Since my review of The Movement #9, it has come to my attention that the series is getting cancelled after issue #12, which will be in May. This is something that makes me really sad. Because it has been a series that dared to step out of the norms of superhero comics and do something radically different. It is an experiment that worked for a while, but unfortunately, due to various reasons, the series is now on the chopping block. With the new issue, the current 2-part arc comes to a close and after that we have two more issues to go. All we can hope for is that the series ends on a high-note.
In the previous issue Batgirl came to Coral City, hunting for a super-powered criminal. She ran afoul of The Movement though, and things ended up pretty bad though. And in the meantime, her target ran amok in the streets. This was the kind of the story that I really wanted to see on this title since its conception and Gail Simone delivered on it quite fantastically. It was a personal story, and that felt right at home for both Batgirl and the members of The Movement. And the art, headlined by penciller Freddie Williams II, was pretty decent as well.
Spinning out of the Wanted arc and then the Gothtopia tie-in last month, the new issue of Batgirl goes in a surprisingly different place as Gail Simone explores the thematic links between Gotham’s Bat-family and vampires of urban myths. As I keep saying, Gail Simone has made this title one of DC’s relative heavyweights since the New 52 relaunch, and its definitely one of my highest anticipated titles of each month. The Wanted arc was pretty damn excellent, and now it looks like we might be getting some smaller stories again, like the Ventriloquist 2-issue arc that we had before Wanted.
Barbara has been through a ton of things recently, and she is still picking up the pieces of her life. Its not easy, especially not when a madman comes into town, seemingly intent on some kind of righteous vengeance, a complete and total loon as it were. But she does gain an ally, someone who hasn’t been around in the series for a while and her return is quite fun indeed since I love her as a character and Gail injects a lot of humour in her scenes. To top it all off, Fernando Pasarin and Jonathan Glapion’s art is excellent as ever, another plus.
On account of traveling to and from India this past week, my comics reading took a back-seat, as did my novel reading incidentally. Very few comics read, but most of them were good at least, a saving grace.
In its first eight issues, The Movement did something that wasn’t really being done in comics. It told the story of a vigilante superhero team that didn’t see itself as superheroes. And it tapped into the ongoing discussion of how social media can be used for changes in social structures and tackling corruption. It had characters that were flawed, and many of these characters represented minorities in comics in a way that perhaps only Earth 2 under James Robinson did. Suffice to say, Gail Simone and Freddie Williams II tackled something really different, and they made it work.
With the latest issue, #9, we see the beginning of a new arc on the series, and we finally see a meeting of the characters of the Movement and Batgirl, something I’ve been waiting to see ever since The Movement was announced (for the unaware, Gail is the writer for Batgirl as well). The setup here is quite interesting, and I loved how all the characters interacted with each other, especially Katharsis’ reaction to Batgirl being in town, another confrontation that I’ve wanted to see here. The art is not quite as good as what’s come before, but that is not all that big a deal.
Last week DC released Detective Comics #27 an anniversary issue of the series which commemorated the original Detective Comics #27 in which Bat-Man made his first-ever appearance. In this anthology issue was a piece by writer John Layman and artists Jason Fabok and Tomeu Morey in which we saw a very different version of Gotham in which the city is a utopia, with the lowest crime-rate in the entire United States. At the end of the issue there was a substantial reveal that hinted at a much larger story, and this week’s Batgirl #27 is the first issue to follow on from there and build on the concepts introduced.
In the vein of that story, we see an alternative take on Barbara Gordon and the city of Gotham, where things are actually cheerful. Gone are the dark Gothic trappings of the city, replaced by sunshine and positivity that gives you a pause. Of course, this is only a thin veneer that hides a dark truth and the issue is spent dealing with that, in a somewhat oblique way. Fresh from wrapping her Wanted arc, Gail dives head-first into the Gothtopia crossover and she delivers another great issue with new artist Robert Gill.
So welcome to the first Comics Picks of The Week for 2014 where I list the comics that were actually to be the first ones released in the new year. Everything that has been revealed so far about 2014 promises an amazing year, I have to say. Well, for the most part at least. There are some things that I don’t quite understand, or like, but eh, it is still going to be a great year I feel.
This past week, Marvel finally launched its All-New Marvel NOW! line with Black Widow, All-New X-Factor and Revolutionary War: Alpha and they aren’t going to stop. New releases will continue throughout March at the least and we will even be getting some of these new titles double-shipped, such as Black Widow #2 which comes out next week. In other news, I had some fun reading DC titles this week, although Detective Comics #27 proved to be quite disappointing for most of the first half. And my disappointment is on several levels, not just with one particular aspect of it. But, more on that in the reviews.
My first graphic novel of the year happened to be the (unfinished) mini-series that Steve Gerber and Matthew Sturges wrote a few years ago, with the former writing the tale of a new Doctor Fate while the latter wrote about the supervillain Eclipse. Only eight issues of this double-sized series were released, but I have to say that I definitely enjoyed it and based on that, my graphic novel reading is off to a good start.
Doing superhero books differently is not an easy task, as I’ve come to see from the perspective of a reader. Specifically, superhero team books. Managing the personalities and attitudes and backstories and story arcs for a multitude of characters all at the same time can work if you’re really good as a writer and if you have good art to back you up. The flip side, well that happens surprisingly often sadly. DC has had a good time in the New 52 with team books, the exception being the rather dreadful Teen Titans but earlier this year it launched a new series, the teen-oriented The Movement.
In its first arc, which ends with the latest issue released this week, the heroes of The Movement have gone up against a lot of things: corrupt cops, corrupt businessmen and mercenaries who follow the money. But in the midst of it all, Gail Simone and Freddie Williams have given us some truly great things too, and they all make this series feel really special. Issue #8 is the capstone to that entire thing as most of the major plotlines are resolved while some are kept around for later and some new ones are introduced too. All that said, The Movement #8 is definitely one of the best issues of the series yet.
We are finally here, the end of the Wanted arc for Batgirl which put Barbara through some of her most trying moments in life. Having killed her monster of a brother, then gone up against the psychopathic Ventriloquist and then on the run from the Gotham Police for her brother’s murder, Barbara has gone through the lowest of low moments, emotionally speaking. The interruption of the Zero Year issue last month by Marguerite Bennett was extremely frustrating since otherwise #25 would have ended this fantastic story arc, something I’d really been looking forward to. But no matter, it came out this week and it left me completely amazed.
I’m really sad that this arc is over. It was a short arc, as such things go, but by god, Gail Simone did some of her best writing in this arc, especially where Barbara herself as a character is concerned, let alone her father Commissioner Gordon. There are a lot of things that made this issue amazing, such as the art by Daniel Sampere, Steve Wands, Blond and Jonathan Glapion, or the mind-blowing cover by Alex Garner. Everything was pretty much pitch-perfect here.
In the New 52, DC has tried to take a lot of gambles and few of them have paid off, if at all. Launched earlier this year, Gail Simone’s The Movement is one of those gambles and for me, it is one that has definitely worked enough to keep bringing me back every month and caring about the characters. Gail and artist Freddie Williams have done some great work on the series for its first arc and their second arc continues apace with the release of the seventh issue this week, which does one thing that the first arc was, of necessity, missing: consequences.
In any superhero story, there are always consequences for the powers that a hero has. And given that these stories are written to get us to identify with, associate with, and get invested in these characters, there need to be consequences for their actions and their nature. This is at the core of this new issue and once again the execution is pretty brilliant. For me, The Movement has been DC’s break-out hit of the year and there’s no stopping this train ride.
Zero Year has finally kicked off for the non-Batman titles for DC and its been pretty good so far. Lots of interesting stories to say the least and this coming week promises to be even better with Batman #25 and Batgirl #25 hitting the stands as well, so good times to be had. Didn’t read too much outside of DC this time around, which is fine with me since I like my superheroes a particular way and other comics don’t interest me all that much really.
Read another graphic novel this week, mostly to catch up with a series I’m following right now, so that’s a bonus for the most part. I’d say I have a good thing going here if I can scrape in a graphic novel a week. Could be more, depending on certain things, but I’m fine I suppose.
Writing a comic that is aware of its socio-political nature, and working that into the script itself, can be a daunting task. There are a few books that have attempted to do that over the years, but none with as obvious a message or delivery as Gail Simone’s The Movement from DC Comics. It is a modern-day comic that creates a very believable modern aesthetic, and it explores “superheroes” who take over from the social services that are supposed to protect the people.
In the five issues thus far, Gail and artist Freddie Williams have given us a really wonderful look at their setting, and they’ve populated it with some really interesting characters. There are distinct superhero-team vibes in the comic, which is really interesting considering what kind of a comic this really is. And no superhero team book is complete without some internal disagreement, and that’s what Gail explores in this issue.
There are some comics out there that are all action and little plot/characterisation. There are some comics that are the reverse as well, heavy on the plot/characterisation and little action. In that regard, there are few comics that manage to balance the two, and balance them well at that. This is where Gail Simone’s current run on Batgirl comes in because it is one of those few ongoing series that maintains that balance.
When last we were with Barbara Gordon, she had just suffered one of the lowest points of her life and things looked really dire for her as the Wanted arc kicked off to fanfare and horribly moving moments. As with Scott Snyder’s Batman, Gail’s Batgirl is one of the very few DC books that manages to be helluva consistent issue to issue, and Batgirl #24 is the latest in that stellar consistency.