Xpress Reviews: Graphic Novels | First Look at New Books, April 12, 2013

Week ending April 12, 2013

Fridolfs, Derek & Dave Wilkens & others. Batman: Arkham Unhinged. DC. 2013. 160p. ISBN 9781401237493. $22.99; ebk. ISBN 9781401244330. SUPERHERO
Collecting 15 digital-first prequel chapters to 2011’s Batman: Arkham City video game, this title finds Batman caught in a battle between Catwoman and Two-Face and the Penguin having Joker problems. Meanwhile, Dr. Hugo Strange operates in the background, waging a covert war against the caped crusader and his sidekicks. A solid group of artists and writers strengthen this anthology, which—at times—reads more like marketing material advertising Batman’s array of in-game gadgets.
Verdict While not an essential Batman purchase, the popularity of the video game series makes this a good choice for libraries. Readers who haven’t played the game will still find this an accessible collection.—Terry Bosky, Madison, WI

Robinson, James (text) & Nicola Scott & others (illus.). Earth 2. Vol. 1: The Gathering. DC. (New 52). 2013. 160p. ISBN 9781401237745. $22.99; ebk. ISBN 9781401244453. SUPERHERO
This six-issue return to Earth 2 is a rough ride, beginning with the alternate-universe versions of five major superheroes sacrificing their lives to repel an alien invasion and climaxing with Earth 2’s near annihilation by an inventively apocalyptic reimagining of villain Solomon Grundy. Standing together (barely) against the destruction are no-nonsense Hawkgirl, a postcollegiate slacker transformed into the Flash, an Atom with divided loyalties, and a gay Green Lantern atoning for the death of his fiancé. Writer Robinson wastes no time in establishing this world, efficiently presenting origins as needed and delivering stellar action alongside some surprising, emotionally charged moments. The artwork, by a passel of talented artists, is richly colored, elegant, and dynamic, in the style of Jim Lee, whose character designs appear as extras.
Verdict First, Grant Morrison’s spiffy new Action Comics, and now this? This DC Universe reboot might work out after all. Recommended for all superhero-centered graphic novel collections; suitable for YA readers and sophisticates who can handle the usual comic book mayhem.—J Osicki, Saint John Free P.L., NB

Snyder, Scott (text) & Jock & Francesco Francavilla (illus.). Batman: The Black Mirror. DC. 2013. 304p. ISBN 9781401232078. pap. $16.99; ebk. ISBN 9781401242077. SUPERHERO
Set just before the “New 52,” Dick Grayson becomes more comfortable in his role as Batman living in Wayne Manor and reflects on whether Gotham City is becoming even darker. Proof of this manifests itself in a secret auction of villain souvenirs for members of Gotham’s elite, the murder of an important bank owner’s secretary whose body is found stuffed inside the belly of an orca whale, and, most of all, the return of James Gordon Jr., Commissioner Gordon’s psychopathic son. James claims to be rehabilitated, but his stepsister Barbara (aka Batgirl, Oracle) refuses to believe him. Luckily, Batman doesn’t trust James’s transformation either and appears at a pivotal moment to stop him from killing Barbara.
Verdict A best-selling volume that reflects more of the engaging Grayson as Batman and part of a crucial story in the life of the Gordon family. Jock’s gritty, angular lines and Francavilla’s smooth retro style are different from each other, but their shared color palate of oranges, blues, and grays unifies them to create a polished blend. Highly recommended to Batman fans old and new.—Heather Williams, Whatcom Community Coll., Bellingham, WA

Bette-Lee Fox About Bette-Lee Fox

Bette-Lee Fox (blfox@mediasourceinc.com) is Managing Editor, Library Journal.

Now in her 46th year with Library Journal, Bette-Lee also edits LJ's Video Reviews column, six times a year Romance column, and e-original Romance reviews, which post weekly as LJ Xpress Reviews. She received the Romance Writers of America (RWA) Vivian Stephens Industry Award in 2013 for having "contributed to the genre or to RWA in a significant and/or continuing manner"