I’m only doing 1-5 of the reboot, on account of the fact that I have other things to do, and that I want to get to a lot of these titles. So let’s dive in.
Artists, I’ve been largely with you so far, but there’s better ways to show a figure leaping into action, from a significant height. What am I looking at, besides BG’s bits? Please, please tell me that’s not the whole point of that angle? I know just enough anatomy to have an idea of how the body moves around, and I can kind of project a bunch of appropriate postures for diving. All that I project from this angle is a big *KEE-RUNCH* and a horrible death. I figured you’re trying to compete with the increasingly exotic camera angles found in cinema, but those seen devolve into self parody. And they don’t translate well to a 2-D surface.
Also, would we be seeing a male superhero spread eagled? (outside of really specific markets, that is) Ah, I thought not.
I’m going to progress onto something I don’t think I’ve commented on before, the title of the issue. #5 is “A Candy Full of Spiders”. Which helps me not. Perhaps either “candy” or “spiders” will come into play in the next 20 odd pages.
So, in BG’s monologue, she plays off the words “survivor” and “avenger” from the intro page of the Strangely Specific Posture. We find out the nature of her “miracle”, some sort of procedure:
She’s after a new villain, or rather villains, this time namely the Whittaker mob, who have apparently taken to carjacking/mugging/randomly terrorizing the motorists on the bridge. For sums of $3.38. This is some sort of reference from older issues, so I’ll just roll with it for now.
The Whittakers are dispatched, except for the father, who is dangling off the bridge by his ankle. BG tries to pull him up, and Gretel enters the battle. Gretel? I don’t know either! The cover mentions the name, but after the entire fight/exchange, I’ve got nothing. They battle, BG gets the crap beat out of her, does the same to Gretel, nothing sticking in my head too much until this:
“A heroin addict”? That is one of the weirdest descriptions yet. That’s just odd. Gretel stops whaling on BG and pulls some sort of blowup doll face, with what I sincerely hope is just condensed breath coming out her mouth. What the hell’s going in on this panel?
Moving on, I want to point out that amid the weirdness, there’s something really refreshing. The couple held up by the Whittakers are Muslim:
I have trouble recalling a lot of positive (or even neutral) images of Muslims in pop culture. Apparently it’s still a big stumbling block for American media. But let me progress before I go into a late-night rant about the lingering racism of US pop culture and stereotypes.
Weird art persists, since the man looses his face:
Did y’all just get tired of drawing? You gave the dude bulging thighs in the previous panel, but now he’s just sort of melty?
The Whittaker/338 thing seems to give way to an anti-gentrification message, a critique of urban renewal, if you will. What tipped me off, you ask?
Ahhh, there, on the broad side of the barn, the subtext! Soooo, we’re going to be having some sort of theme on gentrification, that most complicated of issues. Except we’re not, since we interrupt the action for a few pages on BG’s estranged mother and their massively awkward meeting.
I know I keep griping about the art, but I’m starting to wonder what was going on, face-wise. Recurring characters look pretty different and I’m only 5 issues in. For instance, this is apparently Batgirl:
BG is staring down her mother, refusing to invite her into the apartment. Alysia and McKenna also seem to be magically shape shifting beings:
McKenna, issue 1, and again in #5, which I actually see as something of an improvement:
And Alysia in issue 1, vs issue 4:
“I’ve lost a lot of personality from my own face, and I’m fine with that!”
Ok…art is not the easiest of things. Artists work their tails off more than many people think, especially artists on deadlines, such as comic artists. I would like to observe, however, that these little twiddles over hair, strange foreshortening, or faces all add up to feel a bit rushed. I don’t know what these characters were before the reboot, but I’m getting the sense that the whole “movement” was pushed through before it was ready. I’m only 5 issues in, I didn’t expect to see esthetic issues like this. Perhaps someone who’s more familiar with the scene can explain some of this to me.
Back to the story: Occupy hasn’t escaped the writers’ notice:
As a culture, the US is nowhere near being able to provide a calm, historical analysis of Occupy. We won’t be for a long time, and that’s a good thing. But we shouldn’t resist the urge to get a little meta now and again. Ahh, what does “Occupy Gotham” say to me as a reader, other than the foreshadowing to a story arc?
As a relative newbie to all this, I am still struck by representations of “Gotham” in the American fantasy-scape, and it’s real life “equivalent” of NYC. NYC/Gotham act as a repository for all fears and fantasies about big ol’ east coast cities – crime, seediness, urban blight, whatever nightmares you want to conjure, whatever shadow selves of “heartland” need exorcism, it’s all in here. In the last few years, the ideas of “real America” and “heartland” have really taken off in US political discourse, so an Northeast coast dweller (a la me!) is left wondering where precisely the country begins and ends….am I living in “real” America? Is my life, within a stone’s throw of big “scary” cities with hugely diverse populations and busy urban cultures “American” enough?
What about Occupy, that most divisive of movements? It’s complex enough to someone living near what were main centers of Occupations – what did that all look like to those living in other areas of the country? Surburban, rural, industrial, or cosseted elite communities? There’s no monolithic “American” experience, no matter what our media would have you believe. What happens when you insert the still-jumbled experience of occupy into the dream factory of a comic book? What, if anything, does that pile of signs mean? A fist-bump from the authors? Or will this ultimately end up being a critique of grassroots movements?
Gotham, on page and screen is nothing but a series of sharp dichotomies, a chiaroscuro of wildly wealthy and dismally excluded. Ok, fine, that’s what makes it “gothic”! In real life, in the history of NYC alone, that was the norm for ages. See “the Gilded Age” or “How the Other Half Lives” or similar topics. I’m certain I’m missing something, but I’m going to go ahead and say that one just doesn’t see a middle class much in Gotham unless they are a temporarily imperiled family. (Does the Gordon family count?) Occupy was/is, among other things, about evening the field so we don’t have to have such sharp, dangerous divisions between rich and poor.
This issue dates to March 2012, so it’s far, far too soon for me to get a bead on what the writers/artists may be saying about Occupy. But it’s a fun line of questions to dither over. I might follow the rest to see where that thread went, if anywhere.
The idea of Gotham, the collection of symbol and anxiety, is fascinating enough on its own! Despite not living in an urban environment, I’m fascinated by cities-as-characters, thanks to never fully recovering from reading Calvino. 🙂
So, enough woolgathering for now…back to the comic. BG watched a news broadcast covering Occupy Gotham’s displeasure at Bruce Wayne’s project of “urban renewal”, which might explain Gretel (Gretel’s going to need a lot of explanation before I’m interested or happy). We “cut” to Wayne, who appears to be fastening a tie to his chin:
BG gets a hunch that Wayne’s in peril, and for reasons we still don’t know the number “338” is involved. Somehow. It seems to be some sort of trigger, since Wayne’s driver starts saying it before attempting to beat the crap out of Wayne:
And Wayne does the same before attempting to beat the crap out of BG:
And this Gretel is somehow pulling strings:
All will become clear, I presume, in issue 6.
Final note: The “new” Batgirl doesn’t seem too shabby, though, but I’ve kept my expectations on neutral for this project. I will say this, though: I had to push myself to finish as I went along. I don’t know how much of that is summer ennui, or how much is plotting/pacing but I am feeling a plod.
Let’s hope the next selection sucks horribly, so I don’t have to be nearly as even tempered next entry!