Written by Bryan Q. Miller; art by Dustin Nguyen with Derek Fridolfs; DC
Klarion the Witch-Boy is such an adorable character that even with average writing and art, this issue would've probably been worth reading. As it turns out, though, this is much better than average. Dustin Nguyen alternates between two different art styles - painted watercolours and more traditional pencils (inked by Derek Fridolfs). The two styles are very different and clash with each other, but this is actually used to great effect. Aside from the first and last page, which are painted and very stylized, the rule seems to be that the magical elements are in watercolour and the Gotham elements are in pencil and ink. So when Batgirl gets trapped in Klarion's magic globe, she's painted, but everything outside the globe is drawn. Later, in a sequence where they travel to Limbo town, the painted look takes over the entire page. The only thing that I thought didn't work with the painted style was the obviously digitized lettering that seems to float on top of the image, rather than blend in. The sound effects were particularly distracting. This is a minor point, though. On the writing side, Bryan Q. Miller as usual inserts a lot of humour and quirk into his script. It's like Stephanie Brown's personality is so overwhelming that it can't be contained within her and it infects the tone of the entire book. I like it.
Batman and Robin #20
Written by Peter J. Tomasi; art by Patrick Gleason and Mick Gray; DC
I'm not 100% convinced that this new creative team will hold my interest for very long, but it's off to a strong start. The first half of the issue was especially good, opening with a light-hearted moment between Bruce, Alfred and the boys, and then moving on to Dick and Damian working together. Tomasi seems to have a pretty good grip on the characters, although I wasn't quite convinced by the scene where Gordon twists Robin's arm into submission. I appreciate the point Tomasi was trying to make - that Damian's bullshit isn't going to be tolerated - but I just think Damian being the trained assassin that he is would have been able to get out of that lock without any problem. The second half of the issue was mostly just a single chase/fight scene, which, in spite of Gleason's prowess and the splashiness of his art, was a little confusing and difficult to follow at times. I'm still not sure I fully understand what the hell happened in those last three pages, which may or may not have been intentional. Overall, I enjoyed it, and I'm going to finish the tree-issue arc before I decide whether to keep this on my pull list or not.
(I should point out, though, that Cassandra fans are understandably pissed off at the way DC keeps ignoring her and rubbing it in. Bruce's line about being with "the whole family" certainly felt like adding salt to the wound.)
Birds of Prey #9
Written by Gail Simone; art by Inaki Miranda; DC
For all I know, this issue may have started with a good script, but, man, the art really doesn't do it justice. What I've come to realize since the unfortunate relaunch of Birds of Prey is that Gail Simone's writing is very kinetic. Things are always in motion. There is great dialogue and character development and deeply emotional scenes, but it all happens in the midst of near-constant chaos and action and people fighting. Which is great! It's perfect for the super-hero comic book genre and it's part of what makes Gail Simone's writing so unique. The downside, however, is that this type of writing requires an artist who can do the material justice. Otherwise, it just seems like a big mess. Since the second issue of this series, it's been just one fill-in artist after another, and this latest one is the most mediocre so far. I used to complain about Ed Benes' art, because I was never of fan of the endless crotch shots and camel toes, but in retrospect, I realize that at least was able to tell a story effectively. We're near the end of what should be a really important arc, and it really falls flat because it's just not getting the art it deserves.
I'm going to rate this one OKAY, although it would be a DROP if it weren't for the fact that I know there are better artists taking over in a couple of issues. If you're not currently reading this, I strongly suggest you wait until issue #11 or #12 before picking it up.