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DC Comics Review Round-Up: Batgirl #35, Batman #35, Gotham Academy #1, Lobo #1

Amid the New York Comic Con frenzy there were some interesting new releases from DC Comics last week and we’ve rounded up some quick reviews. The highly anticipated issues of Batgirl #35 and Gotham Academy #1, the infamous $5 issue of Batman #35 and the return of Lobo in Lobo #1. Check out if they lived up to the hype.

Batman #35 is an appetizer for things to come in the 'Endgame' arc. It’s a rather light issue for the normally verbose Scott Snyder who isn't afraid to lay down two pages of exposition. This is a more straight forward set-up to Part 2. As the cover indicates the Justice League is out to get him as we've seen happen before. 

It’s always an entertaining exercise  to see the innovative ways Bruce has designed to counter the superhuman powers of the League. It may be a little derivative but in the hands of Snyder it’s at least well orchestrated. 

Greg Capullo as always provides magnificent art work. His Wonder Woman, muscular and combative, is as good a version of the Amazon princess you’ll ever see. I would buy a Capullo drawn WW book in a heartbeat.

In the end there is a payoff and it was worth the journey but for a book that features a seemingly unnecessary 8 page back up story and the controversial $5 price tag I much rather would have preferred 8 more pages of Snyder and Capullo. 

That is where I’d justify the price hike.

Lobo #1 is the reboot no one wanted. It’s the reimagining of one of DC’s favorite anti-heroes turned from metal head biker with twisted charm to a generic matinee idol with nary a personality. It’s evident from the very beginning that the guy being replaced, now seen as an imposter, was vastly more entertaining in one page than the new guy after 20.

 I don’t want to blame Cullen Bunn who is capable of so much better like Helheim and The Sixth Gun. I’m going to lay it directly on DC Comics editors. This was the Lobo they wanted to reinvent for the New 52 and it largely fails.

Reilly Brown and Nelson DeCastro do a fine job of bringing this new world of Lobo to life. The action scenes are competent and the character designs are interesting although most don’t live long enough to make a greater impact. Lobo 2.0 is a contract killer and evidently quite good at it but there’s nothing particularly special or different about him. Besides a flashback there isn’t much to know about him and by the end you may not even care.

You’ll keep wishing the old Lobo was back.   

Batgirl #35 ushered the new creative team of Cameron Stewart, Brenden Fletcher and Babs Tarr. They took over for the beloved Gail Simone and basically rebooted Barbara Gordon in the trendy neighborhood of Burnside on the other side of the bridge from Gotham City. New friends, new costume and new problems. 

But she’s no longer the hero in skin-tight black spandex operating in the shadow of Batman but just a normal 20-something making her way in the world with real life issues. There doesn’t need to be a maniac in grease paint ready to set the city on fire to establish the drama. Instead the drama is character driven and the crimes in #35 involve phone hacking, theft and the perils of online dating. 

If it sounds likes its geared for a specific audience it is but in doing so Barbara is way more relatable and endearing. She reflects a lot of readers who are dealing with similar life challenges except Barbara is still Batgirl and can kick major ass. Her skills are in full display when she goes in detective mode and Babs Tarr artwork provides a softer more fun look at Barbara as more human as well as the cast of characters that surround her. Batgirl may not be for everybody and I think that’s the point. DC Comics has long ignored a segment of the readership – young women -  that yearned for storytelling that was more driven by the female hero’s character than by testosterone infused misogyny and sexualized images. So far so good.

Gotham Academy #1 is one of the most promising titles DC Comics has had in a long time. Neither kiddie fare like Tiny Titans or grown up action like Justice League but like Batgirl, GA skews younger but can be universally embraced given a chance.

Yes, there comparisons to Harry Potter but GA is a world unto itself with some influence from the Dark Knight by shear proximity to the school. Not to mention that Bruce Wayne is one of the benefactors. Olive Silverlock, the sophomore who reluctantly has to chaperone her ex-boyfriends freshman sister, Maps around campus is the heart and mind of the issue. 

Besides navigating the dark gothic hallways of the Academy, full of stern teachers and mean girls, there’s an air of mystery within its walls. It’s those curious moments that bring Olive and Maps together in an engaging way . Brenden Fletcher and Becky Cloonan write a teen book that doesn’t talk down to their audience. Maps is a bit hyper but that’s her personality, curious and precocious. Olive is thoughtful, sensitive but brave. 

Karl Kerschl may be the star of this creative all-star team. The art is part anime, part classic Disney animation. The layouts come in various shapes and sizes that give the familiar high school storylines a new fresh outlook. Geyser and Dave McCaig provide colors that add warmth in certain scenes (orange, red, brown) and dark dreary coldness in others (black, gray, dark greens). 

Overall, this is the book that could transcend readers like Harry Potter did. That’s one comparison worth having.


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