15 June 2013

"The Movement" #2 and "Batgirl" #21 by Gail Simone

I'm down to just two monthly books now, and since both are written by Gail Simone it seemed expedient to write one blog post to cover both books. I'll probably stick to this format. I picked The Movement to lead off this review because it was published the week before Batgirl and also because I read them in that order. Since I started reading new monthlies again, I've always read Batgirl last because it's my favorite.

The Movement #2
"With No Hint of Malice"
Gail Simone - Writer
Freddie Williams II - Artist
Chris Sotomayor - Colorist
Carlos M. Mangual - Letterer
Amanda Conner - Cover
Dave McCaig - Cover Color
Kyle Andrukiewicz - Asst. Editor
Joey Cavalieri - Editor
Matt Idelson - Group Editor
32 pages / $2.99
Date of Publication: 5 June 2013

I found The Movement #1 a bit too frenetic for my taste, with my chief concern being that I didn't have much of a feel for any of the characters. Issue #2 paused long enough to bring me up to speed, though, and now I feel like I have a grip on the players in this new book. I have to say, it's kind of fun to read a book with an original cast of characters where I have absolutely no preconceived ideas of personalities. Gail Simone is a very socially-conscious writer and I admire that about her work.

She's also apparently demented. Seriously, Gail - what the hell is wrong with you?!

I don't even know what to make of Mouse and poor little Trouncer. Story pages 5 and 6 are sad but kind of sweet...until that last panel on page 6. Then there's panel 1 on story page 10, which is something that can't be unseen once it's seen. What the hell is wrong with you, Gail? We learn more about the Movement team, or at least its "war council" and its base of operations at the 181/Sweatshop.

The history of the building is unfortunately not without actual precedent, though offhand similar known incidents did not take place in secrecy. Those kinds of fatal sweatshop conditions were an important part of the Industrial Revolution that our public school system doesn't acknowledge because "Eli Whitney invented the cotton gin" is much easier to write into a test than "Exploitative greed combined with misogyny to place women and girls in deplorable working conditions that cost the lives of a few hundred of them."

One thing I really like about The Movement, and I meant to comment on this in last month's review, is that its visual aesthetic doesn't seem as homogenized as the other New 52 books. Freddie Williams II's art is rawer and a lot less sleek than the other comics I've seen from DC. It gives the book a very specific personality and helps set it apart. It's a shame that all the other books are expected to conform to a singular design because this is the kind of thing that I always liked about reading comic books in the first place: Contrasting not just the work of one artist from another, but enjoying the impact that specific artist's work has on the storytelling of a given book.

The most striking image of the issue is that aforementioned first panel of story page 10, but I really liked those last three panels of story page 9. That's a terrific eye-roll! It's nice to see this kind of work in a comic. Then there's the visceral shot at the top of story page 31 of Katharsis, seething with rage and her face bloodied. That's more consistent with mainstream books, but it's done so strikingly well that it's a standout image.

When I picked up these two books, I formally added The Movement to my pull list. That makes it my second ever pull title, after...

Batgirl #21
Gail Simone - Writer
Fernando Pasarin - Pencils
Jonathan Glapion - Inks
Blond - Colors
Taylor Esposito - Letters
Alex Garner - Cover
Katie Kubert - Editor
Mike Marts - Group Editor
Batman created by Bob Kane
32 pages / $2.99
Date of Publication: 12 June 2013

This issue opens with Nightwing calling to check on Babs while simultaneously fighting some Scarecrow-themed thugs in Chicago. Their conversation recalls their sparring in issue #3, and it's nice to check in on that relationship again. His fight has nothing to do with anything else in Batgirl to date; it's just there (I think) so that we have some action to look at in the first few pages because otherwise, we don't see Babs back in action until the last of story page 10.

Which itself is kind of peculiar, actually, because we've just spent the first third of this issue watching her make the argument to Nightwing that she's incapable of being Batgirl at present. "...I can't wear the bat right now, Dick. I don't deserve it," she says on story page 4, panel 3. But then as soon as you turn the page your eye darts ahead and there she is on story page 7, busting a right into traffic on her Batcycle? I totally buy that she's having mental and emotional issues at present that make being Batgirl upsetting for her. That's actually one of the plot points of the book that works really well and appeals to me.

To see her go straight from the "I can't wear the bat" talk into wearing said bat just doesn't track. It feels incomplete, like there were a couple of pages originally intended to get us from Emotional Point A to Action Point B that somehow were truncated. I don't know. It's a sharp change of emotional tone and kind of jarring.

Once we get to Shauna's home on story page 9, things become pretty dark. I love that there's no actual explanation for how Shauna manipulates Ferdie or the corpses. I can be fickle about the supernatural in my superhero comics, but this is creepy as hell and works nicely. Readers I know through Twitter seem to feel that this Ventriloquist is pure evil, devoid of the sympathetic nature of other adversaries in the book so far. I disagree with that. I look at Shauna and see a broken young woman who has retreated into being the Ventriloquist in large part because that's where her life pushed and pulled her. I can easily envision her sitting in a group therapy session and being the one to break everyone's heart.

Speaking of emotions, my favorite panel of this book is the very last panel of the pages 2-3 splash, of Babs crying on the phone. The tightened eyebrows, the quivering lip, even the hand holding back the falling hair; just heartrending. That's actually the key reason I found it so confusing to go from her telling Dick she can't be Batgirl to her hacking the GCPD website to get back to looking for the kidnapped singer, Xavia. I just stopped reading and stared at that panel of Babs crying for probably five or ten seconds because it exuded such desolation.

I also liked the last panel of page 6, with Babs passing Alysia on her way out. Their brief handholding as part of saying goodbye/goodnight was sweet. Story page 8, with Babs's parents saying their goodbyes, was bittersweet, but it's kind of a strange interlude and it's kind of frustrating that Barbara doesn't set Jim straight on what happened to James, Jr. since she's the only one who could. (Or, I suppose, James, Jr. could since DC made a point to advertise that he's just joined one of the team books.)

Both The Movement and Batgirl issues include attacks on peoples' eyes. That's one of those things that squicks me right out and I'm pretty sure somehow, Gail Simone knows it. Which begs the question:

What the hell is wrong with you, Gail Simone?