Tag Archives: stephanie brown

Review: Detective Comics #981

James Tynion concludes his run on Detective Comics with smiling, hugs, and the simple refrain that maybe one should take things one day at a time instead of coming up with complex algorithms and plans for the future. His first artistic collaborators on the series, Eddy Barrows, Eber Ferreira, and Adriano Lucas, return for Detective #981 and provide chilling double page spreads of possible futures and more solid ones of the present of the Bat-family. The Brother Eye/Ulysses Armstrong/future Tim Drake plot is resolved fairly quickly so that Tynion, Barrows, and Ferreira can dig deeper into the characters’ emotions and relationships and tease out the different paths that the members of Batman and Batwoman’s hero training squad follows.

Probably the most unexpected hug is the first one between Tim Drake, who has been possessed by Brother Eye technology, and Batwoman as they realize that finding a perfect algorithm to fight crime involves pushing away friends and family and giving into one’s darker nature. It’s not punching or gadgets that brings Tim back to his real self (I love how Sal Cipriano gradually “de-Brothers” his word balloons.), but Stephanie Brown’s voice on the other end telling him she loves him no matter if he’s Red Robin, a future autocratic Batman, or just Tim Drake the college student. The split screens between her and ruthlessly manipulative and pragmatic Ulysses Armstrong represents the warring side of his psyche as Tim wants to efficiently prevent crime in Gotham City and elsewhere, but the human cost is too great. Batwoman experiences almost the same thing in a potent vision of the future where she is hunting down Batman for the government and is content to let him go, but because Bruce is dying of radiation from Brother Eye, she executes a mercy killing. Even if it’s a potential future timeline, Lucas uses a full color palette and Barrows uses tighter knit panels to show the tears on Kate’s face as she puts down an aging Bruce, who has realized that Bat-symbol is a powerful force for good, but it’s not one that needs to be eternal. It’s a direct refutation to the machine set up by Scott Snyder and Sean Murphy back in 2014’s Detective Comics #27 where Batman set up a way for a Batman (and Alfred) to exist in every era perpetually.

Detective Comics #981 is all about being able to love your family members, but also knowing when they need to go down their own path. Especially in the early part of Tynion’s run, Batman, Batwoman, and Red Robin have all been about control with strict training protocols and focus on efficiency and results at the expense of emotions, which caused Stephanie Brown to leave the team, poor Cassandra Cain to be estranged, and Clayface to die. The second half of this comic sets this all to rights with honest conversations, smiling, hugs, and yes, breaking up the proverbial band. Kate and Bruce share drinks at a fancy restaurant where their parents used to “parley”, and Bruce admits that the fact that she’s one of his only living relatives is why their relationship is so frustrating. Also, Kate talks about starting to figure out where she fits in this world of vigilantes and high tech paramilitarism as more of a solo act like she was back when J.H. Williams was writing her comics. But everything isn’t all sunshine and rainbows because this is a book predominantly set in Gotham City so, of course, Jake Kane is listening on their entire conversation. Kate might wear the Batman symbol and have respect for Batman and her other cousin Bruce, but she doesn’t answer to him.

Even if she isn’t technically the “star” of Detective Comics #981, the short scene with Cassandra Cain and Barbara Gordon is definitely the most heartfelt as Cass moves from Wayne Manor to a room in Leslie Thompkins’ clinic where she can be a student and young woman and not just a crime fighter. In contrast with her completely face and form obscuring Orphan costume, Eddy Barrows and Eber Ferreira draw Cass and her surroundings as open and dynamic before slowly pivoting to this issue’s saddest moment. At the clinic, she isn’t her codename, and Barbara Gordon is “Babs”, not Batgirl. Even though the glimpse of Cassandra picking up her pre-Flashpoint mantle as Batgirl in the previous issue was glorious, it is good to see her learning how to speak and function in society as a human being and not just as a human weapon and nicely caps off the arc that James Tynion has set up for her throughout Batman and Robin Eternal and Detective Comics.

Although it features alternate timelines, crazy future tech, and of course, masked vigilantes who wear a flying rodent on their costumes, Detective Comics #981, and by extension James Tynion’s whole 47 issue run on Detective Comics, has been a family drama with Batwoman playing the badass aunt and Tim Drake as the son, who wants to please his father and also wants to do his own thing. It ends with Batman going into action alone while his surrogate family members forge a path of their own. Sure, Tim and Stephanie are investigating alternate timelines and not going to college, but Batman trusts and loves them enough to let them strike out on their own. Batman fighting crime in Gotham City is a constant, but there is room for change in that constant.

Story: James Tynion IV Pencils: Eddy Barrows
Inks: Eber Ferreira Colors: Adriano Lucas Letters: Sal Cipriano
Story: 9.5 Art: 8.0 Overall: 8.8 Recommendation: Buy

DC Comics provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review

Review: Batgirl Annual #3

batgirlannual003When reading the modern medium of comics, it is easy to forget that comic stories did not always have the same format.  As opposed to the modern day where one-shots are an absolute rarity, they used to exist more or less in this format across the entire medium.  Long story arcs were rare, and heroes usually met a villain and dealt with them in a short amount of time.  These stories which can be more easily located in the silver age, had a fairly common format of hero encounters villain, is beaten at first but then quickly recovers and wins.  This format is interesting because it is still occasionally used, but also because it is used in this most recent Batgirl Annual, and used quite cleverly.

Facing off against a mysterious villain and organization tied to the name Gladius, Barbara is forced to make some unlikely alliances which take her around the bat-family.  The cover alludes to the one that fans would be the most excited about, with an encounter with Dick Grayson, but there are also some clever other interactions as Barbara follows the trail of Gladius.  She encounters two other former Batgirls from previous years (Stephanie Brown and Helena Bertinelli) as well as Batwoman, a decent collection of Bat-ladies that is only missing Cassandra Cain.  The story diverges in an unexpected direction as well, crossing over what might be DC’s two best titles at the moment, as Batgirl and the residents of Gotham Academy get to meet for the first time.

What is most interesting about this story, is that while it is told in a series of separate vignettes, each with their own style, it also still manages to be a fluid story that makes sense, without the cameos seeming too forced.  Barbara is still the star but she cedes that status easily to those that she teams up with, making this issue more than the sum of its parts.  While the main series occasionally gets tied down in its own plots, this annual seems to represent a desire by the main creative team to cut loose a bit and have some fun with the character, and they succeeded.

Story: Cameron Stewart and Brenden Fletcher Art: Bengal, David LaFuente, Ming Doyle, Mingjue Helen Chen, Gabe Eltaeb, Ivan Plascensia
Story: 9.4 Art: 9.4 Overall: 9.4 Recommendation: Buy

Fear of a Black Kid Flash. Not so Much a Female One.

wally westAn interesting thing happened last week when in the Teen Titans version of Futures End that a new Kid Flash was introduced in the wake of the company-wide crossover.  Or more accurately another new Kid Flash was introduced. Earlier this year some fans were upset at the long-awaited return of Wally West to the DC universe, the problem that they were upset that the character was black. While this was not too much different from some other reactions – such as the reveal that the Earth 2 Alan Scott is gay – it is interesting especially after this new female Kid Flash was released to little fanfare or reaction. No one at all seemed to complain about this new character, seemingly also taking over the role of Wally West, though the incursion was potentially just as comprehensive. After all the character is never named and could have just as likely been named Walda or Wallis as any other name (thus allowing a nickname of Wally.)

Although they are based off of general consensus and are generally pretty silly, the so-called rules of the internet cover this topic to a degree, specifically rule 63 which states that for every male character that a female version of this character also exists.  While not absolutely true, it is often the case at least with the most popular characters. Some are direct rip-offs, though very rarely does a character assume the actual identity of the character, though the new female Thor is potentially going to change this. The female characters generally are presented in one of two ways. Either they are a female character that is modified into the costume of a male hero, as in the case of Stephanie Brown in the costume of Robin or May Parker in Spider-Man’s costume, or with separate characters in obviously feminine costumes as in the case with Supergirl and Batgirl.  In these cases though the character is separate and not taking over for the main role. While this in itself could be interpreted as a statement of gender, it is still worth noting that each character has their own self and their own past.

kflashThis being the case it would seem that the problem with the case of Wally West is not that directly of skin colour but that of identity. Wally West was an established character for many, and to change something as deep as skin color for many readers meant a fundamental change for the readers. Is this fair though?  If indeed the female character had been named either Wallis or Walda (I know these are more obscure names) would that have been so easily forgiven?

Before answering that it is maybe relevant to have a look at some of the major black characters from the history of comics. A lot of the major black characters came from a time when being black was a big part of their identity, especially with the introduction of these characters in the silver age.  In the case of Black Panther or Black Lightning, there was no question about their skin color as it was right in their names. While this did not hold true in every character (such as with Falcon or War Machine) it was still a notable part of their identity. In the comic book setting where the suffix “–man” is the expected commonality, it was necessary for a time to distinguish between skin color and gender. Black Lightning is perhaps one of the worst cases of this, as for a time his true identity as a black man is hidden behind his hero facade of being a jive-talking street character. He was not allowed to be educated as a hero, instead he was forced into racial stereotypes. Still those stereotypes existed, and they were even there with other characters. If Black Panther were called White Panther instead, the main association with the color to the character would not be skin color.  Instead, someone would expect that the character has some kind of powers related to the word “white.”

There exists a lot of other names in comics to distinguish one version from another. One major example is the previously mentioned example of –girl which is used almost exclusively for female versions of male characters (with the exception of the Legion of Super Heroes characters as well as Wonder Girl), but in terms of the Flash there was already a descriptor for this difference – “Kid”.

As the character gained more depth though, he was no longer associated with his own name and instead that of another, Wally. He became a real hero in the way that real heroes do, that by association by their non-hero names is almost as evident as with their superhero names. In this way it is not possible to have a character named Batman that is not Bruce or a Superman that is not Clark. The question is though, is whether skin color and gender are so tied to those identities. It would seem as though the answer in both cases is yes, except the more so for skin color. Not all fans, but some fans are willing to make fewer exceptions for a black version of a character than for a female version, and perhaps some of this is tied to identity but some is not.

A distinguishing factor here is the previously mentioned aspect of power. Even Supergirl, who is as much Kryptonian as Superman, is never said to be able to match him in power, despite their powers having nothing to do with their specific gender physiology. Equally Stephanie Brown, for the short time that she took over as Robin was never seen as his equal, even being regarded by Batman as an unnecessary risk to be allowed to act in the role. It is thus the case that female characters rarely break the gender role/stereotype of the female gender, but it is not the case with a black character. Black versions of the white characters are usually just as strong and able at superheroics, and this is likely also part of the outrage over the characters. That in some ways the girls will never compete truly for the title, but that the black men can, and this is the true danger with a black version of a favorite character. A black character makes the original white character replaceable, while a female character only makes a lesser powerful version of that main character. In the first case fans will often reject the change, but in the second case it is more acceptable.

In light of all the commentary about the medium in recent months, be it over the black Wally West or over the comments about the new direction for Wonder Woman, it is important to note that certain aspects of the medium and their fans are still stuck with some outdated thinking.

Listen to Part 2 of Graphic Policy Radio: New York Comic Con

This past Monday night was the latest episode of Graphic Policy Radio! The episode continued our New York Comic Con round-up where we discussed a lot of what excited us coming out of the convention and Elana told us her experiences at the show.

This week we chatted about:

  • Lets get mathematical with Adventure Time! We talk about the hot show and it’s TimeTalk at NYCC
  • DC made news by announcing the return of Stephanie Brown

 

NYCC 2013: Stephanie Brown is Back in the DCU

Spoiler2If it’s a convention, and there’s a panel involving DC Comics or Batman, you know there’s going to be a question involving Stephanie Brown. As reported on Newsarama at the Batman Live! panel the inevitable question came up and there’s actually a new answer!

Scott Snyder had this to say:

Your love for Stephanie Brown has been so inspiring to us, she’s a character we really love, and we’re proud to announce she’ll be coming back in this series!

You’ll see here in the newly announced weekly series Batman Eternal in the third issue. It’s also being reported she’ll return as Spoiler.

DC, hopefully you’ll now see what positive fan reaction is like….

(via Newsarama)

Around the Tubes

The weekend is almost here. What’s everyone have on their schedule?

Around the Blogs

Comics Bulletin – We Hear You – So Shut Up Already!Solid article on the Cassandra Cain and Stephanie Brown DC Comics issue.

Bleeding Cool – Hastings Puts Its Comics Online – Including The VariantsThere goes that market.

Kotaku – Stan Lee’s Latest Superhero Creation Has the Power to Fall From the Sky. Hey, Me Too!Okay then.

Around the Tubes Reviews

Talking Comics – Avengers Assemble #9

Talking Comics – Batgirl #14

Examiner – Fantastic Four #1

Talking Comics – Fantastic Four #1

CBR – Where is Jake Ellis? #1

Comics Alliance – ‘Scene of the Crime’ and ‘Rock Bottom’ Find New Homes At Image

Paste Magazine – Comic Book & Graphic Novel Round-up 11/14/12

Around the Tubes

The weekend is here, yay! Today we’ve got some previews, reviews, news and an exclusive first!

Around the Blogs:

FirstShowing – WB Teasing Two Trailers for Snyder’s ‘Man of Steel’ This Weekend -The one I saw was solid.

ICv2 – Marvel Threatens ‘Latino Review’ -Good luck with that Marvel.

Bleeding Cool – Rick Remender Tweets A Possible X-Force Spoiler? -I don’t like spoilers, but kind of funny.

CBR – Warner Bros. Pulls “Dark Knight Rises” TV Spots

MTV Geek – AMC Theaters Bans Costumes At Screenings In Light of ‘Dark Knight Rises’ Shooting

Bleeding Cool – Reading Between The Lines Over Stephanie Brown And DC Comics -An interesting theory.

 

Around the Tubes Reviews:

Graphic Novel Resources – My Friend Dahmer

Emyrean Edge – Transformers: Autocracy

Around the Tubes

The weekend is almost here and I need it. I still haven’t recovered from San Diego Comic-Con. Here’s the news you might have missed.

Around the Blogs:

DC Women Kicking Ass – Stephanie Brown WASN’T Removed from Smallville Due to Iconism -This is what I’m hearing too.

IGN – Webb May Not Return for Amazing Spider-Man 2 -I’m kind of indifferent on this.

 

Around the Tubes Reviews:

CBR – Avengers Vs. X-Men #8

The Comics Journal – Batman: Earth One

CBR – Daredevil #15