Wednesday, 8 August 2012



Suicide Squad vol.1.

I was really disappointed when Gail Simone's brilliant team of super-villains Secret Six wasn't to be part of DC's New 52 but I have to state that the new Suicide Squad has gone a long way to easing those feelings.

For newbies, the Squad is basically a team of super-villains doing dirty jobs for the government in return for time off their prison sentences -if they survive. The core team (for this first volume) consists of Deadshot (assassin for hire and team leader), King Shark (a sort of humanoid hammerhead shark with an appetite that's not for fish), Harley Quinn (the Joker's squeeze), El Diablo (old name, new character), and several others, some old, some new.

For those who've been around for a while, you'll be surprised to find that Amanda Waller (the government agent in overall charge) no longer resembles a short weightlifter but has been transformed into Halle Berry (no complaints there) who has a significant other in her life (husband, wife, child, other, we don't find out this time around). Deadshot is pretty much the same bar a new mask. El Diablo, while still Mexican-American, is a villain seeking redemption. And Harley Quinn (whose new secret origin is revealed) is just plain scary. There's even an appearance by mostly long-forgotten non-powered vigilante Mad Dog. And King Shark may be more than just an appetite on legs. You'll have to find out about the others for yourselves. Trust me, it's worth it.

Writer Adam Glass does a very good job of keeping up the action/extreme violence while piling on the twists and surprises while managing to give the characters room to breathe. Several artists are involved but if it was up to me I'd give the job full time to Clayton Henry who channels Brian Bolland extremely-lite.

Yet another success for DC's New 52 line. I'm really enjoying this revamp. 

 Batgirl vol.1.

Caution, major spoiler specially included.
Of all DC's New 52, this was going to be the hardest to get right. Ever since Moore and Bolland's The Killing Joke when The Joker shot Barbara Gordon in the spine, Gordon (formerly Batgirl) had become an iconic character -a wheelchair-bound young woman who refused to let her disability prevent her from becoming Oracle, the super-hero information service and computer expert, who led her own superteam (Birds of Prey which was never bettered as when written by Gail Simone now writer of the new Batgirl). Now,to the horror of many fans (particularly of the previous and well-liked incarnation of Batgirl, Stephanie Brown) Gordon was back as Batgirl. It was going to take some clever writing to get this one right.

But if anyone was going to do it it would be Gail Simone and she's just about pulled it off. In this new continuity Barbara was still shot and crippled by the Joker but now, over three years and pioneering surgery later, she can walk again and has just begun to take up the Batgirl mantle. But it isn't easy and she could, apparently, still undo all the good work. She's also still psychologically scarred by the shooting. It also seems that she was never Oracle (who isn't mentioned). There's a new character in the form of Alysia Yeo whose apartment Barbara is sharing. Alysia has a secret which is as yet unrevealed but as she was willing to quickly share it with her new roomie it can't be too dark. There's also the startling appearance of a character who is both old and brand new whose identity I won't spoil. (Well, I wouldn't when reviewing it for Amazon, but I have no qualms about doing so here. It's her mother who ran off years ago and looks like an older and taller version of Barbara herself.)

The art by Ardian Syaf is slick and very good.

But what stops me giving this a 5* rating are the two villains who, while effective at what they do, are rather poor characters. You'll have to take my word for this as to say too much would be to spoil it. Or you can buy the book and find out for yourself.

That one quibble aside, this has to be regarded as another success for DC's New 52 which is having a very high hit to miss ratio particularly with its super-heroines. Overall (and I'm sorry for putting it this way) Batgirl is back on her feet again.

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