Sunday, September 11, 2016

On the shelf: Girl power revived and revisited

When DC decided several months back to repackage Batgirl by moving her into a heretofore unseen section of Gotham City and revamping her costume, I thought, she doesn't need any hipster cred. The Timberland-style boots clash with the rest of the costume.

Well, prior to the latest reboot in the "Rebirth" initiative, Batgirl was one of the better-selling titles at DC, such that when "Rebirth" hit, the company decided to reform the all-female super team, the Birds of Prey, which Barbara Gordon (Batgirl) founded while still working as Oracle. What drives the first story arc is that someone has co-opted Babs' former online alias for herself, forcing Batgirl and Black Canary (whose solo series was cancelled) into an alliance with the Huntress (fresh from Dick Grayson's James Bond-wannabe solo book), reforming the Birds. Armed with the intel she gathered as an agent of Spyral, Huntress holds her knowledge of Batgirl and Canary's dual ID's like two swords of Damocles.

So much negativity. Can your heart stand it?

Rating: B--.

Meanwhile, a year after the "New Riverdale" initiative began at Archie, Betty & Veronica returns, written and drawn by one of the premier "good girl" artists in the business, Adam Hughes. That's the good news. The bad is that Hughes had to have been told he needed a gimmick to sell the book. That gimmick is using Jughead's sheepdog sidekick, Hot Dog, as narrator.

I loved Hughes' work on the crime drama series, The Maze Agency, nearly 30 years ago. As writer and artist, Hughes is letting his imagination run wild, hence the use of Hot Dog, though I'm not digging. Meanwhile, the on-again, off-again BFF's are at odds when a major coffee chain that Hiram Lodge owns decides to open a shop in Riverdale, driving Pop Tate's restaurant out of business unless Betty and the rest of the gang can do something about it. At least the friction between the girls is consistent with their usage over in Archie. The six weeks or more between issues should work to Hughes' advantage, but the company's decision to raise their cover prices to $4 an issue a couple of years back will start driving readers away soon.

From this desk, it's weaker than the other books.

Rating: C.

Perhaps realizing that the horror line is on life support due to Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa's television commitments, Sabrina is being integrated into "New Riverdale", beginning in the current issue of Jughead. No sign of Harvey Kinkle, however, at least not yet, as they're teasing pairing Sabrina and Jughead as a couple. This starts when Juggie falls for the "Burger Lady", finding out on the last page who she really is. The use of a new logo for Sabrina suggests she'll get a "New Riverdale" book sometime next year. Might be just as well.

For those of you who haven't been reading the horror books, Harvey was killed off in Chilling Adventures of Sabrina 4, only to be possessed by Sabrina's oh-so-evil pops in the next issue. Eeeeeewwwwww!

DC is launching a new line of titles under the name, Young Animal, which includes the revivals of Doom Patrol and Cave Carson, the latter a science fiction hero from the 60's, but now outfitted with a bionic eye. Shade has also been revived, but it's not the character created nearly 40 years ago by Steve Ditko. Oh, no. Instead, it's Shade, The Changing Girl, a teen from Meta who has emigrated to Earth looking for Rac Shade, her idol. She possesses a human teenager to learn about Earth life. Again, the cover price is a problem for those with tight budgets, as each book is ticketed at $4 per issue. As a local dealer confided, it may be because DC knows the line will fail and they want to make as much money as possible.

If I've read recent online articles correctly, it seems DC has already cut one of their 4 Hanna-Barbera books. Wacky Raceland reportedly will end with issue 6, out in November, suggesting that it was actually a miniseries, though never solicited as such. Apparently, despite the swank Leonardo Manco artwork we talked about previously, that $4 cover is what's driving people away. I get that in this case there are licensing fees involved, even though it's intra-company, but Time Warner CEO Jeff Bewkes doesn't believe in corporate synergy. His loss.

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