The Dinglehopper

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Black Canary Vol. 1’s Punk-Rock Heroics

CanaryCoverBlack Canary Vol. 1: Kicking and Screaming
Written by Brendan Fletcher
Art by Annie Wu, Pia Guerra, Sandy Garrell
Color by Lee Loughridge
Letters by Steve Wands

Since I was first introduced to this new iteration of Black Ca
nary through Batgirl Vol. 1: The Batgirl of Burnside, I can’t help but make comparisons. In that first introduction to Dinah, I didn’t think much of her. She came off as haughty in her irritation with Babs, and without prior sympathies built up, Dinah never won me over, instead remaining an annoyance through her appearance in that volume.

Her solo volume does much to reverse that, giving Dinah the chance to build sympathy while maintaining her tough, feminist, loner leanings. While Babs has friendships aplenty to keep her connected to the world and a lightness of being in her crime-fighting, Dinah stays aloof and carries the world’s weight on her shoulders. She’s a mystery, even to her band mates in Black Canary. And she’s trouble in a way that Babs never is. She’s quickly becoming a persona-non-gratis with her band, frequently leaving venues in states of disarray and destruction after her enemies take the opportunity to call her out. Her band mates, non of whom are superheroes, are becoming disillusioned with Dinah. She may be a kick-ass vocalist, but the fights are cutting hard into their tour profits.

Adding further complication is Bo M, the former lead singer of Black Canary who Dinah replaced. She’s a diva, clearly foiling Dinah’s more practical nature. Bo is out for vengeance against Dinah and acting the pawn for some big players indeed. Then there’s the mysterious, mute drummer Ditto who looks 12 but has some truly incredible musical abilities. Like with Batgirl, Brendan Fletcher makes most of Dinah’s central antagonists female, creating storylines that center heavily on the relationships between women, both positive and negative. Of special interest to this volume is an exploration of surrogate motherhood and how that changes a person’s perspective.

 

For the rest of my review, click through to PopOptiq

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‘Midnighter Vol. 1: Out’ Gleefully Embraces Its Identity

MidnighterVol1CoverMidnighter Vol. 1: Out
Written by Steve Orlando
Art by Aco, Steve Mooney, Alec Morgan, Hugo Petrus, and Romulo Fajardo, Jr.
Collects Midnighter #1-7, plus the Sneak Peek story from Convergence: Nightwing/Oracle #2
Published by DC Comics on February 17, 2016

 

Midnighter is a title that knows what it is and what it’s aiming for. It is a comic about a gay superhero designed for a gay and bi male readership, but with plenty to offer every other reader too. The artwork is inventive and gorgeous, even as it depicts gruesome violence. It knows how to use a metaphor in clear, nuanced ways. It balances grit, hard choices, and vigilante glee. Although I’m not in the primary demographic for this title, I still found myself engaged enough by the end of the volume to want to seek out more of Steve Orlando’s Midnighter issues and disappointed to read that the title was likely canceled with DC’s Rebirth plans. Midnighter fills a clear void in LGBTQ+ hero-oriented comics, and I’ll be sad to see DC scrap it. I hope they reconsider. 

Midnighter has been a gay superhero for 20 years and icon for the LGBTQ+ community for as long. He was introduced with his crime-fighting partner Apollo, a kind of analog to Batman and Superman, but gay. Not that that was clear from the beginning. Midnighter has often been a victim of his times depicted as a mirror of what seems acceptable to a cisgendered comics reading audience, and because of that, M’s sexuality has often been mishandled. From being cagey about the orientation in the first place, to having villains throw homophobic taunts, to allowing chaste kisses within life-partnered monogamy, Midnighter has been at the mercy of the day’s acceptability.

Except Midnighter isn’t so much about what others find acceptable. He’s a true vigilante, willing to embrace the darkest parts of night. Is he also a bad guy? That’s the question of identity explored through the volume. Midnighter has a computer in his brain that calculates all possible outcomes in a split second. His body has been enhanced for fighting. He was built to be a weapon. The choices he makes are merely pointing that weapon in the right direction. He repeats he’s a vigilante rather than a hero. He’s got no qualms killing criminals. Just how reckless with life he might be gets detailed in the volume’s opening fight where a little girl appears to be possessed, and for a long, tense moment, the reader wonders if he will kill her or save her. He’s no boy scout. Heck, he’s no Batman, who despite his violence, at least attempts to lock up his antagonists, not kill them. He does sport Batman underwear though–he’s got a pretty great sense of humor.

Read the rest of my review over at PopOptiq.com!

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Comic Review: Cyborg #1

cyborg coverI’ve mentioned before how recently I’ve been drawn to diversity in my comic books. Earlier in the week, I started to hear some buzz about Cyborg, the new DC title focused on the titular character and written by David F. Walker (who also writes Shaft) and illustrated by Joe Prado and Ivan Reis. What I heard was that it addressed issues of race and disability. I was in.

Of course, Cyborg, Vic Stone, isn’t a new character to me. I know him as an ensemble player in Teen Titans and Justice League Unlimited. But he’s never been even as fleshed out as JLA’s Jon Stewart. The first issue first and foremost establishes Vic’s relationship with his father. It’s complicated. Dad was distant, but when Vic was mortally burned in a fire, his father Silas saved him by grafting him with machine technology, turning him into Cyborg, a being that Vic explains is more machine than man (you know, like Darth Vader). So Vic has some difficulty with those around him, especially his father, seeing him as a human being.

Here’s where the examination of disability comes in. S.T.A.R. labs, where Silas Stone works, is being protested by a group of people, some missing limbs or sitting in wheel chairs. Vic, through a kind of visual voice over with a light barcode in the background to suggest the computer machine aspect of Vic, states feelings shared by many with visible disabilities: “Some people stare. Some people look away in horror. I hate both.” I’m interested to see where this theme goes in future issues. For a superhero book, its ground that isn’t frequently explored, except in Batgirl.

As far as plot goes, there are two threads being woven. The personal one is that Cyborg’s body is doing new and strange things that he doesn’t understand, so he’s come to his father for assistance. The epic danger involves two alien races, one which has recognizable tech–it looks like Cyborg’s–and the other wants to acquire that tech. They’re certainly an enticing set of hooks.

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The art by Joe Prado and Ivan Reis is pretty fantastic. Their faces are emotionally evocative with nuances registering easily. However the true exhibition of talent is in their treatment of flashbacks which happen concurrently in a panel with the present character(s) grappling with their significance. The action of the flashback appears in the background in a translucent red toned image to contrast the pervasive blue of the present. It’s visually intense and artistically stunning.

Cyborg deserved some special treatment after being a team player for so long. Walker, Reis, and Prado are handling him like royalty.


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Comic Review: Arkham Manor TPB

arkhamcoverMy 3-year-old really digs Batman, and I don’t get it. Why is it that Batman speaks to him in the same way as Spider-Man or Captain America, both much sunnier heroes with more earnest goodness and humor. Batman, at least as he’s been depicted in the past 25 years, is a hero of darkness. He lives in a cave, dresses in black, moves at night and in shadow, associates himself with bats. Why doesn’t he automatically come across to my toddler as a “bad guy”?

Arkham Manor, written by Gerry Duggan, exemplifies why Batman isn’t for children. In this gritty, disturbingly twisted and gruesome addition to the Batman mythology, Arkham Asylum has been destroyed, and the city is looking for a temporary home for the inmates until the new asylum can be finished. Their solution is to house them in the vacant Wayne Manor. When a murder happens within the new, temporary Arkham, Batman goes undercover as new inmate Jack Shaw to stop the killer. But what he finds is far stranger than he expected. manor2

The Batman of this collection is a cunning detective, but he allows himself to vent his anger and frustration in violent and destructive ways. In his frustration at having the Manor co-opted for Arkham, he purposes sets out to have an extra violent patrol. Though he has subdued two muggers, he beats them up just for sport, leaving one in need of reconstructive surgery. Grant Morrison, among others, has described Batman as “a rich guy who beats up poor people.” He’s not very sympathetic, and certainly this scene doesn’t want to make him so. He’ll have a bit of a change of heart later in the collection, but it becomes difficult to see Batman as a hero rather than another crazy character deserving Arkham’s cell.

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That’s probably the low spot of the comic. As it goes on, it amasses interesting twists, and the mystery Batman is investigating engages the brain and builds tension.

Furthermore, the conceit that Batman’s rogues gallery would all become housed in Wayne Manor’s walls with Batman disguised (or rather not) amongst them is a brilliant way to have their multiple personalities and relationships with Batman on display. My favorite of them was Mr. Freeze, who mostly interacts with the others via a glorified scooter with a screen attached, since he’s stuck in his cold-storage cell. Freeze has a wisdom and humor in his character and is the lightest part of the comic.
arkham-manor-1The art, by Shawn Crystal, fits the narrative well. Heavy lines, dominating black, a slight boxy quality to the forms. The art tonally evokes the darkness and madness of Arkham’s inmates now in Batman’s home. The covers are especially brilliant, frequently depicting the madness at the heels of Batman as he hides behind the identity of Shaw. In the example that follows, Shaw is Batman’s double, dwarfed by the ominous head of an inmate who has counted his time in Arkham with murders.ARK_MANOR_Cv2Arkham Manor’s not for the young or weak of heart. The narrative stares deep into the heart of psychosis’s most violent path. But if that sounds intriguing rather than off-putting, this is an interesting story-line with artistic flair. For fans of Shutter Island, Shock Corridor, and Netflix’s Marvel’s Daredevil.

 

 

 


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Joseph Gordon-Levitt Working With Gaiman on Film Adaptation of Sandman

joseph-gordon-levitt-covers-out-october-2013-01Man, who does not love Joseph Gordon-Levitt? Seriously, are there any hold-outs? He can act, dance, write, direct. He’s a feminist. He’s overall adorable. And here’s one more reason to join the JGL-side:

As part of DC Comics and Warner Bros.’s big push-back against Marvel’s box-office domination, JGL is working with Neil Gaiman and others from the Dark Knight crew to adapt Sandman. Still in the script stages, JGL is being set to direct (and maybe star?).

He admits that adapting Sandman is no easy task:

There’s not a script yet, we’re still kind of working it out because it’s such a complicated adaptation because “Sandman” wasn’t written as novels. “Sin City” was written as a novel. “Sandman” is 75 episodic issues. There’s a reason people have been trying and failing to adapt “Sandman” for the past 20 years. (“Joseph Gordon-Levitt on ‘Sin City 2,’ ‘Sandman,’ and a ‘Star Wars’ Cameo)

Considering the creativity of his hitRecord productions, I’m hopeful. JGL and Gaiman together can pull this off.

sandman_text1Furthermore, he has full faith in his friend Rian Johnson to deliver something great in his upcoming Star Wars film(s):

I remember when he told me about it, I felt so privileged because he told me about it before the announcement and I’m just so excited. I’m excited for two reasons: one, I’m excited for my dear friend to have this amazing opportunity, and I’m also excited that there’s going to be these movies. These are going to be such good “Star Wars” movies. He’s going to rock it.