Tagged: Serge Lapointe

Chris Comics: Putting The New 52 to rest with Grayson and Batgirl

Grayson-20Batgirl-52-variant-cover-by-Babs-TarrGrayson #20

Jackson Lanzing, Collin Kelly, Roge Antonio, Jeromy Cox

DC $3.99

Batgirl #52

Brenden Fletcher, Elenora Carline, Minkyu Jung, Serge Lapointe, Steve Wands

DC $2.99

Now that DC Rebirth is up and running, May sees the end of several DC titles before they get rebranded and relaunched with new creative teams. Which means both Batgirl and Grayson have come to an end, which is a shame.

Batgirl #52 wraps up the Brenden Fletcher-verse crossover, and sets up the next chapter of Barbara Gordon’s life for the creative team of Hope Larson and Rafael Albuquerque. Grayson #20 ends Dick’s run as a spy, puts the genie back in the bottle in regards to his secret identity, and gets him back in the Nightwing costume in time for Tim Seeley‘s return to the character. Despite neither storylines wrapping up with their original creative teams attached (Fletcher on Batgirl being the exception), both stories wrap up nicely, with only a few missteps.

As I’ve said several times in the past, Jackson Lanzing & Collin Kelly read exactly like image-117Tim Seeley and Tom King do on this book and that’s excellent. I’m sure they studied the notes left by those writers to a T, which I appreciate, especially when they were brought on the book so late in the game. Not only do they close out one of the most interesting status quos for Dick Grayson on an extremely high note, but they set things up for Helena Bertinelli’s role in the upcoming Batgirl and the Birds of Prey book flawlessly. And Roge Antonio’s art improves tenfold this issue, drawing an incredibly compelling action final fight scene between Grayson and Otto Netz for the bulk of the issue. He does a superb job of keeping in the spirit of the trippy art direction established by previous series artist Mikel Janin, while doing his own thing. Jeromy Cox has been fantastic on this title since issue one, and he’s just as great here. I HATE to see Grayson end, but man, this was a real solid ending by this team.

Batgirl #52 on the other hand, feels rushed, as there are a number of grammatical and spelling errors that plague this issue. The art from Elenora Carline & Minkyu Jung,  is okay, but there’s a lot of stiff posing and flat looking characters despite some excellent colors from Sergio Lapointe. Even Brenden Fletcher’s dialogue is extremely disappointing at times, reading more like a cheesy all ages comic more than the fresh and relevant to today’s audience stuff we as readers have been used to. Which is odd, given how good a solo Fletcher can be, as seen in Black Canary and Batgirl_52_01Gotham Academy.

I also find it odd to remove Barbara Gordon from her company so early in the game. I know WHY it needed to happen (new creative team and with a new MO), but to do 2 issues after the company’s up and running feels really out of place. It feel likes it was more than an editorial call rather than something Fletcher elected to do, although I have no evidence of such.

At the end of the day, we have 2 books I’m sad to see end, for entirely different reasons. With Grayson, it’s an end of an era that I really enjoyed, but know that the character’s in good hands. With Batgirl, it feels like the character is being forced into a more traditional role, rather than allowing her to exist in a status quo that very few, if any, female characters get to inhibit. I’ll be reading both characters once their reintroduced in Rebirth, although there’s no guarantee I’ll be sticking around for the long haul.

 

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Chris’ Comics: Batgirl #51 & Grayson #19

STL001391Batgirl #51

Brenden Fletcher, Elenora Carlini, Minkyu Jung, Roger Robinson, Serge Lapointe

DC $3.99

I applaud what Brenden Fletcher did with this 51st issue of Batgirl. With Babs Tarr and Cameron Stewart off the title and more or less done with DC Comics for the foreseeable future, Fletcher has 2 issues of comic to write before the new creative team takes over this summer. It appears he’s using these issues to do a low key crossover, using a plot line from the third Batgirl Annual he worked on to bring together the worlds of Batgirl, Black Canary and Gotham Academy. Aside from the slight fan service, Fletcher also has Barbara Gordon dealing with her new status quo, something he helped set up, which is a fun inverse of the super hero who also has to deal with running a company trope.

Oddly enough, having 3 artists on this book didn’t take away from my enjoyment on this book as much as you’d assume it would. Elenora Carlini & Minkyu Jung’s styles blend well together, channeling the same energy Stewart and Tarr brought to the book’s visuals. Roger Robinson is the odd man out here, with a style that’s less exaggerated and more traditional in a sense. His art isn’t bad per say, but it’s comparatively plain once stacked up against the other artists on the book. Serge Lapointe‘s colors are great as per usual, continuing to do some fantastic stuff on the Bat-books his colors.

Batgirl #51 is a fun read and feels like a cool little mini-event. The lack of Tarr and Stewart is felt, but if you’re a fan of the books Brenden Fletcher worked on during his time at DC, you’ll enjoy this issue.

GRAY-Cv19-6d216-7296dGrayson #19

Jackson Lanzing, Collin Kelly, Roge Antonio, Jeromy Cox

DC $3.99

The highest praise I can pay Grayson #19 is that if you told me that former writers Tim Seeley and Tom King wrote this issue, I would have believed you. Writers Jackson Lanzing and Collin Kelly do a superb job and matching the tone set up by those 2 writers, making for an extremely fun read that sees Dick Grayson deal with a massive betrayal. It’s something that’s all too common in spy fiction, but because the creators involved are so talented, it comes off as a complete surprise.

Like the writers, artist Roge Antonio’s really steps up this issue and attempts to pay homage to the creators who came before him, His Dick Grayson may not be the prettiest, but Antonio excels at drawing some really solid action pieces, as well as getting a little trippy with the layouts at times. Having regular Grayson colorist Jeromy Cox color his art definitely helps with the experience, as his contributions really help set the mood and bring the art to life.

With next issue being the last, Grayson #19 ends with an encounter fans have been expecting/dreading. It’s a shame we already know who’s on this new Birds of Prey roster, because it definitely takes some of the suspense away from this encounter. But that’s on editorial/marketing, not the creators, so it’s hard to fault them. Regardless of quasi-spoilers, Grayson #19 is an thrilling comic, one that hopefully will be serviced by a fantastic ending next month.

 

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Chris’ Comics: Gotham Academy #17

Gotham_Academy_Vol_1-17_Cover-1_TeaserGotham Academy #17

Brenden Fletcher, Adam Archer, Sandra Hope, Annie Wu, Michael Dialynas,, David Peterson, Serge Lapointe

DC $2.99

 

One of the best things about the Yearbook arc is the variety in tone and genre the stories in each issue are. I knew nothing about the creators contributing to Gotham Academy #19, originally thinking it was the conclusion of this storyline. This month I was pleasantly surprised to see the issue kick off with a story that more or less crosses over Black Canary for example, another title that Brenden Fletcher writes.

We get a lot of content from issue #19, which see the girls set out to get their scrapbook from returning guest star Robin (Damian Wanye). It acts as the bridge between the other 3 tales, and again, not a bad bit of storytelling, I just get a little irked everything artist Adam Archer draws Olivia and company’s heads too large or too lumpy. I’m also not a fan of 2how it looks like Damian’s costume is too big for him.

The Annie Wu drawn crossover story sees the GA kids run into Heathcliff, who first showed up in this book and then started showing up as a supporting character in Black Canary. This is probably my favorite story of the bunch, as it looks great, and I really like the way Fletcher handles the reunion between Heathcliff and Pomeline. Wu is colored by Serge Lapointe, who’s washed out and neon color palette is perfect for a story involving relationships and music.

From there we get Michael Dialynas, who’s worked on The Woods for Boom Studios, telling the story of that one time Maps and Olivia ran into a demon cat on campus. This 6 page story starts off with a cool horror vibe to it, but then gets a little cuter once we find out who’s responsible for said cat. It’s the story has a Batman: The Animated series vibe to it, and I love how Dialynas can manage to pull off horror and adorable with his art.

By assembling so many different on this title the last few months,Gotham Academy has exposed me to a variety of creators I occasionally have little to no prior experience with. That statement is especially true come the end of this comic, where Mouse Guard creator David Peterson tells a story set in Gotham Academy’s past. He creates a quartet of 4 new GOTHAC_17_3characters, and the story revolves around the oft-mentioned “Sorcery & Spells” game that Maps loves so much. Aside from being absolutely gorgeous to look at, I love how it’s inspired by the 1980s Dungeon and Dragons panic, in which the game was believed to have some sort of Satanic ties. Also, the way Peterson tackled the project is super impressive, and I encourage you all to go visit his site and read up on how he approached this story.

“Yearbook” has been a incredible arc for Gotham Academy, and no issue proves that more than this one. The range of talent involved in every issue is insane, and it’s impressive how much mileage each creator can get from a book that only had a dozen or so issues under it’s belt before this arc started. Brenden Fletcher, along with Karl Keschel and Becky Cloonan have created a fantastic playground for this guest creators, and seeing the character celebrated like this month after month has been great.

 

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Chris’ Comics: Batgirl #50

BG_Cv50Batgirl #50

Cameron Stewart, Brenden Fletcher, Babs Tarr, Roger Robinson, John Timms, Elonora Carlini, James Harvey, Serge Lapointe

DC $4.99

I’ll be blunt, Batgirl #50 is a little bit of a disappointment.

While it’s not entirely the creative team’s fault, this is a $5 comic that feels more like an annual. What was suppose to be the final issue for all 3 members of Team Batgirl (Cameron Stewart, Brenden Fletcher & Babs Tarr,who are off to do creator owned stuff for Image), the comic actually features several additional guest artists, once again making the title feel more like a art jam project.  Babs Tarr does draw the bulk of these pages (20 aka the amount of your average DC/Marvel book), which is where the book really shines. If this was the springboard for the new Birds of Prey book, the additional pages by the guess artists would make a ton of sense. But seeing how none of those character except Batgirl & Black Canary are appearing in that title come this summer, it feels like an excuse to pad the book’s page count. I’m genuinely curious if the decision to make the comic double sized was editorial or the creative teams, because it feels incredibly disjointed.

To be fair to the guest artist, their work is certainly solid. Roger Robinson, John Timms, Elonora Carlini, and James Harvey have all pitched in on art duties before on the character, so they certainly feel familiar on the book. They all manage to ape Tarrs’ sBatgirl-50-11tyle quite well, so the book looks good all throughout the issue. And while I may complain about the presence of multiple guest artists, I really do dig the Street Fighter-influenced Vs. pages that break up the chapters. And it’s cool to see Babs working off of Cameron Stewart’s layouts again, as we can see how much she’s grown since she last worked off of them.

The book is at it’s best when it towards the ending, as you can really see where the team was trying to take Barbara. It’s where the real meat of the story is, and it does some really cool things with Babs and the cast of supporting characters the team has assembled. It’s a shame that there’s not more time spent on that sort of thing, versus the amount of time spent with the guest artists and guest stars dealing with other villains. The book ends up feeling back-loaded, which is a batgril-50-teamshame, because again, while I don’t dislike the artist, but there’s a lot of fat to chew through to get to the good stuff.

Batgirl #50 has some genuinely good moments in it, but this book will test your patience. A shame really, because the team had spent a considerable amount of time taking Babs into her this new and exciting direction. They do ultimately succeed in blazing some new paths with the character, and set things up for the next creative team to do some real interesting things with the character, but I just wish the execution could have been a little better.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Chris’ Comics: Gotham Academy #16

5088873-gothac_cv16_dsGotham Academy #16

Brenden Fletcher, Adam Archer, Sandra Hope, James Tynion IV, Christain Wildgoose, Serge Lapointe,  Ken Nimura

DC $2.99

 

It’s a good week for fans of I Kill Giants, as not only is Joe Kelly killing it on Spider-Man/Deadpool, but co-creator/artist Ken Nimura swings by Gotham Academy for a fun story that he draws/writers/letters by himself.

Before vomiting words of praise for Nimura’s contributions to this little, let’s check in on who else contributes to this issue. James Tynion IV, Christian Wildgoose, and Serge Lapointe tell the other guest story which is good, not great, and not exactly something worth writing home about. It’s cool seeing Maps drawn less stylized and more 5088875-gothac_16_2like an actual human teenager, but it only being 4 pages long give the team much to do. Which is a shame, because it gives Tynion a chance to focus on some less dramatic teen characters than the ones he’s used to in the Eternal books. He’s a good fit for the world of Gotham Academy, and takes to the lighter, more Batman the Animated Series inflenced world quite well. And the art is clean, bold and expressive, which I like, even though it’s a in a more traditional DC  Comics style.  Its delightful fluff, and something that may leave you wanting more from Tyion and Wildgoose.

The bridging story from Brenden Fletcher, Adam Archer, and Sandra Hope moves the story of Maps’ faux yearbook in an interesting direction, and I hope it’s capitalized upon for next month’s finale. I still don’t like how Archer draws a particular character, which I won’t get into due to spoilers, but it’s easy enough to overlook since their time on page is relatively short. His work on the main cast has been steadily improving, which I appreciate, and I hope to see him continue to grow as an artist.

Doing away with the 3 stories and 1 bridging story method for a longer second story, Ken Nimura’s “Boring Sundays” tale is DELIGHTFUL, and a great reason to give DC $3 this Gotham-Academy-16-Panel-2week. While Nimura doesn’t give us the deepest narrative, there’s a ton of charm injected into this tale, mostly via some fantastic art. His style, a mixture of Charles Schutz and manga, makes for an interesting visual take on the Gotham Academy. Also I am now realizing I should have just used  Chris Eliopoulos as a better example of something the art is similar to, as you can see during Matt Fraction’s Hawkeye run (take a shot). Nimura really manages to strip down these characters to their esstenials, and manages to tell a adorable story in about 14 pages. It may very well be the best story to appear in the Yearbook arc to date.

Gotham Academy #16 is a fantastic installment of a very creative and fun arc. I love the talent that’s been assemble for this issue, and can’t wait to see who swings by next month for the finale. There hasn’t been a bad story in this storyline yet, and it’s hard to believe that’s going to change next month, especially after a issue as great as this one.

 

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Chris’ Comics: Batgirl #49

BG_Cv49_564245bb7b22c8.12314744Batgirl #49

Cameron Stewart, Brenden Fletcher,  Babs Tarr, Horacio Domingus, Roger Robinson, James Harvey, Minge Doyle, Serge Lapointe

DC $2.99

Real talk, it is hard to make a comic work when it has multiple artists attached to it. There’s so many things that could easy throw off the flow of the book, resulting in a great comic becoming merely a good one. I’m happy to say that isn’t the case for this month’s issue of Batgirl, which sees 4 different artists join Babs Tarr on art duties and still manages to tell a killer story.

Batgirl #49 can be summed up as Batgirl gets Incepted (insert BRMMMM noise here for dramatic effect). New villain the Fugue has gone and messed up our heroine’s brain meats all bad like, so it’s up to her pals Frankie and Black Canary to save the day.  It’s a dense issue that explains the villain’s origins, while focusing on Frankie as the lead for a change. Brenden Fletcher and Cameron Stewart write a comic that’s heavy on the exposition, but is Screen-Shot-2016-03-03-at-10.58.19-AMalso extremely rewarding. It also doesn’t hurt that the art provided by the guest artists is really strong this month.

While Batgirl’s fill in artists have been pretty hit or miss with me, the team of Babs Tarr, Horacio Domingus, Roger Robinson, James Harvey, and Batgirl Annual artist Ming Doyle really knock it out of the park. Domingus and Robinson do a superb job of drawing in a style similar to Tarr, giving the the first half of the book a cohesive book, with some assistance from colorist Serge Lapointe.  And while Ming Doyle and Jame Harvey’s styles couldn’t be anymore different, they definitely work for this issue, definitely establishing the chaotic tone needed from the script. Between this and the current arc in Gotham Academy, it seems the Bat-office knows how to bring talent together for a art jam comic.

I also really like what Cameron Stewart and Brenden Fletcher bring to this issue. While the idea of Batgirl’s brain being hijack feels incredibly similar to their first arc (which is touched upon, no worries), what they do with Fugue and team Batgirl definitely makes for a deeper and more complex story. While the Fugue reveal doesn’t hit as hard as maybe the creator’s BG-49-pg-12-073f0intended it to, he’s still a cool new villain that has some legs, so I’m hoping he can stick around after this arc. It’s also nice to see the writing team utilizing Frankie and various vigilantes who’ve been hanging around Barbara as of late as well as they do, and it makes me wonder if THIS is going to be the Birds of Prey roster hinted at by the DC Rebirth title teaser list.

Building up to what’s suppose to be a game changing 50th issue, Batgirl #49 is a solid read. It’s a pretty serious issue that doesn’t feel like a chore to get through, and the art is superb. I have no doubt that the team of Tarr, Stewart, Fletcher and Lapointe will stick the landing with the conclusion of this arc, and I’m really curious as to what the status quo of the title will be after it. Batgirl #49 not only set ups some potentially very cool things for the character and her cast, and succeeds at juggling multiple artists, a task very few cape comics have done as of late.

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Chris’ Comics: Batgirl #48

BG_CV48Batgirl #48

Cameron Stewart, Brenden Fletcher, Babs Tarr, Rob Haynes, Serge Lapointe, Lee Loughridge

DC $2.99

BABS TARR!! BLACK CANARY!! CO-O-ah dang, I almost had enough things that started with “B”to warrant a “BACKGIRL” gag. ::: is fired immediately for even suggesting that. :::

 

Batgirl #48 sees Babs Tarr return to art duties, which means the book is back to firing on all cylinders. Her pencils (with Rob Haynes helping with breakdowns) are great, and her artistic vision and style help Batgirl bounce back after an issue where I wasn’t really feeling the art. Tarr is the life blood of this book, and it’s nice to see the book look as good and it reads. Also Tarr finally gets to draw Batgirl as a Luchador, which is obviously great, and long overdue in my opinion.

batgirl-48-vid-gamesBabs’ art and holographic pro wrestling aside (again, GREAT!), Batgirl #48 offer readers a lot for their $3. We finally get some answers regarding what’s going on with Babs’ (Gordon) brain,  see her team up with Batwing against the video game themed villains Co-op, said Black Canary team up, and some other things that I don’t want to spoil. My only complaint is that one reveal in this issue was something we all saw coming a mile away, which is a bit anti-climactic, unless there’s a last minute swerve next issue, which would be welcomed.

Also that fight with Co-op had some many terrible puns it felt like I was reading Kieron Gillen’s Twitter feed. Painful if you’re not down with that sort of thing, but also wonderful in a Batman ’66 sort of way.

My beef aside, I also like how the book manages to have 2 colorists work on it and come out relatively fine. Serge Lapointe is joined by Rob Haynes, and while you can tell the differences in style from first glance, the book doesn’t suffer as a result from it. Bab Tarr’s demands colors that pop and are energetic, and both colorists manage to nail that without any issue. I dug how Haynes used darker, bolder colors for his segments, stressing the action/dramatic vibe the book took, where as Lapointe’s palette was lighter. Batgirl uses color extremely well, and it’s great to see colorists not named Matt Wilson kill it in comics.

While there was some fun at their expense earlier, Brenden Fletcher and Cameron Stewart really do a superb job on the script. Cringe worthy jokes aside, there’s a healthy mix of batgirl-48-vid-games-2action and drama, resulting in a fun super hero soap opera. In addition to forwarding the plot and character relationship, the book manages to bring reader up to speed as to what Black Canary’s been up in a fun scene that doesn’t read like an forced ad for her book.

Batgirl #48 ends on a great cliffhanger,  really raising up the stakes for this arc. It’s a great read, and proves how important Babs Tarr role in this title is. If there rumored DC relaunch does go through, hopefully this creative team stay intact. They’re created an incarnation of Batgirl that’s delightful, and it’s the most fun I’ve had with the character in years.

 

 

 

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Chris’ Comics: Batgirl #47

4999675-0+bg_cv47_dsBatgirl #47

Cameron Stewart, Brenden Fletcher, Eleonora Carlini, Moritat, Serge Lapointe

DC $2.99

 I’m a reasonable critic, or I’ve lied to myself enough times to fully believe that I am. I understand that fill in artists are a thing that needs to happen when it comes to super hero comics. Babs Tarr is still relatively new to the business, and it’s hard for most artists, old and new, to hit that 12 issues a year mark. It’s something I’ve grown accustom to, and don’t mind when guys artists like Bengal swing by a draw an issue.

Batgirl #47 has 2 artists assigned to this comic, and while they’re both similar in style, neither Eleonora Carlini or Moritate really give the readers much to talk about. Carilini’s out of costume stuff looks fine enough, almost hitting those Babs Tarr level of 4999685-3+bg_47_3energy to the book, but it falls apart when character in costume show up. Moritat’s backgrounds are nice and detailed but his characters, especially the faces, are weak, and the art looks more like a children’s book than a comic at times. It’s a shame, because Serge Lapointe does some great stuff with the coloring, which does save the art work in some portions of the book, but certainly not others.

I do dig what Cameron Stewart and Brenden Fletcher are doing on the narrative end of the title. We get to see Barbara Gordon pal around with the Spoiler, who I adore, and Bluebird, someone I not as familiar with, but dig none the less. It’s a fun team up that sees the trio working with Bab’s roommate Frankie, who also has gotten herself a code name that starts with an O, but isn’t the one that you want. It does makes for a solid running gag, hopefully editorial will let Frankie take up the name we want her to have sooner rather than later. Regardless, it’s fun to see Babs pal around with other female super heroines who are not Black Canary, and I hope to see them stick around.

The 2 writers also manage to balance a number of subplots in the span of 20 issues without things getting out of hand. I like how they manage to keep this book in line with the events of two other Bat books while having Barbara deal with her own set of problems 5010044-bg_47_5with each plot line have enough space to breathe. It’s a shame the art for this title isn’t on par with this writing, because the dialogue is a ton of fun, and the narrative is incredibly strong.

I hate to trash a book, but ultimately Batgirl #47 disappointed me. Again it’s a shame, but I really like what the writers bring to the table, and I enjoyed Batgirl running around with some of the less prominent members of the Bat-Family. On paper it sounds like a fun team up book, but the execution suffers from not so great art. A shame, as the book turns out to be a textbook example of how a weak art can ruin a good comic. It’s super unfortunate, as this issue sets up some important things up for the upcoming 50th issue, so it’s a bit a crucial issue, despite not being the most enjoyable comic.

 

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Chris’ Crossover Comics: Grayson #15 & Gotham Academy #13

tumblr_nyhq1sRENk1s2pnhbo1_1280GOTHAC_Cv13_55f367cf6faa42.56004071Grayson #15

Tim Seeley, Tom King, Mikkel Janin, Jeromy Cox

DC $3.99

 Gotham Academy #13

Brenden Fletcher, Adam Archer, Sandra Hope, Serge Lapointe

DC $2.99

It’s ROBIN WAR time, which means….I’m not entirely sure what exactly. I kinda skipped over part 1, a $5 one shot that dropped last week, flipped through part 3 in the store, and got a general idea of what’s going on, kind of? I don’t know, there’s something going on with the Court of Owls, and the We Are Robin kids shooting a cop and there being a Robin ban? It’s a tad insane, and kind of unnecessary in my opinion, given the fact that we also have the excellent Batman & Robin Eternal weekly mini series going on.

4907323-5gray_15preview-4Grayson #15 is the 2nd chapter of the Robin War, where as Gotham Academy #13 is a tie in, which tries to set up the 3rd arc of the book while tying into this mini event. Both of these books are a bit of a mix bag quality wise, as is often the case when it comes to cross overs and tie ins.

Grayson #15 has the advantage of being handled by it’s established creative team, which mean the dozens of Robins look great under the art team of Mikel Janin and Jeromy Cox. And to their credit, King and Seeley does a fantastical job of writing the various Robins WHILE moving the story forward. I have no  previous experience with the We Are Robin cast, but the Grayson team does a fine job of writing the lot of them as some really likable characters. And it’s nice to see them tackling the various Robins again, something we got a taste of a few issues ago. Where the book falters is explaining what happens between this issue and the last, assuming you read the first chapter of Robin War coming into issue 15. I did not, hence me being a tad lost. Luckily, even with the lack of recap/explanation, the book is still relatively solid, and the cliffhanger ending does peak my interest as to what’s going on with this event.

As for Gotham Academy #13, I can’t say the same about that book’s quality. It’s a tie in, so knowing the exact details of Robin War isn’t’ as crucial to the book as it was in Grayson, GA13-b-990x1522but the lack of series’ co-creators Becky Cloonan and Karl Kerschl is felt. And handing the art chores to Adam Archer, who isn’t quite on Kerschl’s level skill wise definitely does it no favor.While the book’s visual get better as the issue progresses, it’s incredible rough looking at first, and a lot the charm seen on the title in the past isn’t there. Sandra Hope and Serge Lapointe do what they can with the inks and colors, but they can only do so much with a comic that tries doing too much in 20 pages.

It’s hard to judge an entire event based on 1 chapter and 1 tie in, but the Robin War isn’t working for me. I don’t like buying crossovers for books I’m not already pulling, and it’s impact on these two books do nothing to make me think otherwise. Each of the book’s respected creative teams certainly tried, but ultimately the Robin War doesn’t do Grayson or Gotham Academy any favors.

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Chris’ Comics: Gotham Academy #12

tumblr_nyre9qVVj81rawmemo1_500Gotham Academy #12

Becky Cloonan, Brenden Fletcher, Karl Kerschel, Serge Lapointe, Msassyk

DC $2.99

Karl Kerschel is arguably the biggest reason why I was sold on Gotham Academy when it was initially announced. I’ve been a fan of Kerschel’s rich, expressive style for years, and seeing his gorgeous cover art when the book was first unveiled had me HYPED for the title. Granted every creator on this book has done some great work, Kerschel’s art has been incredible, being some of the best work coming out of comics over the last year. I mention this now because hours after I snagged my copy of Gotham Academy #12, it was announced via Twitter that Karl’s run as artist on this title was over.

Kerschel’s departure from Gotham Academy is a real shame. He really defined the look of the book, and I’m worried about it’s future now that he’s off it. It’s also a shame because his final issue on the book is kind of lackluster. There’s several plot bombs dropped regarding the character of Olivia, but none of them are given enough time to be explored. 4935814-gothac_12_1Especially the biggest one of them all, the identity of Calamity, which has been the driving point of this arc and the book several times. I assume they’ll be some answers when the third arc starts in a few issues, BUT I’m impatient and want some answers now.

My biggest problem with this issue is the pacing. There’s too many panels/pages where the creative team felt that it more important to focus on jokes that are just okay ( at least in my opinion) and chewed up scenery instead of dealing with the plot itself. I usually dig the cute character moments, but when there’s 2 major bombshells are dropped, I wish writers Becky Cloonan and Brenden Fletcher spend more time on those then dealing with tunnel gags and jail cells without floors.

Visually though, this book is excellent. What Kerschel brings to this final issue is phenomenal, much like every issue he’s worked on before it.  I may not be a fan of the humor bits in this issue, but his line art is fantastic, giving a sense of movement and life into every panel. Of course Serge Lapointe, & Msassyk factor in heavily on the book looking so good, giving the Karl’s art some gorgeous colors. The book’s tone get darker as the book advances, and the colors really reflect that. But the best example of the colorists tumblr_nyrek8xdzx1rawmemo1_500comes when we get our first shot of Arkham Asylum in this issue. The coloring gives us a nice supernatural vibe to the scene, with some really great use of the color green. The backgrounds in GA are unlike anything else in comics today, and it’s thanks to the colorist.

Gotham Academy #12 is a rare misstep in a usually sold series. I wish Karl Kerschel would have gone out on a higher note, but it happens. Hopefully whoever follows up to him will be just as talented, because they obviously have some large shoes to fill. As for issue number 12, again it looks great, but it just didn’t work for me overall.

 

 

 

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Chris’ Comics: Batgirl #45

Batgirl_45_coverBatgirl #45

Brenden Fletcher, Cameron Stewart, Babs Tarr, Serge Lapointe

DC, $2.99

Batgirl #45 is a comic with 0 super villain punching and 100% romance and relationship-based plots. That may sound less than ideal for a super hero comic, but you also have to factor in there’s also a 100% increase of Dick Grayson in this month’s issue; which is important to me obviously, making it the lack of costumed violence more than okay.

 

But before I start gushing over a Babs Tarr drawn Grayson (aka the best thing), let me start off by saying that this issue is actually a pretty big moment for mainstream comics. Early in the run, the Screen Shot 2015-10-26 at 1.34.41 PMcreative team made an error that could be viewed as transphobic. While it was not their intent, the team apologized, promised to do better, and made sure the digital and collected version of the story were fixed to be less offensive. This issue illustrates that the team has continued to make good on their promise, as we see a trans character get married to her girlfriend, without one of them being a Skrull or super villains showing up to crash wedding. As far as I can tell, this is the first trans-wedding in mainstream comics, which is great, as it shows Big 2 comics creators striving to be more inclusive and mature about LGBTQ issues. It’s also nice because it feel genuine, not a marketing stunt, and chances are we don’t have to worry about these characters being fringed anytime soon. It’s also nice to see a wedding happen in comics that’s not full of shenanigans, but that’s less impressive, at least comparatively speaking.

Okay, back to me gushing over Dick (PHRASING). Babs Tarr is back on solo layouts and finished pencils for this book, and the results are pretty great. I really dug the portrayal of Grayson under Tarr, Cameron Stewart and Brenden Fletcher, who write him as more of a (incredibly handsome) jerk than the Screen-Shot-2015-10-29-at-12.31.32-AMteam over in Grayson do, but given the history between the two, it makes sense, and doesn’t really damage the character in any permanent way. Their relationship is flirty and playful, and respects each of the characters new histories in this newer DCU. I also really appreciated the creators allowing male characters pining over the female lead in a way that reverses gender stereotypes, showing some vulnerably we usually don’t see from male super heroes.

I’ve stated that Tarr has drawn Batgirl with a shoujo manga influence in the past, and issue 45 allows the artist to go all out in that style. Colorist Serge Lapointe gets in on this, using a lighter palette, heavy on the pinks, purples, and whites. Of course given the wedding theme of the issue, it make totally sense, and I like how Lapointe drops the Shoujo filter a few times, going with bolder, crisper palette for the more intense, non-smooching-related scenes. It’s a neat technique, and it’s cool to see an artist experiment like that.

Batgirl #45 may be my favorite issue of this team’s run to date. It’s a fun issue with a lot of fun character moments, and focuses on my 2 favorite DC characters. Babs Tarr’s art couldn’t be better, and the writers inject the book with some stellar dialogue, while doing some really progressive stuff. Plus it’s nice to see someone do take on romance comic that’s not from Rosy Press. Pick it up if you have feeling/opinions on Batgirl and the Robin formerly known as Nightwing, or if you just like refreshingly modern romance comics.

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Chris’ Comics: Gotham Academy #

GOTHAC_Cv11_559c14eab7e5c4.74432291Gotham Academy #11

Becky Cloonan, Brenden Fletcher, Karl Kerschl, Msassyk, Minhjue Helen Chen, Serge Lapointe

DC $2.99

As much as I loved Gotham Academy pre-Convergence break, I haven’t been as keen on the book since its return, the Damian Wayne issue aside. I think the problem was that the last few issues felt too busy for their own good, crammed with way too much content with little room to breathe. Issue #11 finally puts that to an end, as the gang heads into Gotham City proper to do some research on Olivia’s deceased super villain mom, or in Kyle’s case, play tennis. And much liked the previously mentioned last issue I really dug, a Robin shows up for a cameo! This time it’s Tim Drake, aka Red Robin, aka the best Robin, who never takes up too much space, and plays off of the cast incredibly well.

The creative team doesn’t cut back on the amount of exposition or action that we’ve seen in the previous issues, but the issue seems to flow much better than the previous ones Maybe I’m biased and think it has to do with the increase of jokes/focus on Maps? While it 4866252-gothac_11_1certainly could be a factor, it’s not the only reason why I’m big on this issue. This issue seems less removed from the proper Bat Universe (there’s Red Robin, a flashback involving the Dick Grayson Robin and Batman that ties into Olivia’s mom heavily, as well as a shout out to We Are Robin), and the inclusion of all of that works in the book’s favor. I also love how we’re getting more of proactive Olivia, who determined to get some answers and work with a team than the reluctant sack of angst we’ve been getting as of late.

This issue sees 3 artists working on the book:  Karl Kerschl, regular fill in artist Mingjue Helen Chen, and colorist Msassyk stepping up to lend Kerschl a hand. I really like Msassyk’s line work, as it’s very much in line with Kerschl’s style, to the point where I was assuming it was mostly Kerschl drawing this issue until I re-read the credits. The coloring is a little uneven sadly, but it’s still good enough that it doesn’t take away too much from the art, especially in the earlier portions of the book, the flashback scene, and the book’s climax. A lesser book would have suffered from having too many in the kitchen, but these 4 creators really do a excellent job of giving this comic a nice, cohesive look.

GA03Becky Cloonan and Brenden Fletcher‘s dialogue is excellent in this issue. The duo do an excellent job of sprinkling some quality humor throughout the issue, which contrasts nicely with the all the action and sleuthing that goes down. Also, I could read Maps interacting with a member of the Bat Family forever, because it is delightful.

 Gotham Academy #11 is a well crafted comic that’s nice mix of everything really. It’s a book that well aware of the current on-goings of they’re darker sibling books, but thanks to a filter that heavily influenced by Batman The Animated Series, it also posses’ a sense of charm the other books don’t have. I’m back on board with this book 100%, and I’m excited to see  how the mysterious surrounding this issue will be resolved when this arc is over.

 

 

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Chris Comics: Batgirl #44

4815993-bg_cv44_dsBatgirl #44

Cameron Stewart, Brenden Fletcher, Bengal, Serge Lapointe

DC, $2.99

I’m not entirely sure if it’s a coincidence or the work of Bat-Group editor Mark Doyle, but I can help but notice that the 3 DC books I read every month have really great alternative artist to fill in for their respect books. Bengal, previoulys seen on the Batgirl: Endgame one shot and the lead story in this year’s often-mentioned-by-me-Batgirl Annual, fills in for the first time on Batgirl proper, and delivers some fantastic visuals. While he’s not as experimental or fashion savvy as regular series artist Babs Tarr, Bengal’s more traditional lay outs and strong body language make for a good looking comic none the less. Bengal’s style is comparable to Tarr’s in that they’re obviously from a generation of artist raised on anime and manga, but where as Babs is Shoujo Manga/Anime, Bengal is very much shonen. This is evident in the big fight scene in the issue, which is the bulk of Bengal’s best art is present thanks to incredibly well choreographed panels. And even though some of the character heads are a little too lumpy or round at times,  my biggest fault with the art doesn’t lie with Bengal. I felt the pale colors provided by usual on point colorist Serge Lapointe take a bit away from the visuals. Batgirl has been a book which has been visually define by being kinetic and bright, but the muted colors take things back a notch this time around.

 

4815995-bg_44_2Brenden Fletcher and Cameron Stewart (as well as previous series writer Gail Simone) deserve a decent amount of praise for giving Babs a wonderfully diverse cast of supporting characters. Despite living in the fictional area Burnside, based on super gentrified real life areas like Portland and Brooklyn, Fletcher and Stewart have surrounded Babs with some wonderful characters from various walks of life, and quickly made them stand out in a number of fascinating ways. It’s a shame the same can’t be said about this month’s villain, who felt rather disposable and a bit of an afterthought. I understand it’s hard to build upon on of the strongest collection of villains in comics when you’re NOT Grant Morrison, and that the team is channeling Batman 66 as well as Batman The Animated Series, but it would be nice to see Batgirl face a more formidable foe instead of another throw away villain who wears an absurd amount of eye shadow. My issues with the Velvet Tiger aside, the writing in this comic is still pretty great. Barbara’s various relationships with her friends all fell genuine thanks to the superb dialogue, and while there’s plenty of talk, it never feels like too overbearing. Fletcher and Stewart also know when to dial back and let Bengal and letterer Steve Wands handing all the heavy lifting with the fight scenes, leaving the slick action sequences relatively uncluttered.

CQAMp_kUcAA1KmPDespite my various critiques/nit-picks with the comic, Batgirl #44 is ultimately another fun issue of this great run. Bengal’s art is quite solid, and the writing is on par as usual, and I really felt like I got my $3 bucks worth with all the content crammed into 20 pages. Between this and the previously reviewed stellar Grayson installment, it was a good week for Bat-Family fans.

 

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Chris’ Comics: Batgirl #43

BG-Cv43-ds-dd959-600x923Batgirl #43

Cameron Stewart, Brenden Fletcher, Babs Tarr, Michel Lacombe, Serge Lapointe

DC $2.99

Batgirl #43 is a frustrating comic (but at least that David LaFuente cover is rad). On the narrative end of this book, it’s hard to find fault with this issue, which really comes as no surprise. Writers Brenden Fletcher & Cameron Stewart give us an narrative with plentiful content, juggling multiple characters and plot lines with little to no problem. It’s impressive considering 3.5 new characters are added/reintroduced to the mix and are given plentiful face time, in addition getting some cool moments with Babs’s roommate Frankie and another supporting character in my favorite scene in the book. All of this, plus a cool murder mystery involving tigers! Stewart and Fletcher really make me  feel like I’m really got my money’s worth with this book, which I appreciate.The various relations between all the characters make the book that much more enjoyable, and the mystery while a tad bizarre is also a ton of fun. That quality writing also makes me feel a little bad that I’m about to be a little harsh on the book’s art.

bg-43-2-148685-320x180As I said last review, Babs Tarr is responsible for the layout/breakdown for this book now that Cameron Stewart is off drawing Fight Club 2. In the span of the last 3 issues we’ve seen Tarr handle the bulk of the art either by herself, or with a guest artist. Issue 43 continues the trend with Michel Lacombe helping with breakdowns, and Juan Castro inking some of the final few pages. This is where the problems lie, as the book looks different from page to page at times, with the art either looking really good, or incredibly rushed. Some of the blame can be placed on colorist’s Serge Lapointe‘s shoulders, as some pages have a weird glow to them, and there even panels where the colors are darker than the previous ones for no reason. See the panel I’ve included; the lighting on the forearms/hands makes zero sense given where the direction of the light is coming from. There’s a few panels like that which really took me out of the 4767224-bg_43_4experience. The addition of Castro’s ink is interesting, as it gave Babs’ art a little more of a finished look, but it also clashes with her looser, sketchier style. The middle section of the comic is ultimately where the book looks it’s best, but again, the odd changes in the hue takes away from the stronger portions of Tarrs and Lacombe’s art.

Batgirl #43 is a fun comic that’s hampered by an unfortunate amount of art issues. I probably wouldn’t mind it as much as I do if we were dealing with a multi issue run, but we’re only 3 issues in after a 2 month hiatus. Hopefully Editorial can find someone who can help Tarr with breakdowns on a more regular basis, because seeing the book hampered by inconsistent art is extremely annoying. Hopefully, much like this month’s Gotham Academy, this is a rare misstep but a member of proven creative team, and thing will be back on track next issue.

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Chris’ Comics: Gotham Academy and The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl

4741279-09Gotham Academy #9

Becky Cloonan, Brenden Fletcher, Karl Kerschl, Serge Lapointe, Msassyk

DC $2.99

For the most part, Gotham Academy has been a delightful romp with some teen angst and a bunch of neat little shout outs to obscure Batman characters. Issue #9 is the first issue where I genuinely felt overwhelmed by a continuously growing cast, to the point where I wasn’t able to follow the plot. In this issue alone there’s our 5 members of the mystery team, 2 faculty members, a man-bat-boy, and at least 3-4 newer characters making cameos. That’s A LOT for a reader to follow, especially when there’s at least several different subplots going down in a 20 page book.

One thing the writers (Brenden Fletcher and Becky Cloonan) managed to keep a good handle on up to this issue was making the teenage characters sound like teenagers. This isn’t the case for this issue sadly, as some really dated pop culture references make the Gotham Academy kids sounds like tiny adults instead of #TEENS. I’m sure it was more of a fluke than anything else, as any creator is capable of making a misstep every so often.That being said, Gotham Academy continues to look superb, thanks to Karl Keschl‘s excellent art, and Sergio Lapointe & Msassyk’s equally excellent colors. Keschel’’s line work is always clean and dynamic, but the coloring really brings it to the next level, especially when it comes to effects such as fire, flashlight lighting and fog. The art makes up for the subpar writing, elevating the book to a decent read instead of something skippable.

While I applaud the writers for attempting to cram as much content into Gotham Academy as possible, issue nine ultimately feels bloated, while looking great. I’m sure it won’t happen again, it’s just disappointing to see it happen in a book I’ve been enjoying a lot as of late.

 

portrait_incredible (4)The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl #8

Ryan North, Erica Henderson, Rico Renzi

Marvel $3.99

Once again, Secret Wars ends another book that was launched this calendar year. And much like the also concluded for now Howard the Duck, the 2nd arc of The Unbeatable Squirrel girl is absolutely wonderful. The book opens on arguably THE BEST note, involving a long mention running gag that actually ends up being incorporated into the plot in a major way. It’s absolutely ridiculous by the way, but Ryan North and Erica Henderson are so smart and talented make it work so well.

One of the things that I really like about USG is that it’s a book that seems like it wouldn’t fit in with the rest of Marvel’s publishing catalog, but North and Henderson skate along the thin line of ridiculous and high stakes so well, the character, her presence and her actions make perfect sense. North’s sense of humor and clever dialogue makes him a perfect fit for handling mythological characters from the Thor side of the tracks, and Erica Henderson’s art fares better with these characters than more traditional spandex folk like spider-Man. Rico Renzi‘s colors are back on track after last issue, giving me literally nothing to complain about.

The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl #8 is the perfect ending for this chapter. The wait for October for this book’s return is going to be rough, but I’m fairly certain it will worth it.

 

 

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