20 May 2013

"Batgirl" #20 & "The Movement" #1 by Gail Simone

My favorite comic book writer, Gail Simone, has a new book out now called The Movement, and since I'm terrible about remembering to review Detective Comics I'm going to try to make a monthly, single-post review of her two DC Comics books. She's also the new writer on Red Sonja and hopes are high for that book but the truth is that the character and setting don't appeal to me so I think I'll pass on that for now. Plus, my very limited entertainment budget can only go so far.

Batgirl #20
"A Splinter Where My Heart Should Be"

Writer - Gail Simone
Pencillers - Daniel Sampere & Carlos Rodriguez
Inker - Jonathan Glapion with Vicente Cifuentes (finishes on pages 16 & 17)
Colorist - Blond
Letterer - Dave Sharpe
Cover Artists - Eddy Barrows, Eber Ferreira & Blond
Editor - Katie Kubert
Group Editor - Mike Marts
Batman Created by Bob Kane
32 Pages/ $2.99
Date of Publication: 15 May 2013

Babs has had a rough go of things, between finally having to confront The Joker in "Death of the Family" and the showdown with her brother, James, Jr. She's been pushed to emotional limits, and we see her begin to crack. What works about this is that it feels organic and not a set-up for the kind of dark, brooding character trope that permeates so much superhero fiction. I'm not worried that Batgirl will become a callous anti-hero. This is a natural part of growth for her, and it's something that reminds us how human she is...and that Simone writes real human beings. Self-doubt is normal and can be healthy, if managed properly. It's nice to see that.

The big part of this issue, of course, is that we meet The New 52's Ventriloquist. In this incarnation, it's not Arnold Whisker, but rather Shauna Belzer. The Ventriloquist of the comic books never really interested me, though I thought what they did with the character in Batman: The Animated Series was terrific. Reinventing him as a marginalized woman is an interesting take, and The Ventriloquist is one of the few noteworthy characters that lends himself to such a radical change. Shauna Belzer is genuinely creepy and feels like she's straight out of Tales from the Crypt.

Look at story page 8, when Shauna's audition crashes. Panel 3 shows us one of the most sympathetic faces I think I've seen in this book to date. I want to pat her on the back in panel 4...and I want to run the hell away from her as quickly as possible in panel 5. It's this range of emotion that Simone handles so well, and fortunately, the art chores on Batgirl have been handled by artists capable of really putting on the page that range.

Bonus C2E2 Connection

I paid $10 to get a Batgirl head sketch by colorist Blond. He told me it was the first time he had ever drawn her. Knowing that was pretty cool. I thought it turned out great. You can comment on it in my nascent gallery on comicartfans.com.

The Movement #1
"Eaten from the Inside Out"

Gail Simone - Writer
Freddie Williams II - Artist
Chris Sotomayor - Colorist
Carlos M. Mangual - Letterer
Amanda Conner - Cover
Dave McCaig - Cover Color
Kate Stewart and Kyle Andrukiewicz - Asst. Editors
Joey Cavalieri - Editor
Matt Idelson - Group Editor
32 Pages/$2.99
Date of Publication: 1 May 2013

What if Anonymous had super powers? That's basically the premise behind The Movement: youth activists are tired of living in a city where social justice is a privilege, not a right...and they have the means to do something about it. I was away from comics when Simone first appeared as writer of Birds of Prey but I gather that she writes team books nicely. I'm looking forward to seeing her develop entirely original characters of her own making.

I would be lying, though, if I said that I really connected with this first issue. There was just too much going on and I never really had the chance to connect with any of the Channel M ("Movement") members. I did, however, take an instant liking to the police captain, whose name I can't find anywhere in this issue. He seems like a decent guy and one that should make for a nice point of view character going forward.

Starting off the story with abusive cops Whitt and Pena shaking down some teens and then trying to extort sexual "favors" ("Give us a little peek") was a highly effective way to not only establish what things are like in Coral City, but to also upset us from the very beginning. There was a similar scene in the Academy Award-winning film, Crash, and while many found the film itself manipulative and cloy overall, that one scene was very powerful. Simone's version of it is just as striking, perhaps because it plays out over just a few still panels, forcing my imagination to fill in the gaps of the dread and fear that must have come over the young woman being threatened.

I also enjoyed Movement member (leader?) Virtue calling the police captain "hoss" on story page 16. It's a little thing, I know, but any time I encounter someone using that term, I think of Waylon Jennings. As I tweeted to Gail Simone, I felt this issue was a bit too frenetic for me to really get a sense of most of the main characters, but I did respond strongly to the setting and premise. I'm looking forward to issue #2.

Bonus C2E2 Connection

The Movement #1 hit shelves the week after C2E2, but I did chat briefly with cover artist Amanda Conner, who was kind enough to take a picture with me: