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Green Arrow and Batman Tackle the Danger of Elitism

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I don’t think it’s a secret that I was super excited for this issue to arrive. It may be a very cliché among DC fans, but my favorite member of the Justice League is Batman, but not for the reasons you may think. Oliver Queen will always hold the mantle of my absolute favorite DC hero and that comes along with the territory of Batman because they are so alike. Both came from wealth and though Bruce may have a much darker past, it’s that separation between light and dark that makes them not only so divided but also so similar. It’s an often made comparison between the two characters that they complement one another’s duality. Oliver is frequently called a lighter version of Batman. With this comic arc, no this series as a whole; that statement is truly put to the test.

Coming back to what I originally meant to start with, I was really excited for this one and was not disappointed. This is me trying to be as impartial as I can…ah the hell with it; this was literally the best issue so far of this arc. The pacing was great. A mystery plot that teams up two of the best detectives in the genre with an elaborate story that balances the tension between Bruce and Oliver expertly while foraging into just how far the Ninth’s Circles influence really goes? Yes, please.

The last time we saw Ollie he was in Metropolis getting in Lex Luthor’s face about an the attack on a Senator when people begin to suddenly try killing themselves all over the building. Superman comes just in time to save them while Oliver and Lex deduce that there’s a cyberattack releasing embarrassing information meant to push them towards suicide. By the end all three save the day, and Lex gives Ollie a lead on the Ninth Circle that takes him to Gotham.

Playing the Playboy

The issue begins with a murder most foul, it seems that Gotham is already starting to feel the effects of the Ninth Circle’s attacks. The main difference between Gotham and Star City at the moment however, is that in Star City the homeless are kidnapped. In Gotham, they are just straight up murdered and left wherever the deed happened. This string of murders has obviously caught Batman’s attention, but while he’s on the streets Oliver is playing a rich boy again and following up on the lead by taking on Gotham’s elite. From the information that Lex gave him he knows that one or all of them are using the Lex currency to not only channel their own money discretely into the black market but, even more disturbing, into human trafficking.

I really hated the Court of Owls anyway.

It’s here, while he makes nice with them, that we see the true differences between the two heroes. Oliver seems to have taken a very dark path when it comes his outlook on whether or not people can change. The rich crowd takes a quick liking to him for being ballsy enough to screw up his parole while he’s on trial for murder to enjoy an evening socializing. Seems the Ninth Circle has even infiltrated the infamous Court of Owls. Thankfully, we barely even see them for a panel. Apparently the kidnapping of the homeless are what leads to the rising body count; the Court takes them so that the rich of Gotham can play a violent game of cat and mouse. Offensive to say the least.

Green vs Black

Batman is doing what he can to protect the people running for their lives while Oliver tracks one of these masked fiends. By the time the two finally clash, Oliver is brutalizing the assailant and just about to kill him before Batman intervenes. In one of the most excellent dialogues I’ve seen in a comic book, we get a true war of words between the two as they argue morality, justice, and responsibility.

Yet, before it can even come to the end, an old annoying friend returns. The burned lieutenant that has been evading Oliver’s wrath appears yet again to plague the duo. The two take on the now fire breathing enemy while they use each other’s weaknesses to their own advantage.

It’s a stylish fight between two great heroes with a smart but typical finale. Mister crispy escapes yet again into the sewers. After the fight they take to the rooftops of Gotham. Batman, like the other members of the Justice League, offers Ollie advice to aid him on his quest.  Turns out that the circle is weaponizing information on a global scale using the Queen Industries satellites; Oliver’s quest just became “orbital” and we all know what that means. The ever so ‘lovable’ Hal Jordan will be the next follow suit in this series.

I want whatever his cape is made out of

The issue closes with a return to Star City where Henry has finally broken the encryption on the tablet taken by Dinah and Emi. Two things he found on this will lead them back to Oliver and hopefully Dinah back to Oliver, please…please? The first is that now they can track all transactions done with Lexcoins, making tracking the auctioneer that much easier.

The second and more vital piece of information was a video left behind of Wendy Poole being dragged away to some location. For those who don’t remember, she is the secretary Oliver was supposed to have killed when he was disgraced. If they can find her before the trial, Oliver’s name will be cleared.

The Art

This was definitely Ferreyra at his very best. He captures the darkness and murkiness of Gotham city with the use of heavy shadow shading and dreary colors; we feel the corruption at its core. At the same time, during the elite meet the colors used are vivid but you can feel the darkness that lurks beneath. The action scenes are very well done, adding to the pacing of events with movement and a variety of moves that keep it fun and interesting. The use of background themes is awesome as well, particularly the reflections in blood and wine.

 

Final Thoughts

This was a great addition to this already amazing arc, showcasing that the story is going to get darker as the finale draws near. The story was great and well-paced, the development in character for both Bruce and Ollie is excellently crafted with smart and emotional dialogue and actions that put their words to purpose.

Fans of both heroes will definitely enjoy this issue, if not for the story then the best art you can get in modern comics. I would have liked to see more of Dinah and Emi but was sated with their underlying significance given what little content they have. I will forever be an advocate for Black Canary having her own comic, this only cements that.

Final Score: 9/10


All Images Courtesy of DC Comics

Green Arrow Rebirth #29 Credits

Story: Benjamin Percy

Art: Juan Ferreyra

Lettering: Nate Piekos

Hey, everyone! Just your friendly neighborhood nerd. From NYC/NJ, 28 years old. Ask me about a Fandom and I can go on for hours. Firefly, Penny Dreadful, and A Song of Ice and Fire are my favorites, let's get nerdy.

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Saga: True Colours

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It’s a fine line that which divides nature and a zone of comfort; so fine it’s sometimes too easy to confuse one with the other, or think them to be interchangeable terms. But the differences are there, however subtle. For one, a zone of comfort is often a treacherous foe against personal growth. It may even render you numb before coming adversities and leave you unprepared to resist them. Am I being obnoxiously specific yet? Well I can take it up a notch. A zone of comfort can also blind you, delude you into mistaking someone’s nature. Make you see a foe as a friend when the tide is calm.

But when the tide grows restless, leaving that zone of comfort is quite the rude awakening. Hope you like those, lovelies.

Issue #52
“Not when we were so close…”

The “Jetsam Holiday” arc has been a lovely time so far, comparatively speaking. For every dark development unfolding within or without Hazel’s immediate (and extended) family, there has been lots of sunshine and fucking. And of course, there has been plenty of wholesome entertainment for the whole family to enjoy also. If the image of Hazel waging sea war against Petrichor and Ghüs while atop Sir Robot’s shoulders isn’t heartwarming, her wishing Sir Robot didn’t have to leave absolutely is. And furthermore, Sir Robot even reciprocates it.

Old foes may turn dear friends in time – just like my dad used to say… not really, but let’s pretend he did.

In the meantime, Marko and Upsher have a thoughtful conversation while frying fishies. Beyond the perennial dynamic of the journey, one of Saga‘s thematic signatures is the encounter between worldviews. Sometimes this occurs through future Hazel’s introspection, and sometimes through calm moments like this. By learning of how Upsher and Doff learned about the fugitives and their daughter, Marko finally realises something we’d long known by now. There is no action that goes without consequence in this galaxy. Whether it’s some nameless mook who becomes a villain’s motive for revenge, or a grunt left behind who’s see too much.

Their conversation migrates then to the topic of accountability when it comes to one of the most traditional roles in war: killing. Having been a soldier, Marko has obviously taken on a very active role. But Upsher isn’t entirely clean either, despite never taking a life himself. Being a journalist, his business is all about information, but its reception always risks a response, which sometimes involves violence. This is, Marko argues, the reason he will be sticking to writing fiction. Nevertheless, Upsher’s response is a banquet for thought, and I’ll quote:

“Putting new ideas into another person’s head is an agggressive act, and aggressive acts have consequences. Face it, you can be a writer or a pacifist, but you can’t be both.” The written word, to communicate or to inspire, is necessarily a political act. We’ll take this morsel with us home to mull it over, as something else comes up, demanding all heads and hands. Alana enters the scene with the news: Squire is missing. The young Robot has followed through with his plan to leave.

Cut to Ianthe, wandering the wilderness of Jetsam, and adding a touch of danger to Squire’s stunt. Her concern over The Will, now free, angry and deadly, reaches a high point upon seeing a note pinned against a tree with a knife. Menacing even when written in cursive. The note proper says they’re even; him having killed her fiancé, and she having skinned his dog. I’d hardly call it even myself – Ianthe is still in debt, but I digress. We’d be delusional to think this warning would dissuade Ianthe – too proud a villain to heed common sense.

Meanwhile, the grownups at the beach camp find Squire’s farewell note, charmingly written in crayon. His message and how he addresses himself as Princeling make his intentions clear. Sir Robot’s son intends to return to the Robot Kingdom; maybe his ways of chivalry had an unexpected, unintended side effect on the kid. Overtaken by shame, Sir Robot insists on handling this himself, then declaring this to be his fault. He then reveals the ugly incident of hurting Squire last issue, earning Alana’s anger and Hazel’s disbelief. Before Alana can unleash a (well-deserved) fist upon Sir Robot’s face, Marko walks in full-clad in armour, bearing… mushrooms.

Ah, but these mushrooms are special mushrooms. They don’t grace soups with supreme delight or allow you to summon Frank Zappa in Bloodborne (which I’ve been playing a lot of lately). These mushrooms function as flares bright enough to see in daylight or when penetrating deep in the forest. Hazel demands to come with, but her mum won’t allow it for good reason. Upsher offers to stay with Hazel, as he’s also confident his partner Doff has already found Squire.

If only he knew…

The pinky oath between Alana and Hazel marks the beginning of the search.

The scene then changes to Squire/Princeling’s point of view. He has definitely taken a shine to Hazel’s Ponk Konk, who now accompanies him as a friend to “talk with”. And it’s just as well: Squire is terrified. He roams what appears to be an abandoned amusement park, which is a creepy setting in any galaxy. According to a conversation he overheard between the grownups, the magical ingredients for the “body swap” are transported through pipes that run through these unsettling parts. Therefore, his course to take appears obvious, quite unlike the strange creatures following his movements, concealed in the overgrowth.

The worm-like creatures lunge forward, ensnaring Squire to be devoured by a nightmarish mouth spreading wide across the grass. Amidst the horror of the moment, he drops Ponk Konk, possibly into the maws of this hideous creature. Someone makes the save in the nick of time with a few well-aimed shots, however. Thankful, Squire hugs his unlikely saviour: Ianthe. Could it be he has managed to survive one beast only to end up in the maws of another?

Elsewhere, Sir Robot spots a strange jellyfish-like ship while searching for his son. The Will gets the drop on the former Prince, skewering his arm-cannon with his spear. Sir Robot doesn’t quite recognise his attacker, but The Will him well enough; not as the disgraced noble, but as the killer of his former love, Spider woman extraordinaire, The Stalk. A vengeful intent is clearly approaching. And though Sir Robot frets over being interrupted from his search and disarmed, he keeps his cool to talk with the reinstated Freelancer.

The Will is back on the job to catch the fugitives, but not before killing Sir Robot. Knowing that an ordinary, desperate plea won’t do the job, Sir Robot presents another possibility as a bargaining chip to secure his and his son’s safety: to surrender Hazel to The Will.

Seems old foes turn into friends dear when the tide is calm… otherwise, they’re only placated foes, only for so long. Treacherous asshole.

 

Saga Issue #52 Credits

Writer: Brian K. Vaughan

Artist: Fiona Staples

All images are courtesy of Image Comics

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Batgirl is Getting a New Direction And a New Look

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Can I say that I, for one, am glad that we’re finally getting a new author for Batgirl? Because I am. Now this is no disrespect to Hope Larson; she is a competent writer who has told some really good stories over the last two years, but for me she just wasn’t a good fit for one of my favorite DC superheroes. Now I’ll probably get backlash from the community of fans who like to criticize the whole DC darkness thing for this but you know what? Yes, it should be dark and gritty, that’s always been associated with the “bat” name. Should it try to be a little more light hearted? Sure, but it’s a balance. My issue with Hope Larson’s run was that it was way too “tweeny” considering the kind of comics we’ve seen in the past with Barbara, Cass, and Stephanie.

Now, I also get that heroes need to evolve in order to meet their targeted audience. Hope Larson in retrospect did something that I very much like. Like the political nature of Green Arrow, Hope managed to construct her stories centered around the criticisms of overuse of technology, freedom of the internet, and the use of personal data. These are topics that remains very relevant this year and will be for some time to come. The fact that she was able to use this to tell stories that no matter what I say, were still entertaining, is a testament to the fact that she was a very good writer.

However, it is still time for a change. Despite the great motivations behind her stories, they were still cringe-y sometimes. Seeing Barbara juggle her nightlife with her student life is a common theme among younger heroes, and her friends in the LGBTQ community offered real understanding for audiences, but it still felt like a teen drama.

Don’t get me wrong though, I love her supporting cast, especially Alyssa who was created by Gail Simone in her well loved Batgirl New 52 run. The author was very outspoken for gender identity and the over sexualization of females in comic books. To see Hope Larson treat characters created by Simone with love and care was really something. By now I probably sound like I loved Hope’s run on Batgirl. As I said before, it wasn’t a bad run and I enjoyed reading it for the most part but I need something a bit more than that.

Starting with issue 24, we’ll be getting a plethora of new authors for the next few issues. Like with Green Arrow, finding a new permanent author takes time but with the Benson sisters spearheading that comic, Mairghread Scott will be taking over exclusively come August and issue 26. Now, I haven’t read anything by her save the most recent Green Arrow title, which I liked hell of a lot more than the previous two. So, I’ll be seeing her writing without bias and without former convictions. I’m really excited to see where she leads Barbara in her new adventures, but hopefully she focuses more on Batgirl and Barbara rather than love interests and overly cringe worthy situations. I get Barbara is awkward but that was just painful.

According to previews, we will see the return of Barbara to Gotham and of another character, or rather villain, created by Gail Simone called Grotesque. In this version, he plays a murderous art thief who moves to create his own vile art gallery with the pieces of his victims. He ends up getting the jump on Babs and setting the device in her spine off, effectively taking away her ability to walk again.

It looks like we’re going to be seeing a lot more continuity from the Gail Simone days and either the nostalgia will hit long time fans or Scott will be taking us in a whole new direction. So many questions, the main one being: could this be the end for Barbara as Batgirl? As much as I love Babs, I am part of the group who feels she needs to pass on the cowl to someone new. But that’s a topic for another day.

Speaking of getting a new author, we also have a revamp of Batgirl’s look, which is also a huge plus for me. If you’ve read Batman: White Knight you’ll no doubt recognize this costume from it. Sean Murphy, the genius behind that story, must have allowed the costume to be used as main canon. I’m happy for this because I really, really like the new look. I was never a huge fan of the purple zip up jacket-like outfit she was sporting in “Burnside,” but that just comes down to aesthetics.

The new look is sleek and more “batty” adding more to her own persona. Batgirl and Nightwing were among the first to leave Bruce behind and create their own identity and damn if this is not screaming that she’s the best “bat” out there.


All Images Courtesy of DC Comics

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DC Is Relaunching Vertigo, Doubling Down On Millennials

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It’s been 25 years since DC Comics launched perhaps the most successful imprint in comics history: Vertigo. Since its foundation in 1993, some of the biggest graphic novels ever have come out under the Big V. Its initial run of titles made a splash on the shelves of comic stores and would cement their authors as comics royalty: Neil Gaiman, Garth Ennis, Brian K. Vaughn, Brian Azzarello. Old properties (The Sandman) and old legends (Alan Moore) found new life at Vertigo. These new comics were no longer the whiff! bam! pow! of the past, but they also largely avoided the hyper-violence and darkness of the 90s. They handled adult themes like alienation, religion, feminism, and, yes, violence. But they handled these themes with more nuance and variety than ever before.  For the first time in the medium’s history, comics were becoming literature.

But all of the original titles have ended, with Hellblazer being the last of the old guard, closing in 2013. After a few years on the down low, DC is planning a massive relaunch of the classic brand for a new generation.  With it comes a clear emphasis on the political power of comics. They aim not for the Gen-Xers who made Preacher, iZombie, and Fables bestsellers, but for millennials. Titles will deal with the topics its readers care about: immigration, white supremacy, sex work.

Just like in 1993, the creators taking part in the relaunch are a vibrant mix of rising stars and new faces in the comics world. Eric M. Esquivel (Roberto Roberto) will bring us a tale of demons run amok in a border town while Ben Blacker (The Thrilling Adventure Hour) will spin a tale of brainwashed witches reclaiming their power. Bryan Hill (Postal, Batman) will put a biracial cop in harm’s way as he investigates a white supremacist group. Frequent Nine Inch Nails collaborator, Rob Sheridan, is sending a smuggler on an impossible quest, and Mark Russel (God Is Disappointed In You) pits Jesus against “Superman”.

The group of writers and artists are a nice mix of diverse voices, with two women serving as writers their own titles, both of which will no doubt invite controversy. The first, Goddess Mode, takes place in a cyberpunk VR hellscape where tech support involves a huge neon sword. Its author will be video game developer Zoe Quinn, perhaps most famous for being the internet’s biggest scapegoat and the original source of the “Gamergate” controversy. The second comic, Safe Sex, will be a dystopian book focusing on sex workers who dare to love in a world where all sex is under government control. Its author is sex-work advocate and LGBTQ+ journalist Tina Horn, who will no doubt bring an expert opinion to a topic that comics really, REALLY has never handled very well.

The new books start in September of this year, with Border Town,  and the rest will follow month by month right through into the new year. They will join the pre-existing raft of Vertigo titles, as well as Neil Gaiman’s brand new Sandman Universe line.


Image courtesy of DC Comics and Vertigo

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