In a way, these little capsule “reviews” that I'm doing of my current comic reading are starting to feel like a funeral dirge. Come September, of course, everything is changing in the DC Universe. Even though these two titles are going to “continue,” albeit reverting back to a new #1, it won't be the same. Just how different remains to be seen.
“Hostile Takeover, Part One of Two”
In this case, it's like the heart will be ripped out of the book. The center of Birds of Prey from its beginning over a decade ago with a previous series, was “Oracle,” the code-name for the information hub of the DC hero community, Barbara Gordon – the former Batgirl, daughter of Commissioner James Gordon, who had been shot and crippled by the Joker in a late-1980s story, The Killing Joke. Confined to a wheelchair, she became an even much more compelling character than Batgirl ever was. In some manner, we're unsure at present whether she'll be miraculously healed or never have been crippled in the first place, we are losing Oracle and getting Barbara Gordon Batgirl back. To be sure, there has been a substantial segment of fandom wanting just this to happen for quite some time – but there has also been a substantial segment of fandom dead set against it. I'm more in the latter camp. It's another case of “I guess I'll just have to enjoy it while it lasts.” This is another typically excellent issue with action, witty dialogue, character development, and gorgeous art … at least Jesus Saiz is carrying over to the new Birds of Prey starting in September, which will at least still have Black Canary (Oracle's original agent; Huntress, however, remains MIA). And although Barbara Gordon won't be there, Gail Simone will be carrying her into the new Batgirl title. She's at least in good hands.
“Grounded, Part Nine”
To say that “Grounded,” meant to be a twelve-part character study of Superman by television, film, and comic-writer J. M. Straczinski, has garnered mixed reviews is to put it mildly. On balance, I think the reaction to Superman's “walk across America” to reconnect with the common people has been negative. Things weren't helped when it was announced part-way through (after a couple of fill-in issues had already appeared) that JMS was essentially abandoning this project, leaving an outline for another writer to complete. Well, JMS (who has a reputation for these kinds of stunts – lateness, inability to finish out projects) can jump ship on all the projects he wants when his departure brings such an improvement as has been seen in the last several issues by Chris Roberson. It's unclear exactly how closely Roberson is following any outline left by JMS, but there was an immediate change in tone, for the much better. Yes, elements of the plot introduced by JMS clearly are still being played out as Superman continues across the country, but with a new energy and less of a sense of malaise and “poor-me” on his part. In this issue especially, various elements of the Superman mythos all come together for a great done-in-one episode – Jimmy Olsen's signal watch (a staple of the Silver Age used sparingly in recent decades); in the trophy room of the Fortress of Solitude we get to see several costumes used by Superman in the past, and one not terribly well remembered by many in fandom (well, by me, at least) is key to “defeating” the “villainess.” This is the way to make DC's rich history and continuity work for the story – it can be done by a skilled writer. In the new DCU will such stories be so possible? It's a pity that Roberson's association with DC seems to be ending come September; at least I'm unaware of his participation in any post-Flashpoint titles. Incidentally, the interior art by Eddy Barrows is fantastic as usual.
(The cover is actually by John Cassaday and David Baron.)
Cheers, The Prof