Sunday, September 11, 2011

Sunday is now Links-day.

Okay, show of hands: Who liked Gail Simone, Ardian Syaf and company’s Batgirl #1?

All the reviews of it that I’ve seen so far have been negative, with the kindest words being those I’ve seen in comments threads, and usually amounting to “I trust Gail” and “this is just the first issue,” which is a fine attitude to have, but it seems a little closer to rooting for a sports team than assessing a particular comic book (That is, the positivity I’ve seen seems to be from folks who are fans of the character and fans of the writer, not people who particularly appreciated that particular comic book).

Here are some examples of some of those negative reviews: Chris Sims of Comics Alliance, Esther Inglis-Arkell of and Paul O’Brien of House to Astonish. (Oh wait, found a positive one: Don MacPherson rated it as a 7 on a scale of 10, which is a low C in school, but that’s still more positive than negative).

In certain ways, and in certain circles, Barbara Gordon and how DC handled her was one of the most controversial elements of their Is it or isn’t it? reboot/relaunch, for the obvious reasons that as Oracle Barbara Gordon was one of DC’s principal superheroines (in addition to being one of the most high-profile heroes in a wheelchair), whereas as Batgirl she was just one of a half-dozen ladies in Batman costumes.

Writer Gail Simone had a real challenge with the title, because she had to turn out something that had to be better than all of the Oracle stories–which includes bits of Suicide Squad, bits of Grant Morrison’s JLA and a solid decade of Batman and Birds of Prey comics, many of which Simone herself had written—in order to justify the reversion of the character.

I didn’t read it.

Unlike Sims, I wasn’t even really open to the idea that reverting Oracle to Batgirl could be done, having read enough of Simone’s writing over the years to feel perfectly confident that, although she is consistently amusing and an incredibly competent comics-scripter, she’s never once written anything that really knocked me across a room.

I’ve seen enough of Syaf’s work to know that I don’t like it more than I like having three extra dollars, and come on, cover artist Adam Hughes drew her cross-eyed, and she’s wearing a Batgirl costume so repulsive it almost makes one miss Batgirl III’s Ultimates-style purple suit with utility garter.

I was a little surprised to see that, after Sims’ review, the whole CA staff took on Batgirl #1 (along with all of Wednesday’s DC #1s), and they hated it.

Each staffer assigned each book a rating out of 10, and Batgirl was tied with Tony Daniel’s Detective Comics for last place with a 3; that’s worse than the Dan DiDio-written OMAC, the Judd Winick-written Batwing (5.5) and the Rob Liefeld-drawn Hawk and Dove (3.8)!

If Batgirl was a litmus test comic for how the “New 52” and DC’s it’s-mostly-a-reboot-but-we’re-going-to-keep-altered-versions-of-like-10-storylines-in-continuity approach is going to work out, then the fact that Batgirl #1 turned out just as bad as it looked like it was going to is a very, very, very bad sign.

I chose the above image because it’s the one that looks like Batgirl is holding a sex toy, and I am 12. It’s also a nice illustration of how awful her costume looks though; what’s with the weird, crustacean-like gauntlets? One of the things I’ve found most perplexing about DC’s relaunch efforts is the fact they that they are trying to find the iterations of characters that will be most recognizable to mass audiences (Choosing for their Batgirl the one who was in the live-action TV show, the cartoons and that one feature film everyone says they hated, instead of one of the more recent comic book Batgirls), and yet they give them these brand-new, totally repellent costumes.

If the idea was to use the Batgirl from the TV show, why not give her a costume that looks at least vaguely like the one form the TV show too…?

Batgirl: Year One was a really good comic featuring Barbara Gordon as Batgirl, one that was able to tell a story featuring that character from that point in her career without having to throw out either a baby or a single drop of bathwater.

I kinda liked the foul-mouthed, doing-it-to-piss-off-her-dad Babs/Batgirl from All-Star Batman and Robin, The Boy Wonder too.

I wonder why DC didn’t dust off Geoff Johns’ script or proposal for Batgirl: Earth One, and maybe have him write this series, since “The New 52” is so popularly received as a Geoff Johns thing. I’m sure DC turned to Simone because they knew she would be the least objectionable person to reboot Barbara Gordon among Barbara Gordon fans, but I don’t know—maybe Simone working from Johns’ plot…?

I’ve never known exactly what state Batman’s Gotham City was meant to be located in, but I’ve always assumed that it was in a state, somewhere here in the United States of America. Now that I see that image of a sign from the upcoming Batman: Arkham City videogame, I wonder if Gotham isn’t somewhere in the UK, or possibly Canada…? (Via Comics Alliance)

Not really comics at all, aside from the fact that I saw it at a site mainly devoted to covering comics, but I really enjoyed this stop-motion animated version of the Jonny Quest opening sequence. That show really had one of the all-time great American cartoon theme songs (I first encountered it through Reverend Horton Heat’s cover version of it, on the 1995’s alternative-bands-cover-cartoon-theme-songs album Saturday Morning's Greatest Hits. You can hear it here, as of this posting).

I was always struck by the fact that as cool as the song was, as awesome as all the stuff they show in the opening sequence—Mummies! Pterodactyls! Spider eyeball robots!—the cartoon that followed it was always inevitably much more boring, the result of being a twenty-minute version of a cool four seconds worth of footage from the opening sequence.

Earlier this week I reviewed a handful of August graphic novel releases at Robot 6, including Chris Eliopoulos’ Okie Dokie Donuts. In addition to drawing good doughnuts, robots and people, Eliopoulos draws a mean Ant-Man, here and here, and a pretty good Benjamin "The Thing" Grimm. You can see more of his art on his site, and you can read the whole Ben Grimm story here.

Here’s Tom Spurgeon on the virtues of DC keeping their prices down.

Spurgeon’s point regarding the importance of lower-priced comics, because it decreases the likelihood of individuals suddenly feeling they aren’t getting the value they expect from their comics anymore and walking away from the shops-altogether—is important.

Spurgeon was commenting on DC Executive Vice President John Rood stating that the drop in price didn’t spur a rise in copies sold. I always assumed lowering the price point meant less people dropping that book, not getting more people to buy it.

For example, while I'm pretty obsessed with price points, I don't do book-to-book comparisons, like "Well, I'd really like to read Brian Michael Bendis and Mike Deodato's new issue of New Avengers, but it costs $3.99, whereas this James Robinson and Brett Booth issue of Justice League of America is only $2.99; I guess I'll get the latter instead"). I simply don't buy $4 books, but do buy books that are less than $4.

DC is in a weird position in that they very, very rarely published Marvel or IDW sized 22/$3.99 books, instead they've tried different things, like 32/$3.99 books with back-ups and $2.99/20 page books.

Marvel essentially did this really stupid, evil thing, and DC decided not to follow' hard to reward the absence of bad behavior, you know? They're like the good son in the parable of the prodigal son(Only unlike the bad son, Marvel is still out there carousing, and haven’t come home yet).

Okay, it's official: I hate Matt Seneca. In the same way I hate guys like Jog, Abhay, Spurgeon and Tucker Stone (all of whom I love). Like, hate/love in a, Damn him, I wish I could write like that once in a while kind of way. Anyway, check out Seneca's reaction to DC's new "New 52" version of the Justice League.


Farseer said...

Well, I liked Batgirl #1. It probably is just a matter of different taste, but I have the feeling that a lot of the online complaints are more continuity-related than about this story. I just don't care that much for continuity. Continuity in a mainstream superhero comic is always a mess, by definition.

Rich said...

I haven't read Batgirl #1 and probably won't despite the 25 or so Batgirl/Oracle/Birds of Prey paperbacks (whether Babs, Cass, or Steph) on my shelves. I really just wanted to say that the costume design at the top of this post is awful and thank you for posting it. It made me feel even more comfortable about skipping the book.

Sean R-B said...

I enjoyed Batgirl #1 enough that I'll stick around for the second issue. It wasn't Shakespeare, but it was fun and as good as anything Gail Simone has written (IMO).

Also actually liked OMAC; it's a fine piece of Kirby pastiche, though I'm not sure how long Didio and Giffen can keep it up. JLA was, of course, very slow. But I'll give the first arc a try before deciding whether to continue with it. ACTION#1 was just terrific. Animal Man and Swamp Thing were interesting enough that I'll probably pick up both in floppies for the first arc and then switch to trades.

B.G. Christensen said...

I gave Batgirl #1 3.5 out of 5 stars, which I guess is a C. I was unhappy that they didn't explain how she got her ability to walk back and I would've liked to see more reference to her history as Oracle, but overall it was a fun read. Also, the issue reveals the big retcon that no one warned us about: Jim Gordon's hair is red again!

dcwomenkickingass said...

Caleb, I'm not reading Batgirl either but while I saw the same bad reviews you saw, I also saw good reviews not just in the comics trades but in mainstream outlets like the New York Times and Entertainment Weekly.

Caleb said...

Also actually liked OMAC...ACTION#1 was just terrific. Animal Man and Swamp Thing were interesting enough that I'll probably pick up both in floppies for the first arc and then switch to trades.

I've actually been really enjoying NOT reading most of these "New 52" books, but sitting back and reading what others have to say about them. I was planning on trying all of the above in trade; DiDio's named scared me away from OMAC, but everyone seems to be digging that one, huh?

Jim Gordon's hair is red again!

I honestly was shocked to see that, mostly because it's sooo minor that it's a weird thing to change at all and, also, it was one of the few changes that didn't get much advance warning or discussion.

I also saw good reviews not just in the comics trades but in mainstream outlets like the New York Times and Entertainment Weekly.

Really? Review-reviews, and not just features or profiles or whatnot? Well, that's good news for DC and the creators then.

From the publisher's perspective, I don't think it matters if comics-readers embrace the book if they replace 'em with new comics-readers, nor does it matter if the comics are any good, so long as they sell in large numbers (not that anyone at DC would ever say, "Yeah, we don't care if they're good, so long as they're popular").

Siskoid said...

I believe my review was positive too. I hadn't realized so many reviewers hated it. I tried to approach from a newbie's point of view, i.e. without thinking about what we've lost in Miller/Steph.

Favorites in the first week: Animal Man, OMAC, Stormwach, Action and Batgirl (see?). Worst of the first lot: Men of War, Hawk & Dove, and reaching back to Week 0, Justice League, but I believe the worst is yet to come.

dcwomenkickingass said...

Yep, review reviews. The Times gave it a very good review
EW gave it a B+

John Foley said...

Caleb- I mean this with all respect, because I think you're a good writer and I genuinely like your site: I really think you should read the books you're writing about. Talking about the comics you aren't going to read seems incredibly pointless. As it stands right now you've written a critique based on other people's critiques. If you're that indifferent to the thing being reviewed... I don't know. It's just strange.