DC Comics is trying something new. In the wake of their Rebirth initiative, the publisher has rapidly expanded its content to include diverse new imprints such as
Young Animal, Wildstorm, Black Label, Ink, and Zoom. As their lineup expands, it can be hard to figure out what to pick up each week. That’s what our team is here to help with, every Wednesday, with the DC Round-Up!
Note: the reviews below contain **spoilers**. If you want a quick, spoiler-free buy/pass recommendation on the comics in question, check out the bottom of the article for our final verdict.
By Zack Quaintance
I was initially ambivalent about reading Batgirl #25. The book is switching creative teams, and this is also one of those over-sized issues made up of separate vignettes, which are usually uneven in a way that precludes them from being a standout comic. Not so here. From its start, Batgirl #25 effectively asserts its own relevance in interesting ways that draw readers into stories.
Two of these vignettes tie into Barbara Gordon’s evolving status quo, a third details fallout from Tom King and Mikel Janin’s vicious The Best Man arc in Batman—wherein Joker slaughters a random wedding—and a fourth is written by Paul Dini (which for me easily justifies inclusion). It all adds up to a holistically strong comic. Of the stories, I found the first two vignettes to be my favorites. With that in mind, perhaps discussion of this issue is best-served by looking closer at the individual sections.
Writer: Mairghread Scott
Penciler: Tom Derenick
Inker: Sean Parsons
Colorist: Stephen Downer
Letterer: Deron Bennett
The Reason is relevant reading for those following Tom King’s Batman, because it ties up a dangling story from the arc that preceded the Bat-Cat wedding, detailing some background about the people Joker slaughtered in that church. By doing this, The Reason provides some closure for readers who found it pretty freaking bleak that murdering a random wedding was a lightly-discussed plot device (there were valid story reasons for this, but still…).
On the whole, The Reason is an emotionally-satisfying meditation on why Barbara Gordon has joined Bruce’s vigilante crusade and the role she plays within it. Its placement at the book’s start is also an excellent choice to set the tone, like, Hey! Pay attention, this comic matters, and it flows well into the second story, too, creating some nice cohesion.
Hopeless Romantic is easily my favorite of the four, a crisp and affecting story starring only Barbara Gordon and Dick Grayson. All Babs and Dick really do is trundle around a fancy hotel suite Bruce reserved for his now-cancelled honeymoon with Selina, remarking on oddball luxuries (piped-in smores odor with a video campfire…what?) between talking about life. A subtle thesis statement comes as they’re discussing home ownership, with Dick saying, “Please Babs, we’re millennials…we’ll be renting our coffins.”
This is of course a superhero comic, shaped by continuity and the duo’s past, but moreover Hopeless Romantic functions as one of the better pieces of fiction I’ve read about planning a life with another person during our uncertain modern era of chaos and tumult. Essentially, it’s a relatable and wonderfully sweet Millennial love story, wherein our central couple oscillates wildly from lavish fantasies informed by past generations (marrying on some far-flung beach) to just appreciating the simple comforts of togetherness. Dan Panosian’s artwork is appropriately coquettish, and Marguerite Bennett’s dialogue is rich with poetic flourishes that feel natural, including a line that I might have stolen for a love note before I was married: Babs telling Dick, “I just want Sunday mornings.”
Ultimately, they lay together, content knowing that while the future is a looming challenge, they’ll always have one another. I’m a big sappy baby, no question, but it was all so well done that I started to tear up. Beautiful stuff.
Writer: Paul Dini
Penciller: Emanuela Lupacchino
Inker: Ray McCarthy
Colorist: Jordie Bellaire
Letterer: Deron Bennett
Of the last two, I’ll briefly note Value is by Mairghread Scott and Paul Pelletier, who along with Elena Casagrande are this book’s next creative team. For Scott’s upcoming first arc, the team is drawing a villain from Gail Simone’s all-time great run on Batgirl, an encouraging sign to be sure, and we see that villain foreshadowed here. March Madness, meanwhile, is a self-contained story written by Paul Dini, who excels at doing that with Bat characters. It also has much to say about the societal attitudes that enable domestic abuse and sexual exploitation.
In the end, the most useful thing I can say about this comic is that this is my favorite issue of Batgirl in some time, one I heartily recommend to those who enjoy this character, as well as to readers who are emotionally invested in Bat-family business overall.
Writer: Brian Michael Bendis
Artist: Michael Gaydos
Letters: Joshua Reed
Design: Curtis King, Jr.
DC certainly went to John Cusak in Say Anything levels of courting last fall to entice Brian Michael Bendis away from Marvel. Dan DiDio (presumably) didn’t stand beneath his window with a boombox blaring Peter Gabriel, but the publisher did give Bendis the keys to Superman, as well as a chance to recharge Jinxworld, his creator-owned imprint that had gone somewhat dormant. Jinxworld is now set to bring back existing titles while also launching new IP.
This week’s Pearl #1 is Jinxworld’s first new book. It’s an original concept from Bendis and Michael Gaydos, co-creators of Jessica Jones. It is, however, vastly different than Alias. There are no superheroes, and it’s not overtly edgy or subversive, not in a marketplace that’s currently brimming with indie titles that steadily push the limits of everything from form to sensibilities. Whereas Alias felt fresh and vibrant, Pearl feels mostly safe.
Which is fine. It doesn’t preclude it from being a beautiful comic. Pearl is so far primarily an exercise in aesthetics, steeped in tattoo art and culture. Gaydos is a massive talent, and Pearl reasserts that, with color palettes that do heavy tonal lifting throughout, plus facial expressions so illustrative they enable Bendis to use zero narration. In fact, Bendis and his pithy scripting mostly take a backseat to Gaydos’ linework. Pearl #1 is also modest with plotting. Twists are surely coming, but the book so far aspires to a common narrative about star-crossed lovers. Throw in a nouveau San Francisco setting plus a Yakuza gang war, top with the tattoo art, and that’s Pearl.
I definitely enjoyed this first issue, although I’m generally a Bendis fan. Results might vary for others. There’s a choice at the end that seems intended to be sweet but is possibly evocative of stalking (which could be clarified next issue, but still). There’s also a scene with a young woman joking about reach arounds, which I found cringey, maybe because I heard the writer’s voice and it was the voice of a man deep into his dad years. Conversely, the most poignant scene here is a flashback between Pearl and her own father, which is just as uncouth as the reach around bit but with a much stronger ring of honesty. Bendis seems destined to write a wonderfully blunt parenthood story someday, but his interests are maybe not quite there yet.
Pearl #1 is a quick and polished read, adeptly introducing new and distinct characters without bogging down its pacing. The art is gorgeous and the aesthetic interests compelling. The series’ ultimate success, however, will likely hinge on the characterization of its young leads. I, for one, am rooting for the kids.
Side notes: As a Northern Californian, I (semi-jokingly) wonder if even the Yakuza aren’t being priced out of San Francisco…
This issue contains a nice throw in: a 6-page Batman story Bendis did with Gaydos before signing Marvel exclusive back in 2000.
- With Justice League #6, I don’t have much to add to the discourse of past round-ups. I’ll just note Jorge Jimenez is doing career best work, establishing himself as one of the best superhero artists with each new issue.
- I definitely worship in the church of Tom King, and Batman #53’s if The Batman is not omnipotent, you must acquit monologue was solid. Lee Weeks’ stellar artwork, however, stole the show. I mean, there’s a full-page splash of Batman swinging through Gotham City, followed by a two pages and six panels showing Batman thrashing different villains, and I’d put it all among the best artwork of King’s Batman so far, which is high praise indeed.
- This week also marked the end of Batwoman, although one suspects DC will bring Kate Kane back to its pages soon, what with the character headed for a starring role on television. And how perfect was that Ruby Rose casting, right?!
- Finally, The Wild Storm is always a highlight for me. I love this book. It’s a veritable master-class in patient plotting. I’ve even been dipping a toe into saying this is some of the best work of Warren Ellis’ career, and you know what? I’m almost ready to cannonball in and commit to that, especially with Ellis teasing The Authority both in this issue and on Twitter.
Miss any of our earlier reviews? Check out our full archive!