Wednesday, 23 July 2014

Batman 75 Special Review: The Autobiography of Bruce Wayne

Title: The Brave and the Bold #197
Story: The Autobiography of Bruce Wayne
Characters: Batman, Catwoman, Robin (Dick Grayson), Batwoman (Kathy Kane)
Creators: Alan Brennert (writer), Joe Staton (artist), George Freeman (artist)
Publication Date: April 1983

Summary: The story begins with an elderly Bruce Wayne sitting behind a typewriter reflecting on his early career as Batman, his adventures with his friends in the Justice Society, and his guardianship of Dick Grayson. He states that all of these individuals have been very important people in his life, but admits that the person who changed his life the most was his one-time adversary and later wife: Selina Kyle, the Catwoman. Bruce then takes us to the moment in his life that forever redefined his life's meaning.

Monday, 14 July 2014

Crisis on Earth-2: Full October 2014 Solicitations

1:50 Variant cover by YANICK PAQUETTE
On sale OCTOBER 8 • 48 pg, FC, $2.99 US • RATED T
Daniel H. Wilson, New York Times best-selling author of Robopocalypse and Robogenesis, delves into the world of EARTH 2 for the start of a new weekly series that will see the origins of a world much like the New 52 Earth, but yet so different. A world that saw its greatest heroes die – and new ones take their places. A world where Superman became it’s greatest villain, and a man named Zod seeks to save it, along with Batman, Green Lantern, The Flash and other heroes. A world they can only save from the forces of Apokolips through great personal sacrifice! Death and destruction will follow each week, and you’ll never know who will live and who will die! It all begins with this extra-sized debut issue!

On sale OCTOBER 15 • 32 pg, FC, $2.99 US • RATED T
Huntress and Power Girl returned to Earth 2 to help save it from the threat of Apokolips, but even their combined power isn’t enough to protect against the first of four furies from that deadly world: the girl known as War.

On sale OCTOBER 22 • 32 pg, FC, $2.99 US • RATED T
With Earth 2’s United Kingdom falling under the rule of one of Apokolips’s invaders, Hawkgirl and Doctor Fate race to London. But with Nabu in control, Fate’s motives might not be as pure as they seem.

On sale OCTOBER 29 • 32 pg, FC, $2.99 US • RATED T
Aquawoman returns to Atlantis – too late! THE NEW 52

Comment: I can't say that I care for more 'death and destruction' since we got plenty that in the last three years with the Earth-2 monthly alone, Batman Incorporated, events like, Death of the FamilyTrinity War, Forever Evil, and currently Futures End which started its zero issue with a dystopian blood bath of epic proportions. I do, however, like that the individual issues are going to focus on the individual Earth-2 characters who are not Thomas Wayne Batman and Evil!Apokolips Superman. It was admittedly a much needed change following the usurpation of the monthly Earth-2 book by a character who should've stayed in Flashpoint. It also looks like Huntress and Power Girl will still be together in the issues they appear in, so I may end up checking out this weekly after all, even though I don't care for the story. The fact that they'll be written by writers who aren't Paul Levitz gives me hope!

EARTH 2 #27
On sale OCTOBER 8 • 32 pg, FC, $2.99 US • RATED T

World’s End is here! Everything the Wonders of Earth 2 have fought for stands to be destroyed. Be here as their powers are tested and hard choices are made!

Comment: Eh. Huntress vs Batman. I can only hope Thomas Wayne Batman will be one of the aforementioned casualties of the Earth-2 weekly and we can finally be done with him once and for all. He certainly won't be missed if they kill him off and will definitely be a better candidate for fridging than the Huntress, whom people do care about. Fridgings are cheap deaths that reduce a character's importance to how they are valued by other characters, so it honestly won't be a bad way to send him off.

Written by PAUL LEVITZ
On sale OCTOBER 8 • 32 pg, FC, $2.99 US • RATED T
Take a trip into the history of Earth 2 to learn the truth about the deals between Zod and Jor-El!

Comment: Eh. There's already too much Batman and Superman in the New 52 as is. While the Earth-2 versions of Batman and Superman are my favourite versions of the characters, there's already a better Batman/Superman book being published by DC right now. A second Batman/Superman book even if Earth-2 is redundant, especially since these versions of the characters have already been featured prominently in the mainstream Batman/Superman book. Yeah, I'm definitely dropping this book for good in October. I don't care for more meandering stories from Paul Levitz.

Sunday, 13 July 2014

Batgirl #33 Review

Title: Batgirl #33
Story: Deadline, Part 2
Characters: Batgirl (Barbara Gordon), Black Canary (Dinah Drake), Huntress (Helena Wayne)
Creators: Gail Simone (writer), Fernando Pasarin (artist)
Publication Date: July 2014

Summary: Batgirl #32 saw the protagonist, Barbara Gordon, on the edge of her limits as a superhero after her arch nemesis, Charise Carnes (aka Knightfall), returned to Gotham bigger, badder, and more powerful than ever before. While Charise essentially shares the same goals as Barbara in that she wants to look out for Gotham's best interests, she also has an extreme and ultimately totalitarian idea of justice comparable to that of a dictator. Barbara is especially weary of her persistent use of violence as a way of getting her message across. The final straw for her was the amputating of Ricky Gutierrez' brother's hand to force the former into dropping his lawsuit against Barbara's father, James Gordon, for a shooting incident involving the GCPD. 

Knowing that she has to take things a step further if she is to take down Charise once and for all, Barbara recruits the help of her oldest and closet friend, Dinah Drake-Lance, who operates as Black Canary and the current leader of the Birds of Prey. Barbara fills her in on her case with Knightfall, and Dinah feels that she is embarking on a suicide mission, but agrees to help her out regardless. At the end of this conversation, they gain the support of one more individual, Helena Wayne, who chanced upon their meeting in one of her rare visits to Gotham.

Saturday, 12 July 2014

Worlds' Finest #25 Review

Title: Worlds' Finest #25
Story: Farewells
Characters: Huntress (Helena Wayne), Power Girl, Tanya Spears, Desaad
Creators: Paul Levitz (writer), Tyler Kirkham (artist)
Publication Date: July 2014

Summary: The issue begins with a robed Helena Wayne having breakfast in her (expensive) flat in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Kara flies in to tell Helena that they should start preparing for their departure back to Earth-2. She hits the shower to get ready to meet with her lawyer who will finalise her will acknowledging Somya's daughter as the beneficiary to all of her possessions. While Kara finishes getting ready, the two women have a brief conversation acknowledging that their 'fun' will end when they return home and that they may be their world's last remaining hope against Apokolips. Helena no longer feels that Earth-2 is her home anymore since all the people she knew and loved there have since died.

Friday, 11 July 2014

Batman/Superman #12 Review

Title: Batman/Superman #12
Story: Second Chance
Characters: Batman, Superman, Power Girl, Huntress (Helena Wayne)
Creators: Greg Pak (writer), Tom Raney (artist), Ken Lashley (artist)
Publication Date: July 2014

Summary: The issue opens up with the Earth-1 Batman and Superman in the Batcave investigating the Earth-2 heroines Huntress and Power Girl on Batman's computer. Having by now recalled their adventure on Earth-2 five years ago, Batman and Superman discuss the events that transpired, namely that a demon named Kaiyo 'The Chaos Bringer' had caused them to fight their doppelgangers in a 'contest' to determine which world Darkseid should destroy. 

Realising that their actions on Earth-2 sealed the fates of their Earth-2 counterparts, Superman suggests going back to Earth-2 to rectify the mistakes they made. He also suggests finding Kaiyo, whom they know is residing on their world. Kaiyo who had been listening to the conversation the whole time decides to 'cut to the chase' and appears to them both, offering them the chance to change one aspect of Earth-2's past as a 'thank you' for being of good service to her all these years. She makes a point of emphasising that any changes they make to Earth-2's past will be on them.

Saturday, 5 July 2014

Batman/Superman + Worlds' Finest: First Contact Full Review

Title: Batman/Superman #8 - #9, Worlds' Finest #19 - #21
Story: First Contact, Parts 1 - 4
Characters: Huntress (Helena Wayne), Power Girl, Batman, Superman
Creators: Greg Pak (writer), Paul Levitz (writer) Jae Lee (artist), RB Silva (artist)
Publication Date: January - April 2014

Reviewer's Note: This review is hella late, but you know what? So was the actual crossover event when it was actually released. Between DC Comics constantly delaying the issues--including releasing them out of order--and my working a full time schedule on top of that, I think I can be cut some slack here.

Considering the hot mess the scheduling for this event turned out to be, I did find myself wishing I had done what I originally thought of doing when this crossover was first announced: reviewing it in full upon completion. After all, I did exactly that with the first Batman/Superman story arc that took us to Earth-2 in Cross Worlds, and it actually turned out to be a wise decision on my part considering that those issues got delayed in their initial releases as well. So guess what's happening with this review? I'm doing exactly what I should've done from the go: reviewing it in full.

Yes, I am fully aware of the fact that I already discussed the first half. But I also mentioned in Paragraph 1 of this reviewer's note that I never got around to discussing the second half because of the aforementioned reasons. I did try to review those issues individually when they were finally released (well, the Batman/Superman one anyway, cause I was only going to summarise the World's Finest concluding issue), but then it started to feel like a chore to do so. Not only did I find myself addressing the same stuff I had already addressed in the first review, but I also just didn't feel motivated discuss it further given the actual conclusion that it got. (More on that in a bit).

At least by reviewing it in full, I don't have to concern myself with needing to come up with details to discuss, because honestly, there wasn't a whole lot (as you will see) that happened in this crossover that's been worthy of discussion. It also allows me to keep the plot summary short (cause again not a lot happened), and I can just say what I liked and didn't like and be straight to the point about it. My review will still be detailed of course, but at least I won't be stuck on the specifics of the story. This also means I'm not going to (for the most part) readdress everything I already discussed in my initial review. I'm also going to be mostly discussing Greg Pak's portion of the crossover because--let's be honest--his writing is tonnes better than that of Paul Levitz. Not only does it give me something different to discuss, but there's also no point in me flogging a dead horse by repeatedly addressing the same problems I've already discussed with Levitz in previous reviews. That being said, let's now get to the part you're actually interested in: the review!

Thursday, 3 July 2014

Batgirl #33 Preview: Featuring Helena Wayne

13th Dimension has an exclusive preview of Batgirl #33 written by fan-favourite writer Gail Simone and illustrated by Fernando Pasarin.

Going by the preview alone, it looks like this issue is going to be both a hit and a miss with me. At least the beginning of this issue might be the miss for me.

On the one hand, Gail Simone does actually get Helena Wayne’s voice right. On the other hand, if Helena was actually avoiding fighting back as the preview establishes, it didn’t translate well in the execution. She did look like she was genuinely getting the crap beaten out of her by Batgirl, which is out of character for a woman who was raised since childhood by Batman and Catwoman to be a skilled crime-fighter.

This isn’t to undermine Barbara as a skilled crime-fighter because she very much is. But there’s also no way on two Earths that Helena would allow herself to be beaten shitless. If she was genuinely avoiding a fight, she would have been dodging Barbara’s attacks, not taking them. She also would’ve restrained Barbara herself, not Black Canary.

At best, Helena would have taken the first punch, but she would not taken any of the others that followed. She also would’ve ended the fight a lot sooner than it actually did, even with Barbara going on full adrenaline like she is here. Helena is a much more skilled fighter than she’s being shown here.

That nitpick aside, the rest of this actually looks pretty good. Can’t wait to read this next week!

Saturday, 31 May 2014

Five Reasons Helena Bertinelli as a Woman of Colour Matters and More

Earlier this month, creators Tim Seeley and Tom King announced that a New 52 version of Helena Bertinelli would be debuting in the new series, Grayson, which would see Dick Grayson rebuilding his life as a spy after the events of Forever Evil outed him as Nightwing.This week saw the official first appearance of Helena Bertinelli as both an agent of Spyral and as woman of colour in the final pages of Nightwing #30.

As was to be expected in this situation, the change to Helena Bertinelli's appearance in the New 52 didn't go unnoticed. Many people supported the change and there were just as many who didn't. Those who supported the change saw this as a positive development for the character, and those who didn't complained about the change for all of the wrong reasons. Unsurprisingly, most of the complaints were, at best, deeply rooted in ignorance over the diversity of people that exist in Italy, and, at worst, rife with racist rhetoric.

Given the mixed bag of reactions the new Helena Bertinelli got, I decided to compile my own list of reasons for why this change actually works in her favour. Not just to enlighten the unenlightened, but also to express my own excitement for this development as well as address any concerns about where this could go given DC's awful track record with women in the New 52. But first, the positives!

Saturday, 19 April 2014

Understanding Your Isms: What Is Misogyny?


It's not often that I get to address the problem with women in comics these days, especially not twice in one week. But to quote one of my favourite writers, Marjorie Liu, 'the shit has hit the fan again' and more.

Earlier this week, I discussed DC Comics' continued reliance on the women in refrigerators trope to solicit and sell a story. This week it especially hit close to home when DC Comics released a teaser image of Thomas Wayne holding the seemingly dead body of his granddaughter, Helena Wayne (the Huntress). You may recall this is the same character who's already had the misfortune of being unceremoniously killed off in a previous reboot, and systematically erased by having her entire origin completely redone as Helena Bertinelli for two decades. The point being that Helena Wayne fans have waited for a very long time to get this character back. Now that we finally have, DC Comics has been incredibly wasteful of her character by limiting her story potential in the New 52. To top it off, her place on Earth-2 has been handed over to her grandfather, Thomas Wayne, a character who never had a bigger role on Earth-2 than being Bruce's dead father. It also now appears that Helena will be functioning as a prop that services Thomas' narrative in the new weekly series Earth-2: World's End. It's both incredibly offensive and very rage-inducing.

Even earlier this week, the comics community has demonstrated the kinds of fans DC Comics attracted over the last two decades when an industry professional (who happens to be a woman) criticised the cover of an upcoming new Teen Titans series. In her critique, Janelle Asselin discussed the importance of marketing for attracting new readers, and how making basic mistakes in marketing can put off potential customers from checking out a product they may otherwise enjoy. (Look no further than my discussion on the Earth-2: World's End teaser for an excellent case in point). She specifically addressed the role that covers and other marketing campaigns play in enticing readers to buy a book. This began her discussion of Rocafort's art and--particularly--the continued sexist portrayal of women (including underage ones) in this industry. For women who are active in comics fandom, Asselin's article yielded very predictable results. Yet, people were very surprised to learn that threats of rape and violence against women who speak up against the institutional misogyny that dictates our media is actually a problem. Surprised! Let me repeat that: SURPRISED!

The funny thing is women have been saying for YEARS that this kind of behaviour exists and poses a very real problem for women. Yet, the industry itself has remained unresponsive to that problem. Even industry professionals who are men and women have said for years that the industry needs to actively change to be more inclusive of a wider readership if comics as a medium is to survive for decades to come. The industry will not--in the longterm--benefit from pandering to a niche market comprised of misogynistic adult men who think they have no other outlet for their bigotry and masturbatory fantasies, and feel entitled to having their toxic attitudes and behaviours validated in all media, including comics.

If artist Brett Booth is to be taken at his word that DC Comics is 'keeping things close to the chest' and are now at a point where they have to control their own interviews for fear of backlash, this is not symptomatic of a business being run smoothly. If they are legitimately feeling cornered by fans in recent times, it says to me that they need to reevaluate their current business model and figure out what it is they're doing wrong that's causing such a strong reaction from fans--their customers. I can safely tell you that no one gets mad or complains for the sake of doing these things, not even people who complain about people complaining. People complain when something upsets them or when they feel harmed in any way. People also complain when they are tired of being sidelined by others in positions of power, and the cries only get louder the more they continue to be ignored. Complaints and bad business practise do not exist independently of each other, and often influence one another.

Taken as a whole, this massive train wreck opens the door to a larger discussion of a much wider issue. The one that no one--especially not the current DC leadership--wants acknowledge and discuss. The elephant in the room that seems to go unnoticed every single time it comes stomping through the corridors of patriarchal society and into the female space. The very same one that stands at the very root of every problem we have seen with the way women are consistently devalued as an entire group not just in the comics industry, but the world at large.

You may recall my earlier discussion on sexism as part of a larger conversation I'm still working on about all the different ways Helena Wayne has been systematically hurt by sexist business practise. With all that has happened this week (one of which affects Helena Wayne directly), we now get to open yet another discussion on sexism's uglier cousin: misogyny.

Thursday, 17 April 2014

Women in Refrigerators: Helena Wayne Appears to be Next

This is seriously turning out to be a roller-coaster of a week and not in a good way. Earlier this week, an avalanche of vile misogyny came crashing down on comic book professional, Janelle Asselin, for criticising the comic book industry on their failure to market books to a wider audience. It is a legitimate criticism when you consider that the goal of comic book publishers--like any other business--is to make money. She was especially on spot with the role that covers (and even teaser images) play in marketing:
Covers are important, but their job is also very basic. A good comics cover alludes to the story within, yes, but most importantly, it draws readers in. In comics, covers have an especially important role in marketing, a role that hits three or four times. A cover is often the project's first impression, debuting online either in solicitations or other promotional campaigns.
I agree. And consistent with this discussion, my first impression of the teaser for Earth-2: World's End is anything but good, especially since the teaser features the image of a young woman who appears to be dead in the arms of her grandfather. The seemingly dead woman in the teaser is none other than Helena Wayne (the Huntress) in the arms of Thomas Wayne, the new Earth-2 Batman. You can already imagine where I'm going to go with this.