seen talking to a blonde woman named Liz who is the head of some company that has been studying the symbiote. I presume this is meant to be Liz Allan and the company is Alchemax (a fact I gleaned after Googling “Liz + Venom”) but this is never stated for certain or revealed in the artwork. This is something of a problem considering this mini-series is meant to be an introduction to Venom for those movie fans lured into comic shops by the upcoming film.

It doesn’t help matters than the first half, in which we see the titular First Host of the symbiote, is a far more riveting and well-paced story. It turns out the First Host ties into a major event in Marvel’s cosmic history and the way in which the symbiote is utilized is just brilliant. I wish we could have an entire mini-series centered around this character instead of retreading Lethal Protector once more.

At least the artwork is generally good. Mark Bagley has probably drawn more Spider-Man stories than any other artist alive at this point and he does his usual stellar job. Unfortunately, the inks by Andrew Hennessy are overdone at some points and tend to obscure the lines rather than enhancing them. The colors by Dono Sanchez-Almara are competently rendered, but don’t really stand out.

Despite a little wonkiness in the artwork, this mini-series does have something for everyone. Those who are unfamiliar with Eddie Brock and his better half will get a decent introduction to who Venom is, even if his supporting cast is left unintroduced.  Long time fans will get to learn the secret origins of the symbiote’s first partner, in a story Marvel Comics history buffs are sure to enjoy as well. It’s not perfect, but it’s far from bad.

About Matt Morrison

Matt "Starman" Morrison is The Grand Exalted High Macha of Raspur - a non-existent but real-sounding country. He has been writing about comics since before the word "blogging" was coined. He enjoys acting, role-playing, movie-riffing and sarcasm. You can follow his adventures on Twitter, @GeekyGeekyWays.

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