October 24 2011

Birds of Prey #1

I’ve heard some good things about previous Birds of Prey books, but I’ve never read one. I’m familiar with most of the previous members of the team, but in this book, they seem to be down to just two: Black Canary and Starling. I’m assuming they’ll add more members eventually, because two of them are on the cover (though they’re not actually in this book).

Like all the other New 52 books, this one is setting up a new story. In fact, I’m getting a little tired of reading the beginning of dozens of new stories without being able to continue on yet. But I can’t complain too much.

The story here is pretty simple, but interesting: Canary and Starling rescue a journalist, who seems to be part of a mystery. And what started as a small mystery soon becomes a large mystery.

Verdict: Sure, I’ll pick it up again

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October 23 2011

Batman #1

I feel like I’ve already written this review. After all, there are ELEVEN Batman-related comics in the New 52 relaunch, and he shows up in a few others too.

This is basically Batman getting back to Batmaning. Bruce Wayne returns as Gotham’s full-time Batman after Dick Grayson had been filling in for him during the last year or so. The book opens with Batman kicking ass in the middle of Arkham, fighting his way through his rogues gallery. Then the Joker shows up, and the unexpected happens. That was really cool, and I don’t want to spoil that part, but the payoff was a little disappointing.

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October 16 2011

Catwoman #1

Hoo boy. Where to start?

This book is getting a lot of attention for featuring two of DC’s most popular characters: Catwoman’s boobs. It really is quite ridiculous how over-sexualized this book is – and remember how much I defended DC’s treatment of Starfire in a previous review. Honestly, I’ve never seen so many bras in a single comic before.

But let’s ignore all that and just look at the story. The book hits the ground running, with Catwoman having her apartment invaded and blown up by skull-faced gunmen. Fortunately, she makes it out in time, shoving all 8 of her cats into a single travel case (which was pretty amusing).

The rest is…a bit confusing. Catwoman goes undercover at a dodgy nightclub, but I’m still not really sure why. Then she gets discovered, kills a few people (or at least severely wounds them), and fucks Batman – again, I’m not sure why.

Overall, it’s a weird, semi-uncomfortable book. I’ve never been a big Catwoman fan, and this doesn’t change that. I might read the next issue, but if I don’t, I won’t mind. I’m not saying it’s bad; it just doesn’t appeal to me.

Verdict: Maybe I’ll flip a coin

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October 16 2011

Demon Knights #1

I kept putting off reading this one, because I had no interest in a book featuring the rhyme-talking demon Etrigan. So I was surprised to find that it’s actually a fun, interesting book.

First of all, they made a big change to Etrigan: he doesn’t talk in rhyme anymore. Part of me is sad to see such an iconic part of the character go, but another part is glad to see it gone – reading those often-convoluted rhymes is a surprising hassle, and it really took me out of the story while trying to figure out the cadence.

And the book isn’t just about Etrigan either. This book shows us several of DC’s medieval-style characters coming together after the fall of Camelot. A few I recognize, like Madame Xanadu and Vandal Savage. Others are probably established characters, but I’m not familiar with any of them yet.

It’s too early to see how much of a team-up book this will be, or what the group’s goals will be, or even if they’re going to try to do good or just go around killing stuff. After all, Etrigan isn’t really a hero (chaotic neutral at best) and Vandal Savage is usually a villain.

This turned out to be quite interesting, so I’ll definitely be checking out the next issue, at least.

Verdict: Another pleasant surprise

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October 16 2011

Batman & Robin #1

A little history: in the past couple years, there have been a few Batman series that have had occasionally-overlapping storylines. Those were “Batman & Robin” and “Batman Inc.”, which follow directly from “The Return of Bruce Wayne” and “Final Crisis”. And there’s a lot I’m leaving out. B&R featured Dick Grayson (the first Robin, formerly Nightwing) taking on the Batman mantle while Bruce is missing, and Damian Wayne (Bruce and Talia Al Ghul’s son) becoming the fifth Robin when Tim Drake (the third Robin) leaves to find Bruce.

They made a great team, because the usual dynamic of grim Batman and playful Robin was flipped on its head, with a more playful Batman and a grim Robin. But this issue shows that Bruce is back as Gotham’s Batman after establishing his “Batman Inc.”. So now it’s grim, calculating Batman and grim, impulsive Robin.

As always, Damian is an ornery little bastard. He would be annoying if he weren’t written so well, if he didn’t have the skills to back up his tough talk, and if he didn’t occasionally get the shit kicked out of him (I think he’s on his second or third spine).

Bruce is Bruce. This is the Batman we all know and love, but now he has to deal with being the parent of an angry youth raised in the art of assassination. They don’t really work as a team yet, which should lead to some very interesting situations in future issues.

This book seems to bring together the B&R and B:Inc storylines, with a cool new villain going around killing some of the international members of Batman Inc. No doubt Batman & Robin will eventually have to find a way to stop him/her.

I really enjoyed Grant Morrison’s run on Batman, but his stories were kinda hard to follow at times. Tomasi does a great job taking over, and it looks like we’ve got a great storyline to look forward to.

Verdict: It’s Batman. What more do you need to know?

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October 11 2011

Deadman #1

Technically, this is called “DC Universe Presents: Deadman #1″. Presumably, the Deadman storyline will be short, and they’ll do another “DCU Presents” with a different character. (Batman Beyond, please!)

Anyway, for those not familiar with Deadman, this does a great job of introducing him to new readers – like most of the other New 52 books do. He’s a former acrobat who was an asshole, then died, and now wanders the world as a ghost. Nobody can see him (except spiritualists), but he can possess anyone’s body and control them completely.

I got my first taste of Deadman during the Blackest Night and Brightest Day storylines, and I really liked him. He’s got some great jokes and has an odd “working man” attitude to everything, kinda like Hellboy.

That said, I don’t have the slightest idea who the blue alien lady is, or what his “mission” is, or if either were part of his past. Before 2009, I pretty much know nothing about Deadman. Fortunately, they don’t seem to have wiped out any of his most recent history, because his relationship with Dove is still ongoing (I don’t know if it’s mentioned in this book, but it’s definitely in Hawk & Dove #1).

Verdict: There’s enough to make me eager for more

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October 10 2011

Grifter #1

This is yet another character that I know nothing about. And unfortunately, I still know very little about him after reading this, but there seems to be some potential.

Grifter is apparently some sort of con man (hence the name). And he might have a limited ability to read minds, or read alien minds, or something. And I guess he uses guns, and he’s some sort of vigilante. Seems like he’d fit in well with Red Hood & the Outlaws. Other than that, I don’t know.

Unfortunately, there’s not much for me to write about here. It sets up a good introduction to the character and his world, but it seems that any substantial information (like anything that tells us what the hell’s going on and who this guy is) will be coming in the second or third issue.

Verdict: I’ll give it another chance

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October 10 2011

Legion Lost #1

I’ve never paid much attention to the Legion of Superheroes. They seem interesting, but the concept hasn’t really grabbed me. I watched the animated series when it was on, and that was cool, but I’ve never read any of the comics. And none of these characters were in the animated series.

They seem like cool characters, and there’s apparently some cool stuff going on, but it’s like having Christmas with a family you’ve never met before: you have no idea who anyone is, and you don’t know what they’re talking about.

There’s no effort given to introducing this book to a new audience; if you’re already familiar with the characters, great. You’ll probably enjoy it. It seems neat. But if you’re not, skip it. I wish I could say otherwise, but there’s just no way to get into this easily.

Verdict: Only for fans of the series

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October 10 2011

Red Hood and the Outlaws #1

Ok, let’s get the whole Starfire thing out of the way first.

Some people have been freaking out about how Starfire looks and behaves in this comic. The basic complaint is that they slutted her up (like they definitely did with Harley Quinn), giving her a very revealing costume and making her promiscuous.

First, this is what she looks like in this comic:

Ok, that’s pretty risqué. But let’s take a look at her previous costumes. This is how she appears in 52 (2006):

There’s almost no difference! Granted, there’s less material covering her…uh…large orange cantaloupes… but there’s actually more material covering her shoulders. The costume is slightly more sexualized, but there are plenty of other costumes in the New 52 – for the females and the males – that have received the same treatment.

And just for fun, let’s look at one of her very first appearances, from 1982:

It’s the same thing! Her costume has barely changed in the past 30 years.

A lot of people have gotten up in arms about some parts of the comic that show her in a bikini. Fine. Here’s a part of one of those pages:

Funny how I haven’t seen anyone complaining about how the male characters are shown in skin-tight muscle shirts, or not wearing a shirt at all.

What about her promiscuity? Complaints have been made about how she hops into bed with a guy she barely knows, but I haven’t seen anyone complain about how that guy jumps into bed with a woman he barely knows. It’s that sort of double-standard that invalidates whatever claims of sexism these complainers are making. After all, if I man likes sex, he’s a stud, and if a woman likes sex, she’s a slut.

Look, maybe her costume is too objectifying, but it’s always been that way. There’s nothing new to see here. This is not the Teen Titans children’s cartoon version, and never has been.

Getting on with the review

With all that said, how is the comic itself?

I really like what’s here so far. I don’t know much about the Red Hood/Jason Todd, except that he used to be Robin and ran with Batman, but was killed by the Joker and raised from the dead by Ra’s Al Ghul (I think). I know even less about Speedy/Red Arrow/Arsenal/Roy Harper, except that he used to be Green Arrow’s sidekick and used to be a druggie. I don’t know why Red Hood is putting together this new team, why he wants Roy on it, or what Roy was doing in prison in the first place.

But anyway, this is a great start to the series. It does a great job of introducing the characters, and shows you what you’ll be getting: lots of crazy vigilante action. It’s a fun collection of characters, and it’ll be interesting to see who else they add to the team over time.

Verdict: A big orange surprise

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September 28 2011

Resurrection Man #1

Once again, this is a character I have no experience with. I’ve heard of him, and the premise is intriguing: each time Resurrection Man dies, he returns to life with a different superpower.

This is a good introduction to the character, and shows that he has a lot of history, without relying on it in any way. We find out that he has died many times in the past, and now there are people after him – for some reason – because he won’t stay dead.

This issue did a lot to pique my interest, so I’ll definitely be sticking with it for now. Many of DC’s comics intended for “mature audiences” (if comic book fans can be called that) have been pretty good, so hopefully this will live up to its potential.

Verdict: I shall return! (Get it?)

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September 28 2011

Superboy #1

As you should be expecting by now, this issue sets up Superboy’s backstory. His powers, who he is, where he comes from. This version, like the most recent previous version of the character, is a hybrid clone of Superman and a human – probably Lex Luthor again.

Overall, this was kinda…meh. Maybe it’ll turn into something good, but there wasn’t really anything here that stuck out as particularly interesting. It wasn’t bad either though. Besides Superboy, there aren’t any other characters here that I recognize, except for Lois Lane’s brief (and bizarre) appearance.

I wish I had more to say about this, but I don’t. At least the art is nice and clean.

Verdict: Meh. Maybe the next one will be better.

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September 28 2011

Deathstroke #1

So apparently, some people really like Deathstroke. I’ve never really known why; there are plenty of other martial-arts killing machines out there. Sure, he’s a formidable opponent for the “good guys”, but what makes the character interesting?

Well, this comic does a great job of explaining that to new readers. He’s one of those nigh-unkillable, tough-as-nails, gruff on the inside and outside types, who inspires fear and respect from everyone he encounters. He also seems to be about 50-60 years old, which means he’s got tons of experience and knowledge. And I also like his matter-of-fact, don’t-get-in-my-way attitude.

It’s really hard to say what interested me the most in this issue. I liked how Deathstroke was forced to work with a small group of smartass teenagers, so it’s too bad that idea won’t be expanded further. It’s too early for me to even begin to guess where this story is heading, but this issue has me interested enough to check out the next issue.

The art is quite nice too, and the artists definitely know how to keep their foreground art from being drowned out by their background art, and using color and silhouettes to accentuate their characters.

Verdict: Strangely interesting.

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September 26 2011

Green Lantern Corps #1

Oh no, there’s some sort of powerful, evil force terrorizing the galaxy! Again! And rather than confront it with all the power that we have, let’s instead send an eclectic, ragtag team of second-stringers to investigate!

I’m really not trying to rip on this book. It’s fun, and I’m sure I’ll continue to enjoy it each month. But I can’t ignore how well-worn the premise is so far. It’s a great premise though, and I usually enjoy it when I see it, whether it’s Star Wars or Firefly or whatever. It’s basically Seven Samurai in space. The building blocks are in place for a good story, and I’m sure we’ll get one.

I’m not really sure what the writers were going for, having Gardner and Stewart trying to fit into the world of the 9-to-5ers on Earth, but fortunately it doesn’t last long. Also, why are there characters on the front cover who aren’t even in the book, like Kilowog and Sten?

Verdict: Guaranteed fun.

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September 26 2011

Suicide Squad #1

I’ve heard a lot of really good things about the Suicide Squad comics. The guys over at the Geekbox have raved about it on their podcasts for years. But personally, I’ve never read it before now.

The premise is pretty clever: the Squad is made up of several supervillains who are being forced to work for the government on secret, extremely dangerous and bloody missions. This iteration features Deadshot, a very slutted-up Harley Quinn, a shark guy, and a few others I’ve never heard of before.

The comic does a good job of introducing the many characters, though there’s obviously not a lot of room to convey very much information yet. I’m sure there’ll be a lot more character development in future issues.

I don’t really care for the new “Harlot Quinn” design, though I do agree that the old costume, designed for the Batman Animated Series, needed an update. This look seems much closer to how Harley looks in the Arkham Asylum/Arkham City games, but I didn’t care for that either. They’ve made her too brutal and mercenary, although if there were more of an explanation for that, it’d be ok.

Also, I don’t like how they’ve sexified Amanda Waller, the government agent who gives the Suicide Squad their orders. She used to be short and fat, but now she’s tall and thin. Bah.

Anyway, this issue was pretty intriguing, and I think I’m going to go back and read the old SS series…right after I finish the rest of the New 52, and Fables, and Sandman, and Blue Beetle, and several other comics I’ve got on my stack right now.

Verdict: Shows a lot of promise.

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September 26 2011

Batwoman #1

I didn’t even know there was a “Batwoman” until about half a year ago.  Since then, I’ve read a few stories with her as a secondary character, such as 52 and the new Batman & Robin stuff (if I remember correctly), but never anything where she was the star of the show, until now.

So far, I don’t really know what to think about this. The comic does a good job of introducing some of the major players of the Batwoman world (which, shockingly enough, overlaps significantly with the Batman world). She seems like an interesting character, but I really can’t tell if I’ll keep up with this book or not. I don’t yet know if it’s “my thing”.

The artwork is brilliant, and may be the best I’ve seen in the New 52 so far. There’s very chaotic, clever paneling, and some very surreal imagery.

Verdict: Hard to say, but I’ll give it another try.

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September 26 2011

fMRI used to read signals in visual cortex and reconstruct them into video

Wow, this is quite a surprise. This type of research is extremely interesting to me, because it shows how close we’re getting to recording our vision, thoughts, and dreams – not to mention controlling computers with our minds and broadcasting thoughts to other people.

Imagine a future where people walk around with recording devices implanted in their heads, saving everything they see as video or streaming it onto the internet. Then imagine being able to review your recorded memories at a later time. That would go a long way toward fixing the problems we have with our faulty, imperfect, malleable memories. Add that to the recent findings that people are relying on computers (or smartphones) to remember things for them, and it looks like biological memory storage may one day become obsolete.

September 22 2011

Examining DC’s New 52

When DC announced that they were effectively “rebooting” their entire comics lineup, I admit I was a little disappointed. I finally started getting familiar with the DC universe’s considerable backstory, and now they were going to toss much of it away? Argh.

But I can see why they do it, and if they can do it well, I’m more than happy to play along. Having a major jumping-on point can be quite useful to a lot of people, especially me.

Anyway, I decided to check out every single new Issue #1 that DC is publishing – all 52 of them – and offer my thoughts on each one. Many of these characters are unfamiliar to me, or they’ve changed, or whatever. But some I’m very familiar with (hello, Batman) and I could be pretty irritated if they change too much. Let’s take a look.

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September 22 2011

Mister Terrific #1

Mr. Terrific is one of those characters that few people know about, but has been around for a long time (in one form or another). He also has a lot of very interesting character traits that appeal to me.

He’s black, he’s a genius, and he’s a scientist. And if you ask me, there aren’t nearly enough role models, especially black ones, showing kids that science is cool and being smart is ok. There’s Neil deGrasse Tyson, and…I can’t think of anyone else.

Another thing I like is that he’s an atheist. He doesn’t hide it, the writers don’t hide it, and they don’t make a big deal about it. Granted, his reasoning for being an atheist sounds like something a theist would come up with (and probably is), but I can let that slide.

The comic also isn’t afraid to address social issues, like race relations, class relations, and politics. That could give the series some unique opportunities, if the writers don’t shy away from them.

This may be the only case where DC took a realistic costume and made it into a spandex suit, rather than the other way around. It works fine, but I really miss the jacket.

Verdict: Surprisingly good. Looking forward to more.

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September 22 2011

Green Lantern #1

This kicks off immediately where the War of the Green Lanterns storyline ended. Hal Jordan has been kicked out of the Corps, Mogo is dead, and Sinestro is now a Green Lantern.

I was really looking forward to seeing what Sinestro would do, now that he’s sorta back in the Corps again, and this book doesn’t disappoint. The uneasy truce between him and the Guardians is quite interesting, and in a way he even works for them again by protecting his sector of space (which he does anyway). He also learns how volatile his own Corps is without him there to guide it, so it seems likely that he’ll eventually have to fight its new leaders to regain power, which probably means he’ll team up with Hal eventually.

I don’t know what else to say about this book. It’s fun, and it has everything I love about the Green Lantern comics. The only downside is that the scenes with Hal are mostly forgettable – possibly on purpose.

Verdict: Great fun. What else can I say?

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September 22 2011

Red Lanterns #1

The Red Lantern Corps is a pretty new group of characters, and we don’t actually know very much about them. As the Green Lantern Corps gets its power from the emotion of Will, the Red Lanterns get their power from the emotion of Rage.

It’s easy to look at them as another group of “bad guys”, and I was afraid that DC would treat them as such, but fortunately that’s not the case (so far). The writers seem to recognize that rage isn’t necessarily evil – though it can certainly be used for evil – just as will isn’t purely good.

The book opens with a great two-page spread of my favorite Red Lantern, Dex-Starr (a very pissed-off housecat from Earth), attacking a group of alien sadists. And that begins to show you what the ethics of the Red Lantern Corps is shaping up to be. They don’t inflict unnecessary pain, but they willingly kill those who are “evil”.

The book also seems to show that Atrocitus, leader of the Red Lanterns, is going to try to shape the corps into a more disciplined, goal-oriented bunch. The other lanterns, however, seem content to mindlessly fight against each other in their downtime.

This is one I’m definitely going to follow, because it seems like such a cool concept, and I really like the (few) established characters.

Verdict: Love it. Keep it coming.

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September 16 2011

CNN Political Opinion Poll

For the data junkies out there. Lots of great info on a variety of contentious topics: terrorism, abortion, evolution, marriage, climate change, the UN, and religion. The second half further separates the data according to various demographic groups.

September 16 2011

Green Arrow #1

I’ve never really gotten into the Green Arrow comics, but I’m not sure why. I really liked him on the Justice League animated series, and on Smallville, and in the animated short that was released with Superman/Shazam, and even various crossover books, especially Identity Crisis. But I’ve never read an actual Green Arrow comic, before now.

It’s easy for people to overlook him too. He’s a billionaire playboy who wears a mask, has no superpowers, fights crime with well-honed martial arts skills, and uses a wide assortment of gadgets to take down his opponents. If that sounds appealing to you, you’re probably already reading Batman.

But what I like about Green Arrow are the things that make him different from Batman. For starters, he’s “ranged DPS”, not “melee DPS”. He also has more of a sense of humor, and he’s a liberal, which can lead to some pretty interesting philosophical discussions (and differences) between him and other characters.

The New 52 reboot seems to have altered him very slightly. His company, Queen Industries, seems to be more like Apple, with a focus on consumer electronics (Q-Pad, Q-Phone, etc.), which makes Oliver Queen a crime-fighting Steve Jobs in a way. He also doesn’t have his awesome goatee anymore, and I hope they add it back soon.

He has also been moved to Seattle, which is something I’ve noticed DC has done with a lot of other characters. They seem to be trying to ground these comics in the real world, in real cities, rather than having them take place in fictional places like “Star City”. (Obviously, they couldn’t get rid of Metropolis and Gotham.)

This comic is introductory, as are all the other New 52 comics, but gives new readers a good idea of what Green Arrow’s abilities and style are, and introduces the audience to some other characters – allies and enemies. I have no idea if any of them are new or returning characters, so it’s quite likely that I’m missing something.

Verdict: Could be pretty fun.

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September 16 2011

Men of War #1

I don’t know what this is. I don’t know if this is an old comic series making a return, or a brand new one. I don’t know if these characters have ever been seen before. Unlike all the other New 52 comics I’ve read so far, I’m completely unfamiliar with everything about Men of War.

That said, what’s here is pretty compelling, if you like military-based comics. You get a little backstory on a couple soldiers, lots of military talk, and a pretty cool night-time airdrop operation. Unfortunately, this isn’t really my “thing”. I don’t want to discourage others from checking it out if it sounds interesting to them, because it really is well-done.

The one thing that might keep me interested is the very limited “superhero” element to the story so far. The team encounters some sort of superbeing that flies extremely fast in a big red blur, and can smash stuff apart without injury. Sounds like Superman to me, although I don’t think it would make sense for him to be in this. Maybe it’s Captain Atom? Or somebody new, or someone I haven’t thought of yet. That mystery is basically the only thing that makes me want to read the next one.

Verdict: Seems great, but it’s not for me.

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September 15 2011

Batgirl #1

There’s a rather long history behind the Batgirl mantle.

Betty Kane was the first, who was created to fight accusations that Batman and Robin were gay lovers. She eventually became Flamebird. Then there was Barbara Gordon, daughter of Commissioner Gordon, who was Batgirl until the Joker shot and paralized her, and then she became Oracle, the tech girl hacker information guru for the whole Batman “family”, and leader of the Birds of Prey. Then there was Helena Bertinelli (normally Huntress) and Cassandra Cain (now Blackbat), and the most recent was Stephanie Brown, formerly the 4th Robin, formerly and occasionally Spoiler. Holy crap, that was convoluted.

This Batgirl is Barbara Gordon once again, her paralysis cured. She goes back to crimefighting – of course – and has apparently abandoned her duties as Oracle, which makes me wonder who’s filling her place.

Barbara is a fan favorite, and for most people she’s the de facto Batgirl. After all, she’s been a Batman ally for a long time, she’s the daughter of Commissioner Gordon, she was Batgirl on the Batman Animated Series, and is the police commissioner in Batman Beyond (I sure hope that comic series comes back). And because of all her history, she should have a lot of back-story support for future stories. It would be great to see her trying to get revenge on the Joker for shooting her, like how Damian Wayne almost beating Joker to death as revenge for Jason Todd.

The villain of this piece seems interesting, and I like that they’ve shown that although Barbara’s physical wounds have been healed, her mental ones still persist. That said, so far I’m not really hooked. I’ll keep reading it for a while, but it’s not something I can see myself sticking with long-term.

Verdict: Shows promise, but didn’t quite grab me yet.

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