Gotham Academy: Second Semester – Welcome Back

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Gotham Academy: Second Semester, Vol.1: Welcome Back by Brendan Fletcher is a terrific and creative series that has one foot in the Batman Universe and for the rest, stands quite comfortably on its own. If there was a comic that was begging to be made into a television series, this one is it!

For Gotham Academy student Olive Silverlock, the winter holiday are the worst. As the school empties out, even her little detective club leaves, a new student arrives to help keep Olive company. The new girl is Amy and soon the duo find themselves up to no good as Amy convinces Olive to vandalize the Chapel.

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Soon the detective club returns from break and Olive quickly finds out that there is much more to Amy than meets the eye. The detective club soon finds itself battling against a new group who call themselves the witch club. The witch club begins to pull dangerous pranks on the other students and soon Olive’s good friend Maps goes missing. The detective club discovers that the witch club has taken her and that they are being controlled by circuit boards in their hats.

The detective club figures out who is leading the witch club and stop him but not before one of their own is expelled and an even greater mystery is unearthed. The Lost Book of Gotham.

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Gotham Academy is a book that you would not think to take seriously, but demands to be taken seriously. With its cast of characters, it is more suited for something aligned with Archie Comics than Batman but that is where you make your mistake. It is gritty and stylist and noire and at its core, a detective story. Its artwork cries out Scooby and the Gang or even Buffy but its story is pure Gotham.

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DC made the right choice continuing this series with the Rebirth line and hopefully more and more fans will find it!

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Savage by B. Clay Moore

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Savage by B. Clay Moore is a terrifically written and drawn comic book that brings the tale of Tarzan of the Apes into modern day and drops him on what is basically Skull Island of King Kong fame.

It has been fifteen years since the world famous soccer star and his pregnant supermodel wife have gone missing. Lost during a jet plane flight and gone without a trace. But in reality what happened is that they crashed on a mysterious island no one has ever seen. An island lost to time, where prehistoric creatures roam and rule. To survive they and their child must become…Savage.

Okay this has been done before. Maybe not to minute detail, but yes its been done. The aforementioned Tarzan; there is also Ka-zar of Marvel lore and how about Turok the Dinosaur hunter? But the tale and the art keep this book moving right along and before long, establishes its own identity. Savage does need to expand on itself to garner a true following and separate its story from the obvious comparisons. If it can do that then perhaps it will have the success it deserves.

Batwoman Vol.1: The Many Arms of Death

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Batwoman Vol. 1: The Many Arms of Death by Marguerite Bennett takes hold of the Batwoman – Kate Kane character and seeks to give us some background on how she came to don the cowl and persona of Batwoman.

Katherine Kane was thrown out of West Point for being a lesbian and then goes on to become a drunken socialite when fate lands her on an island where she finds both love and a purpose. She also find hate and an adversary she does not realize and now it may be too late.

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Now, as Batwoman, she must return to the island that is flooding Gotham with the bioweapon; Monster Venom. But the island where she became whole has changed and the woman she loved, who ruled this island is gone and left in her place is death and hate.

Can Katherine stop the supply of the drug and face off against someone who was trained by the same woman who trained her.

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Batwoman is a very interesting character in the DC Universe who, though she dons the cape and cowl, does not necessarily follow Batman’s lead. Her emergence as a leader in Detective Comics of the Bat team alongside Batman is giving this character a much needed boost. She is not Batgirl or Robin but something entirely different. Making her a lesbian is not a reason to read this book and nor is it a reason not to. It is simply a part of who she is. Take note Marvel, this is social commentary done right. Kate Kane did not just turn gay, she was always gay. It is as much a part of who she is as her red hair and her ass kicking abilities. It is not a focal point. Does she make out with girls? Sure, just like Dick Grayson and Bruce Wayne. Also like Wonder Woman if they really want to get real. But she does it as a part of who she is, not because some social justice comic book writer wants to make a point and not because an editor wants to promote sells. Its because this is who she is.

Here’s hoping that DC figures out what to do with this character since they dropped the ball on her in the new 52 so badly. This Rebirth may be the rebirth that she needs.

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BATWOMAN VOL. 1 collects issues #1-6 and the one-shot special BATWOMAN: REBIRTH #1. (less)

Batman/The Shadow: The Murder Geniuses by Scott Snyder

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Batman/The Shadow: The Murder Geniuses by Scott Snyder is further proof that Snyder is perhaps the best Batman storyteller of our generation. Not only does he bring us The Batman, but in this series he brings to life the iconic character of comic and radio; The Shadow.

In the course of investigating a murder in Gotham, the Batman identifies the killer as Lamont Cranston. The problem with this is that Cranston is actually the master detective known as the Shadow. An even larger problem to this is that the Shadow died over half a century ago.

While investigating the murder of a Gothamite, Batman identifies his prime suspect as Lamont Cranston… but there are two problems with that. One, Batman is not aware Lamont’s alter ego is the master detective known as the Shadow. Two, and more importantly, Cranston seems to have died over half a century ago!

What follows is a tale of two heroes and two master villains as the Joker joins forces to help kill the spirit of the Shadow and Batman as well. Like Snyder’s Batman run, this is an intricately woven tale of good and evil and the grey areas that tie the two together. The Batman is tested on his oath to not kill by not only the Joker but by the Shadow himself, who sees killing as the only option of ridding the world of the evil they battle.

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The clash between the two heroes is what makes this series work. Cranston and Wayne. The Shadow and the Batman. Another fun and smart tale by Scott Snyder and company.

Collects BATMAN/THE SHADOW #1-6 and stories from BATMAN ANNUAL #1.

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Batman, Volume 4, The War of Jokes and Riddles by Tom King

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Batman, Volume 4: The War of Jokes and Riddles by Tom King is a bedtime story told by Bruce Wayne to Selina Kyle shortly after he asks her for her hand in marriage. Late one night, as they lay together in bed, Selina not yet answering Bruce’s marriage proposal; Bruce shares the story of the what happened in Gotham in the aftermath of Zero Year.

Zero Year was 12 months where Gotham was left without power and laws. 12 months in which the Riddler ruled the streets. But Batman fought back and took the streets back from the Riddler. What came next is what is called the War of Jokes and Riddles. It is of this time that Bruce speaks, this time that he shares, when the line between the hero and villain became blurred.

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Bruce Wayne: “…People think they understand me. Alfred, Gordon, the boys. All of Gotham, in its way. Even you. A man in pain, trying to save who he can. They think…but…they don’t understand… anything. They don’t know a damn thing about me. Because they don’t know, Cat. They have know idea. You have know idea. But you have to. Before. Before any of this. You have to know. What I did…What I had to do. During the War of Jokes and Riddles…”

The Riddler leaves prison, bodies in his wake and heads toward Gotham with a proposition for the Joker. That they team up and do together what they could not do on their own. Kill the Batman. But the Joker is not feeling himself these days and answers the Riddler with a gunshot to the stomach. The Joker is not fixated on the Batman right now but he does not want anyone else to kill him either. So he instead begins the War. Joker against the Riddler. What is wrong with the Joker? He cannot laugh. The Joker is missing the joke.

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Tom King is doing more than just telling great Batman stories. He is carefully dissecting the Dark Knight in the process. Not by some long involved and boring psychosis. But in bits and pieces as he carefully peels back layers of the cowl itself. This is a far more human Batman than we have ever seen. Even the villains seem to be more human and less the comic book characters they are. The inability of the Joker to get the joke and laugh. His violence that follows and he is in search of the only thing that makes him tick. The joke. The Riddler, who wages a war because the one thing he could not solve, is why the Joker could not laugh. And finally the Batman, a lone man in the midst of a war that is tearing his city apart, must choose one side over the other in hopes of finally ending the war. But more so, how far would he go to end the war once and for all.

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Tom King is writing timely and entertaining Batman books. No this is not Scott Snyder, it is its own voice and it demands to be heard.

Collects BATMAN #25-32.

Monday’s Mutant is – House of M by Brian Michael Bendis

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House of M, by Brian Michael Bendis, is one of the most influential books in the Marvel Universe. Even though it has now been conceded, that this was simply a very creative way of trimming the excessive Mutant line of books in the Marvel world. Which, when you consider that the mutants were created as a way for the early creators of Marvel, Stan Lee and his gang, to make a social comment on the civil rights movement and the treatment of African Americans in the United States; the House of M books take a far more sinister curve.

Wanda Maximoff, the Scarlett Witch is losing touch with reality. Which unfortunately is a very dangerous thing when it comes to her. Because Wanda can create and re-create reality to whatever suits her desires. Her children. Twins born between a love between her and the Avenger known as the Vision. Her brother and father together, harmonious and not fighting. A world where she is happy. A world very different from the one she is in right now.

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Wanda is in hiding, having lost control of her powers and resulting in the death of several Avengers, including her own husband; the Vision, she is being hidden away by Professor X and her father Magneto. But that is only a temporary solution as she slips deeper and deeper into her delusions. The Avengers and the X-Men know they need to do something to stop her and what they come up with is a final solution. Wanda Maximoff must die.

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Realizing what is happening, Wanda is convinced to change the world where it is ruled by Magneto. A world where her family, including her children are the ruling class and the Avengers and the X-Men are not needed. To keep them from interfering, she gives them what they want. She gives them peace. But her reality does not work on everyone and some of Earth’s heroes begin to remember what they were and what the world is really suppose to be like. Now, the remaining few must do battle with the House of M.

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Besides the social implications of this book, the near eradication of a race or species, however you like to categorize your mutants. The House of M series is important in far more aspects for its character development and character destruction. Have we seen Magneto as broken as he appears here? Captain America turned into a non-factor? Wolverine torn between loyalties and the intense love between brother and sister that would end with the now infamous words, “…no more mutants…”.

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House of M is one of the major books in the mutant universe that any fan or avid reader should not ever miss.

A terrific read!