Comic Review: Batgirl: Year One

Published: September 3rd, 2000 – December 31st, 2000
Written by: Scott Beatty, Chuck Dixon
Art by: Javier Pulido, Robert Campanella

DC Comics, 203 Pages

Review:

Batgirl: Year One has been paired up in a trade paperback format with Robin: Year One in some releases and for good reason.

Mainly, this is done by the same creative team and it has a similar tone, art style and narrative structure.

This was released a year before Robin: Year One and is equally as good, if not a wee bit better. Reason being, this has a threat that feels larger, a plot that’s more cohesive over the multiple issues, as well as more characters that come into the story in ways that really help to flesh out Barbara Gordon’s origin.

Scott Beatty and Chuck Dixon wrote a body of work that is close to being a masterpiece and is one of the best Batgirl stories ever produced, hands down.

Just like with Robin: Year One, which I already reviewed, I absolutely love the art of Javier Pulido and Robert Campanella. It has a pristine look while also looking retro for the time where this is set. It has a similar feel to Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale’s Batman epics, also from the same time period, and it even kind of channels elements from Batman: The Animated Series, which was still very fresh in people’s minds in 2000.

If you know Barbara Gordon, this book just feels right. Contrary to a lot of her more modern stories, this is the Batgirl I want to read about. I have loved this character since first experiencing her on the ’60s Batman TV show. While that was campy as hell, Barbara always resonated with me and I always loved when she showed up alongside the Dynamic Duo.

Batgirl: Year One is a classic in my opinion. It isn’t something that I hear a lot of people reflect on but it was a real high point in the careers of all the creators involved and for the character.

Rating: 9.25/10
Pairs well with: Robin: Year One, as well as the Batman related books by Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale.

Comic Review: Nightwing: Knight Terrors

Published: October 3rd, 2018 – January 9th, 2019
Written by: Benjamin Percy
Art by: Travis Moore, Christopher Mooneyham, Klaus Janson, Tamra Bonvillain, Nick Filardi

DC Comics, 184 Pages

Review:

So I was reading Nightwing like a good, long-time Dick Grayson fan, enjoying the story that wrapped up in issue 49 and then all of a sudden, I picked up issue 50 and felt completely lost. Somewhere between the issues, in another comic title that isn’t Nightwing, our title hero was shot in the head, lost his memory, quit being Nightwing and changed his name to Rick because the editors were sick of fans making Dick joke memes.

Color me lost.

Regardless, I said “fuck it” and kept Nightwing added to my pull list because I figured that I’d still give it a shot. I mean, I’ve been a fan of the character my whole life and sometimes a little change is good.

…and then sometimes it isn’t.

This hurt my head, probably even more than that bullet hurt Dick Rick Grayson’s head. Wait… it’s “Ric”? I guess DC’s gotta make him edgy and shit.

So this story is about Dick walking around feeling sorry for himself, treating those who love him like total shit and then being all smuggy and douchey about it like some Millennial communist that hates his rich ass parents because they embarrassed him by picking him up from an Occupy rally in the family Porsche.

Anyway, while Dick is busy sucking at life and starting a career of cab driving in the hood, some actual heroic people find his old stash of Nightwing suits and decide to put them on and take up the mantle. So this new but inexperienced team of four Nightwings end up in over their head, thanks to Scarecrow. The real Nightwing ends up having to step in and save them, even though he’s still just Dick being a dick.

This was a damn challenge to get through but I wanted to believe that this was going to build to something worthwhile. After this seven issue story arc, I’m done. Nightwing is off of my pull list, as one of the best DC Comics titles has been reduced to canary cage liner.

Well, at least I have twenty-plus years of back issues I can revisit where Dick isn’t an insufferable asshole and he does a lot more than just mope and bitch like a petulant toddler.

Rating: 2.75/10
Pairs well with: some douchebag teen’s private diary about their fucked up suburban parents.

Comic Review: Batgirl: Art of the Crime

Published: August 15th, 2018 – November 28th, 2018
Written by: Mairghread Scott
Art by: Paul Pelletier

DC Comics, 144 Pages

Review:

This story arc took place in Batgirl issues 26 through 29, as well as her second annual and a short story from issue 25.

I’m really digging how much better Batgirl seems to be, as of late. I’m only really able to judge that off of this one story arc but this is a great improvement over the Batgirl stories that preceded it. I hope it maintains and builds up more momentum because Barbara Gordon is one of my favorite people in the DC universe.

This arc also builds off of the Nightwing arc The Bleeding Edge, which happened over the summer and before Nightwing got shot in the head and lost his memory.

We get to see the next phase of Wyrm’s plan unfold, as Batgirl tries to stop this new tech based villain. We also see her trying to cope and deal with her serial killer brother and how he plays into these events.

Batgirl faces some serious challenges here, emotionally and physically, and I like how this story served to build her up as a character and make her stronger. Mairghread Scott seems to know how to handle Barbara and how to tap into the best parts of her personality. I hope to see her continue to grow into something great in the Rebirth era.

While I am not blown away by the art here, it’s certainly better than the norm. It just isn’t really my style. It’s almost too muted and Batgirl just feels like she should be living in a more vibrant and pulpy world. I know that she exists and lives in the same city as Batman but Barbara Gordon doesn’t need the colors around her to be muted or understated.

I’m probably just being nitpicky about the art and color style but I’d like to see this book be as visually colorful and bright as Barbara Gordon is, even if she’s dealing with darker things.

Overall, I was really happy with this, as I’ve been waiting for Batgirl to become a good title. I think it’s on the right track and it stays on my pull list.

Rating: 7.5/10
Pairs well with: Other modern Batgirl and Batman family stories, primarily the current Nightwing series, especially The Bleeding Edge arc, which this continues on from.

Comic Review: Nightwing, Vol. 2: Back to Blüdhaven

Published: June 20th, 2017
Written by: Tim Seeley
Art by: Minkyu Jung, Marcio Takara, Marcus To

DC Comics, 169 Pages

Review:

I’ve heard great stuff about Tim Seeley’s run on Nightwing. After reading the first collection, I really wanted to jump into this. And while the first wasn’t great, it left me feeling as if it was building towards something solid. This, however, really took the wind out of the sails of Seeley’s run, in my opinion.

This focuses on Dick Grayson a.k.a. Nightwing going to Blüdhaven for the first time (in this new continuity that I’ll never get used to). He wants to mark out his own path and be a hero without the support system he’s always had. He even takes a social worker job to pay his rent, as he wants no help from Bruce Wayne.

This then introduces us to a whole slew of new characters that Seeley created. Nightwing teams up with some ex-villains who are trying to redeem themselves as heroes. These ex-villains are comprised of characters that Nightwing, back when he was Robin, helped bring to justice. So he feels somewhat responsible for helping their rehabilitation and allowing them to truly have a second chance.

The problem is, all these characters seem really generic and destined to be thrown away fairly quickly.

One thing I really didn’t like about this, which I enjoyed in the first volume, was that Nightwing and Batgirl’s budding relationship is put on hold. Dick falls for the Defacer, one of the ex-villains that debuts here. Having read later in this series, past the Seeley stuff, I know that Dick and Barbara Gordon still aren’t together but it was nice seeing them explore the option. They have a moment here but it’s kind of sad, as I’m not too keen on Seeley’s Defacer character.

Anyway, this just didn’t resonate with me like I hoped it would. It’s not terrible but it also didn’t make me want to pick up the third volume. So, I guess this series is on hold for me now, as I read some other stuff in the meantime.

Rating: 6/10
Pairs well with: the ongoing Nightwing series, as well as BatgirlRed Hood and the OutlawsDetective Comics and Titans.

Comic Review: Nightwing, Vol. 1: Better Than Batman

Published: January 31st, 2017
Written by: Tim Seeley
Art by: Javier Fernandez

DC Comics, 164 Pages

Review:

I’ve been reading Nightwing for about a year now but I was behind on all the Rebirth era stuff because I was tired of DC Comics hitting the reboot button every few years. But I heard pretty good things about this series and started reading them. Now I want to go back and get all the previous stories in the Rebirth era to help give context to the newer chapters.

This collection has two story arcs in it but they’re both very connected, as they deal with the character of Raptor and his relationship with Nightwing a.k.a. Dick Grayson.

Also, this story starts on the heels of Dick leaving the Spyral organization where he was known simply as Agent 37.

This first arc sees Dick become Nightwing once again, as he is pulled into the Parliament of Owls to help protect Damian Wayne, the current Robin and son of Batman. Nightwing is forced to work with Raptor but the two have their own agenda and we see them work towards defeating the Owls. The story also brings in the Kobra organization and deals with their rivalry with the Owls.

I’m not as versed on the Court/Parliament of Owls stuff as I should be but I did enjoy the story and what it meant for all parties involved. However, the real emotional weight and the real story doesn’t happen until the final two issues collected in this volume. This is where Raptor’s intentions become clear and where Dick discovers that the two men have personal ties to one another.

I’ve enjoyed Tim Seeley’s work for quite awhile. I was an avid fan of his Hack/Slash comic series and I’ve reviewed all five omnibuses already. He just seems to be having fun writing Nightwing and he understands the difference between Dick Grayson and Batman, as well as all the other Robins.

One of my favorite parts about this series is the evolution of Nightwing and Batgirl’s relationship. Seeley does a fine job of working in the romantic stuff without it being in the way of the story. This may actually be one of the best handled romances in modern comics, even if the two can never seem to get together or be on the same page at the same time. It’s certainly more interesting than whatever the hell happened with that Batman and Catwoman wedding fiasco.

I’m glad that I’m working my way through this series and anticipate picking up the second volume as I catch up to where I am now, around issue 50 or so.

Rating: 7/10
Pairs well with: the ongoing Nightwing series, as well as BatgirlRed Hood and the OutlawsDetective Comics and Titans.

Comic Review: Batman: White Knight

Published: October 9th, 2018
Written by: Sean Murphy
Art by: Sean Murphy

DC Comics, 224 Pages

Review:

Spoiler alert: this gets a perfect score.

The reason why this gets a perfect score is that you just don’t read comic book stories this great anymore. It almost feels as if we don’t deserve something this good in this day and age. And, I guess, one could say that maybe its greatness is magnified by an industry that is struggling to put out exceptional work but I don’t think that it is. I think that White Knight, regardless of what era it came out in, is a true masterpiece of the comic book medium.

Sure, time will tell how this holds up over the years but I don’t need time to tell me that this most certainly will be held in the same regard as Batman classics The Long HalloweenThe Dark Knight Returns and Year One. In fact, I would say that this beats two out of those three.

Sean Murphy weaved a tale that exists in its own continuity but at the same time, he wrote a Batman story that was respectful to the franchise and all the characters within it. I love when someone can find a way to utilize all the major villains and Murphy did just that, without having this become a convoluted mess. His idea in how to include them all here was actually kind of genius.

This also does a fine job in breaking down the dichotomy that is Batman and the Joker and asks the question, “Is there even a dichotomy?” Delving deeper than just that, this examines the Joker, Batman and Harley Quinn’s psyche in new ways that really make this book smarter than the average bear while making these old characters feel fresh. Basically, Murphy found a way to explore these well-known characters and brought something new and intriguing to the table.

Finishing the story, it’s hard to pinpoint who the big bad is here. Is it the reformed Joker? Is it Harley pulling strings? Is it the new villain: Neo Joker? Is it Batman? Is it the GCPD? Is it Gotham City itself? There is a lot to interpret here and there isn’t a clean answer any which way you could go.

Murphy also gives back a lot of fan service in including certain characters from other mediums and beloved Batmobiles of yesteryear, among other things. But it’s never fan service just to get brownie points, he created the right sort of situation where all of it just works really well.

I loved the idea of the GTO (Gotham Terrorist Oppression Unit) and how Nightwing and Batgirl were used. I loved how the story worked for the entire Bat-family, especially the stuff regarding Alfred. All the Mr. Freeze material was also wonderful. There is just so much to digest and dissect here but all of it is good.

Sean Murphy also did the art and I loved his work. All in all, this really is his creation and it’s a damn fine creation at that.

This limited comic series is pretty close to perfect. There’s nothing I would change or alter about it and frankly, I want to read it again.

Rating: 10/10
Pairs well with: the best of the best classic Batman stories: The Long HalloweenDark VictoryYear OneThe Dark Knight Returns, etc.

Comic Review: Detective Comics: On the Outside

Published: June 27th, 2018 – August 22nd, 2018
Written by: Bryan Edward Hill
Art by: Miguel Mendonca, Diana E. Conesa, Adriano Lucas, various

DC Comics, 125 Pages

Review:

This five issue story arc took place over Detective Comics issues 983 through 987. This is also the beginning of Bryan Edward Hill’s run, following some solid work by James Tynion IV.

What I liked most about this story, is that the villain, a guy named Karma, has the same sentiment that I do regarding Batman. He is much better when he’s not being held down by the huge Bat-Family of characters. While I like many of those characters, my favorite Batman stories don’t usually involve Robin, Batgirl or any other allies; it’s just Batman, on his own, kicking ass.

Batman does have a lot of help here though. His main ally in the story is Black Lightning, who he uses to sort of lead his younger allies and to keep them in line, as they have been targeted by this new villain, who seems to know way too much about Batman and his friends.

This story has a lot of action and it also does a good job of exploring Black Lightning, as a character in this Rebirth era, where he and Batman are apparently not too familiar with one other.

You also get small cameos by Superman and the Martian Manhunter.

This was a good, solid story, well paced and I dug the art. I’m on board with this run after one story arc and I hope that Bryan Edward Hill is building towards something great, as Detective Comics #1000 isn’t too far away.

Rating: 7.75/10
Pairs well with: James Tynion IV’s recent run on Detective Comics.