Review: Batgirl #3

By Patrick Larose

There is so much I really like about this new Batgirl series. Rafael Albuquerque’s art is a must-see with his dynamic action scenes or the interesting and weird page layouts that demonstrate Barbara’s thought processes and movements. Dave McCaig’s colors have made these moments even more visually engaging with his attentive background color work.

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Review: Batgirl #1

DC’s Rebirth relaunch is still a thing, and this time, Batgirl is back with a new #1, ditching Gotham and her last creative team for a backpacking adventure across Asia. Hope Larson and Rafael Albuquerque are the new leads on this book, and, while they’re keeping the light and adventurous tone of the previous Batgirl of Burnside series, they’ve undeniably brought new energy to the title.

Barbara Gordon is taking a break from Burnside and her new tech start-up for a vacation trekking across Asia, and she starts her journey in Japan. She’s staying at hostels, trying the cuisine, visiting friends, and finding the Japanese bat-themed heroine, Fruit Bat, from the 1940s.

This first issue is less interested in grounding us into a story as it is introducing a tone and establishing characters. And that’s not necessarily a bad thing. We’re spending time with Barbara Gordon as she hangs out with her friend, Kai, trying the local cuisine, drinking craft beer, and learning the local history. Given DC and especially the Bat-Family’s history of stereotyping and BG_Cv1_open_order_varexploitation when it comes to portraying a “mythical orientalism,” this Batgirl feels refreshing. This isn’t a story about a mystical Asia filled with wizened grandmasters. Instead, this is about a more real and genuine tourist experience.

In a lesser Batman story, Chiyo Yamashiro, the now elderly Fruit Bat, would have been set-up as a wise sensei to Barbara Gordon to teach her some secret technique. Here, though, the relationship is much more personal. Yamashiro isn’t just a super hero who managed to live to old age but is someone with a life paralleling Batgirl’s own life.

I understand I’ve written an article describing a fifty-plus year old character working for a tech start-up and drinking craft beer, but it’ll be okay. This is just the world we live in now.

When the characters aren’t getting sick from food poisoning or staring at giant crabs, Larson and Albuquerque prove that they’re willing to bring some serious action chops as Batgirl shows down with a new rival: a mysterious kabuki-sailor-scout hunting for a secret a formula.

Nothing in their fight ever looks like action posing. The artwork always feels kinetic, and it even balances between showing character’s visual thought processes and uses some really inventive ways of displaying movement. There’s even an added benefit of getting to see an hundred year old Fruit Bat kick some serious ass.

There are a few stumbles, of course. The issue opens with what felt like some clunky phone conversations that scream, “Hey we have to establish the current status quo and what’s going on,” and some jokes don’t land. Other than that though, I found myself getting caught up in these small details that convey a genuinely invested creative team. They use a neat method for conveying the different languages being spoken that isn’t simply the typical, “<This is us speaking a different language>”. Where most comics might leave a blank background for a close-up, the colorist here will add eye-catching halftone dots or a paint stroke effect.

If I can say anything at the end of this review to encourage you to pick up Batgirl #1 and get onto the ground floor of this new series, it’s this: Batgirl #1 ends with Batgirl going to join a mixed martial arts group.

Until this, I never knew just how badly I wanted to read a comic about Batgirl fighting her way through  MMA matches.

[su_box title="Score: 4/5" style="glass" box_color="#8955ab" radius="6"]

Batgirl #1
Writer: Hope Larson
Artist: Rafael Albuquerque
Publisher: DC Comics
Price: $2.99
Format: Ongoing; Print/Digital


Review: Huck Vol. 1

Some time ago I stumbled upon a review for Huck #1 on this very website and ever since then I’ve been dying to get my hands on this combined first volume.  Let me just say now that the story of Huck did not disappoint. Mark Millar has another precious gem here and one I will remember for some time. Many of us love superheroes but sometimes we forget that it’s not the powers these people have that make them special, it’s what lies beneath, it's their character, their heart that is the true source of their strength.  What Millar has done here is take this principle to its logical end in presenting us with a mentally handicapped man with extraordinary strength and an unflinching desire to do good.  I fell in love with Huck instantly as he prepares his list of “Good deeds for the day,” which he carries out without even a second thought.  He doesn’t grandstand, doesn’t even look for the spotlight, he operates quietly behind the scenes with the cloak of silence from his local community.

Huck-TPB_cvrMany years ago, little Huck was left on the steps of an orphanage with a note upon which just three simple words were written, “Please love him.”  I have no shame in admitting I welled up at that moment.  This boy had been raised to always do good but most importantly, he doesn’t do it because he should, he does it because he wants to, because it’s right.  Isn’t that the mark of a true hero?

I don’t want to spoil the origins of our titular character, you’ll need to pick up the book and find out for yourself. Trust me, you won’t regret it.  What starts off in a small American town eventually opens up to the entire United States and other far-flung countries across the globe.  You see, our Huck finds people, that’s what he does and we get to follow him in his adventures.  But can he find the one person most important to him?  Can he find his mother?  This question sets the tone for the rest of the story where we encounter a number of other fascinating characters, including long-lost family members, superpowered robots and mad Russian scientists in the form of Professor Orlov.  He’s a rather conventional and cliched character but still exceptionally well-drawn, like the rest of the comic.=

=In fact, I think Rafael Albuquerque might have been my new hero had Huck not just taken the top spot himself.  From the very first page I was hooked. There was a richness to the art and the colours being used, it had heart and warmth.  No cold, scratchy lines and abstract sketches, just beautiful, carefully drawn panels, it really brought our hero to life.  Some pages are bright and colourful but Dave McCaig, like many of his peers nowadays, was still able to use shadow to excellent effect, adding extra mood to select scenes.=

<=There’s a deeper undertone to the tale of Huck: it’s a story of acceptance, about dealing with difference and humility in the face of public adoration.  Our hero has found his place in the world, despite his rocky beginnings. He stands for something and brings a little light to all around him in the only way he knows how.  His overalls are his uniform, the logo upon them his crest, because underneath all that strength, he’s one of us, he’s a human being.  And we all need a little help sometimes don’t we?

“Please love him.”

[su_box title="Score: 5/5" style="glass" box_color="#8955ab" radius="6"]

Huck Vol. 1
Writer: Mark Millar
Artist: Rafael Albuquerque
Colorist: Dave McCaig
Publisher: Image Comics
Price: $14.99 Print / $11.99 Digital
Format: TPB; Print/Digital