Saturday, 24 September 2011

52 New Beginnings - Batman/Green Lantern

Birds Of Prey
reviewed by Robert Barton-Ancliffe

Although I hadn’t followed previous Birds of Prey titles, I was mildly intrigued by this re-launch, based on both the colourful mix of characters on the cover and the potentially interesting fallout for the team with regards to the new 52 status quo. Even the uninitiated will surely be familiar with recent forum chatter concerning former Birds of Prey leader Oracle, aka Barbara Gordon, and her miraculous recovery from a serious spinal injury that had defined and enriched her characterisation for the last 23 years.

While fans seem resigned to accept this turn of events as the point is slowly explored in the pages of Gail Simone’s recently re-launched ‘Batgirl’, many will no doubt be a little perturbed by her cameo appearance here. While the baton passing is only natural as Black Canary and Babs discuss assembling a new roster, for me this narrative curveball proved a little distracting from what should be a fresh start, particularly as Babs’s characterisation as a holier-than-thou and rather smug matriarch does the character little favours.

The question seems to be, can Birds of Prey fully emerge from the shadow of the newly-minted Batgirl and fly on their own? Although this issue is fast paced and uses a fairly simple but workable narrative device of introducing us to the team through the eyes of an outsider, there is very little substance. At best, the characters seem a little underdeveloped, and at worst, a little objectified. Although cleanly drawn with impressive attention to atmosphere and background detail, Jesus Saiz’s pencils do little more than display the largely female cast in a serious of provocative action poses.

Perhaps this is a little overly critical of a book in which the male characters are equally drawn as perfect specimens, but there is so little else to get to grips with in the rather sparse script, with few hints of deeper layers or future arc plots. As a reader one cannot help but notice such shortcomings.

One final thought. Although the cover promises an interesting team roster, with the inclusion of a figure that I assume to be Poison Ivy together with a sword wielding samurai character, the failure of either to appear in this first issue made me feel a little duped. Its all very well teasing us with the shape of things to come, with both this hint and the recent announcement that Barbara Gordon as Batgirl will drop in for issue #4, I can’t help wishing that this first issue had been gripping enough to make me want to stick with the series until writer Duane Swierczynski’s long game plays out in full.

reviewed by Kate Townshend

I don’t want to end up banging on about this but I’m starting to sense a bit of a common theme with some of DC’s new comics. If there’s a female character in there, particularly if she’s ambiguously placed on the super villain/super hero spectrum then the chances are that she’ll be showing an awful lot of cleavage on the front cover.

So it is with Catwoman, and although I’ve always loved her sexiness as integral to the character, starting the very first story of this reboot with a bunch of frames where she’s falling out of a red bra does seem a touch... gratuitous.

Anyway, winding up the ranting and putting feminist reservations aside, I’m a little bit in love with Catwoman. Like all the most compelling characters she has her own agenda and thus her own voice, cleverly re-enforced by the fact that she narrates the events of this first outing.

Pleasingly, this thematic consistency works with the artwork too. The voiceover ensures that we see each frame through the lens of Catwoman’s own consciousness, and it’s a world of muted, twilight hues, blues and blacks and greys... (Do you see where they’re going with this metaphor yet?) Rather than being monotonous though it’s strangely engaging, particularly because the flashes of colour that do leap out of the page are a wonderful attention focuser.

And frequently, they come from Catwoman herself - that crimson bra, a scarlet wig... As she escapes from trouble she declares with a weary kind of glee, "Let them notice." And, boy, do we.

We’re not the only ones either. Apparently, Catwoman is still drawing all the right kinds of attention from Batman. I’ve never really got there dynamic before, but it kind of works here. He steams in, the voice of the patriarchy, essentially all ready to tell her off for being naughty. But like Eve with that apple, his resolve falters in the face of an eloquent bad girl. She takes what she needs from him, not what he intends to give. And ultimately even Batman’s uncompromising morality is dragged into her world and its shades of grey. Who can really blame him either?

Green Lantern Corps
reviewed by Matt Puddy

Over the years the Green Lantern Corps title has grown and evolved to become a strong title. It has always involved at least one of the human Lanterns, even when they have spun off into other titles, like Guy Gardner and the Emerald Warriors. So in contrast I was really happy to see that the opening was revolving around other members of the Corps, albeit in a bind, which then shifts to showing weakness, uncertainty and an inability to adjust. The almost ironic positioning gives it all a very good grounding. This is something that I have come to expect from Peter Tomasi, not going through the motions but trying to find an edge or new perspective.

When you also add in that amongst the personal struggles there is a completely unknown quantity in an enemy that is direct, focussed - and essentially just a hand glimpsed in one frame - you have been given a first issue that leaves you looking for answers.

My one criticism would be that although sometimes necessary some of the frames could get a little too wordy however this is also helpful in punctuating certain sections and solidifying characters opinions and feelings. The perfect example is John and his architectural foray.

Fernando Pasarin has provided the artwork for the issue. The images are very clean and smooth with an almost hygienic feel to it which is highlighted further by the blood and death as they are made to stand out. By far my favourite moment is when Guy and John are having a “heart to heart” on a satellite of all things and the use of space, both literally and figuratively, has been done really well. The only thing I wasn't fond of was the lack of detail in the contructs the rings have made. This is something I found lacking, especially with John’s background and mind.

Now as a Green Lantern fan I will happily be following this but it’s also a title that I can see, once developed, would attract more new readers. I just hope that it can grow and expand into what I hope it can be!

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