Singles Going Steady is Comics Bulletin’s weekly single issue review roundup.
Batgirl #1 (DC Comics)
(W) Hope Larson (A) Rafael Albuquerque (C) Dave McCaig (L) Deron Bennett
The new Batgirl series makes for an excellent elevator pitch. Barbara Gordon goes globetrotting across the Eastern hemisphere introducing a new array of heroes and villains. Batgirl #1 does absolutely nothing to capitalize on this concept though. It is a stale retread of familiar superhero storytelling that is elevated by no aspect of the what is on the page.
Batgirl #1 is set in Japan, but only pays superficial attention to this fact. Rafael Albuquerque goes light on backgrounds relying on colors in a halftone pattern to fill white space behind characters. This does nothing to enhance the artwork, although the palettes are exceptionally well chosen. Instead it points to the lack of Okinawa on display. When settings are detailed, they are shown in the most generic manner possible. A hostel is composed of boxy rooms, bland beds, and a bathroom all of which could be called the boring ideal of these objects. There is an absolute lack of flavor to most places, and the most detailed locale is an Irish pub. The main identifiers used to place this story in Japan are the seemingly random inclusion of Japanese characters and stereotypes.
Raw octopus and a seemingly random parade of drummers are the best representations of “culture”. Meanwhile, both a new supervillain and hero fall easily into fashions that caricature Japanese culture rather than embracing and utilizing it. All of this is mediocre set dressing on the most stale of superhero stories. Barbara Gordon’s journey does not provide her with a compelling motive or readers with cause to keep reading. It addresses the obviousness of her secret identity before brushing past the revelation seemingly because there is no space or inclination to explore it. The superhero battle is rushed and meetings all too convenient. It’s not the worst written superhero story, but it certainly reads like it was constructed from a template.
I want Batgirl to be great. I want this series to continue being a “go to” recommendation for superhero comics. All of the wanting in the world doesn’t stop Batgirl #1 from being what it is though, and what it is is an uninspired and dull superhero comic that fails to recognize the most interesting elements of its own existence.
– Chase Magnett
Predator vs. Judge Dredd vs. Aliens #1 (Dark Horse Comics/IDW Publishing)
(W) John Layman, (A) Chris Mooneyham, (C) Michael Atiyeh
There’s a safeness to Predator vs. Judge Dredd vs. Aliens #1 (from here on out “PvJDvA”) that feels out of place. While it’s expected in an intercompany crossover for the characters to be relatively unchanged, the circumstances that bring them together tend to be remarkable – if not completely bonkers. Just look at IDW’s recent collaborations with DC Comics. Batman and the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles crossed over due to multidimensional shenanigans. Ditto for the Green Lantern / Star Trek team-up. But here, Judge Dredd simply has to venture outside of Mega City One and he’s right in the middle of the Aliens/Predator universe.
This is not inherently a flaw on its own. Yet another IDW/DC crossover effectively used the same tactic – with The Rocketeer meeting Will Eisner’s The Spirit. However, that series’ introductory issue managed to bring the two title characters together, introduce the main conflict, and build relationships between the two supporting casts. If you’re looking for that from PvJDvA #1, expect to be sorely disappointed.
As demonstrated in his work on Chew and Detective Comics, John Layman is normally a capable writer with the ability to handle expansive casts and bizarre premises. But PvJDvA #1 is void of anything that will make readers sit up and take notice. Dredd is a hardass. The first Predator we’re introduced to is wounded. A Xenomorph skull makes a cameo appearance. That’s all that the reader is given. Dredd is not aware of the existence Predators, and vice versa. While the writing itself is competent, its fatal flaw is how uninteresting it proves to be. If the goal of a first issue is to hook the reader in, Layman’s work fails.
Where PvJDvA #1 does perform well is in its visuals. Artist Chris Mooneyham and colorist Michael Atiyeh’s collaborative efforts manage to successfully blend the world of Judge Dredd and Predator/Aliens while maintaining their own distinct visual cues. Dredd’s world is a desolate wasteland; a encapsulation of the crime-infested, economically depressed landscape which he inhabits. The Predator debuts in a murky, atmospheric wetland that calls back to the original movie. Sadly, the visual strengths of this issue cannot make up for the underwhelming narrative.
– Daniel Gehen
NOTE: The following reviews came in a little late for last week’s posting, but we couldn’t help ourselves but to put them out there.
Snotgirl #1 (Image Comics)
(W) Bryan Lee O’Malley (A) Leslie Hung (C) Mickey Quinn (L) Maré Odomo
Snotgirl #1 is all about the public persona we allow people to see us as, and the private one only we get to see. O’Malley and Hung craft the seemingly perfect world of Lottie Person, a 25 year-old fashion blogger and internet personality. Underneath Lottie’s perceived perfection on her blog, her personal life is a mess. On top of having just broken up with her boyfriend and her ‘friends’ abandoning her, her allergies are acting up again. This is the side of her no one knows, that no one can ever know. It terrifies her to think of anyone knowing that she couldn’t be the best at what she does. She has to as perfect as she makes herself out to be online.
O’Malley fills Lottie’s world with believable dialogue and reasonable fears for a person whose entire life and being is on the internet. Hung’s art defines the story, appearing cute and appealing while showing a talent for fantastic body language and fashion. Quinn’s colour work, especially in the latter half of the book is wonderful, showing her expertise with balancing bright and dark colours.. Odomo’s lettering makes it really feel as though this is a personal tale, as if it were typed out quickly in a blog post; the short, clipped words making it seem like something from an online journal. The blacked-out curse words within the Lottie’s thought balloons is even more evidence of that tight control she uses where her public life is concerned.
The ending to this issue had me shocked and extremely excited for what comes next. This is a book that I’ll definitely be adding to my pull.
– Tyler Pollock
Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers #5 (BOOM! Studios)
(W) Kyle Higgins, (A) Thony Silas, (C) Bryan Valenza, (L) Ed Dukeshire
Through four issues (plus a #0), writer Kyle Higgins has managed to take the core concepts of the “Mighty Morphin’” iteration of the Power Rangers franchise and give them a fresh, modern update without betraying the series’ core fans. However, Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers #5 sees Higgins make his first true deviation from the original show in this done-in-one with the help of guest-artist Thony Silas.
To this point, the series has dealt with the aftermath of Tommy Oliver’s stint as the Evil Green Ranger. His struggles to adjust to life as one of the “good guys”, along with his emotional trauma, has been the cause tension between the other Rangers – especially Zack. Well, it looks like Zack’s distrust is due to his own experience as Rita’s first attempted recruit for the Green Ranger role.
Silas brings the same frenetic energy to MMPR that characterized he and Higgins’ work on another beloved property – Batman Beyond. The opening set piece, which provides the issue’s little action, is a gonzo-style experience that puts the reader right in the thick of the chaos. Unfortunately, too often do panels appear hurried or simply unfinished. However, the slower, psychological nature of the remaining pages enables Silas to regain his composure for a strong, if uneven performance.
When I first heard Higgins discuss this issue (shout out to the Ranger Danger Podcast), the possibility excited me. Zack always appeared to be the carefree guy. The fun one. What could make him so vulnerable that he might become susceptible to Rita Repulsa’s tempting offer? Turns out, it just takes a bit of jealousy. On one hand, this can seem like a rational response from an ordinary teenager. They make rash and impulsive decisions driven largely by their emotions. However, these are the Power Rangers, and they have been portrayed (both in the comic and on the show) as anything but ordinary teenagers. And in this instance, Zack is not weak or vulnerable, but petty.
Moreover, the confrontation between Zack and Rita is far too brief. Granted, part of the problem is the limited page count in modern comics. Twenty pages is hardly enough to tell a compelling story in today’s environment of decompressed narratives, but that does not an excuse a creative team from failing to execute at a high level. And this team failed to meet the standards established in issues #0-4. With so much time spent in the early going establishing Zack’s “vulnerability”, the remainder of the issue is rushed, right down to the freeze-frame happy ending. In all, the pieces in Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers #5 comes together to form a decent-looking disappointment.
– Daniel Gehen
I Hate Fairyland #7 (Image Comics)
(W/A) Skottie Young (C) Jean-Francois Beaulieu (L) Nate Piekos
Were you ever given a job that you were really bad at it? I mean diabolically awful. Think about people coming for your head because you held a position of ultimate power and evil, and even then, you still did a garbage job. Throw that in with a seemingly impossible quest for your home, and we have just taken a look at the current status of our protagonist, Gertrude. Writer and artist, Skottie Young, presents the tragically, hilarious story of a cute little girl who got sucked into Fairyland and has been trying to find her way out for about 30 years now. She physically hasn’t aged a bit, but she has a new “FLUFF this, I’m over it” attitude that causes gore and destruction everywhere she goes. In this issue, Gert has to find yet another way out of Fairyland with the assistance of a creature that is definitely willing to help her, mainly because he is entirely obsessed with the human world, and kind of comes off as a creep.
Jean-Francois Beaulieu splashes a rich, vivid color palette that only makes sense in a world of cute, carnage, and chaos that make the scenes of blood, guts, and magical bouts of power all the more sensational. There is a point where Larry, the reluctantly faithful sidekick, poofs out a battle axe from his enchanted top hat that lights up a dark, shabby tavern full of dark blues and browns to a fading spot of pink and purple. Even in a crummy bar in the dark of night, we are reminded of the beauty Beaulieu gives Fairyland. Then, quickly after, a fight breaks out and here comes the blood and flying body parts. Young’s grungy style of the fight scene is highlighted by Beaulieu’s use of bright colors to differentiate from other “cartoony” scenes of the same nature. Instead of the gray puff of smoke and dirt to symbol a scuffle, we’re given colors of lavender and powder blue with some yellow stars and purple squiggly lines thrown in. I love that choice because even if it’s a fight that ends with blood, it is still done in a Fairyland fashion. This issue takes place from night til the break of dawn, so we are gifted with almost 30 pages of an assortment of cool color.
While it is not a standout of the series, this issue of I Hate Fairyland is a good glimpse into the story. There is not as much action as usual, but there is plenty of comedy to keep you laughing from beginning to end. A break in the series was taken after issue #5, and #6 starts a new story arc. This issue is not a standalone, but reading the series from the start is not necessary. The whole series is a blast, but if you want to get to this issue pronto, reading #6 first is highly recommended. A recap of #1-5 is given by the author, and the idea of why Gertrude is a deadly omen that is constantly being both pursued and feared would make more sense. This issue will leave you grasping for more, even if that means reading the series from the start until next month’s issue that will be sure to relieve your thirst for some hardcore, Fairyland action.
– Kristopher Grey