Thursday, 5 January 2017

Gotham Academy Book 2: Calamity (#7-12)

"C'mon, we're monster hunters!  We need you! We're a team!" - Maps Mizoguchi

*reads intro to the previous post on this series. Gets depressed*  No, I'm not over the end of the DCYou that Gotham Academy was one of the instigators of, but let's ignore that for now and enjoy the next book in the series about the titular Academy, a private boarding school funded by Bruce Wayne and thankfully popular enough that it's survived the scorched earth of the DC Rebirth.  Our main characters are the mysterious Olive Silverlock and her best friend the gloriously enthusiastic and geeky Mia "Maps" Mizoguchi.  Then there is the rest of their "Detectives Club", the somewhat snooty girl Pommeline, wheeler dealer boy Colton and the laid back brother-to-Maps, Kyle.  Their club is to investigate the links between the Academy and Arkham Asylum after they found clues relating to that in book one as well as looking into any other strange goings on.  Olive has a dark secret that her mum was in Arkham Asylum before it collapsed, and Olive herself has exhibited some strange behaviour most notably when she was found walking into a fire that closed off part of the school when she was staying there over summer. It looks like she might have caused the it and she was rescued by the brooding student Tristan who is a were-bat, but she doesn't however remember why or how she did it.  The last book ended with Damian Wayne, Bruce Wayne's son enrolling in the school ostensibly to keep an eye on things.  So time to find out what happens next. Written by Becky Cloonan and Brendan Fletcher and beautifully illustrated in a western manga style by Karl Kerschl.

Before we get to the Calamity arc proper, we get an issue shining a sppotlight on uber nerd Maps which is drawn by Minjue Helen Chen in a similar style to Karl Kerschl's.  We begin in her English literature class where they are studying "The Raven".  She however is drawing up her ideal "Serpents and Spells" RPG group and writes the name of Eric in her book using the quill pen she liberated when they did some light theiving of the headmaster's office in book one.

Mr. Scarlet the teacher asks her a question about the text and she is unable to answer.  As Mr. Scarlet lectures her Eric lunges at him, only to be tackled by new boy Damian Wayne. He then tells Mr. Scarlet:

Damian: "These children are right to rebel against the teaching of such useless drivel Scarlet... they should be strengthening their bodies, preparing to defend themselves  for the day some villain decides to raze this decrepid academy to the ground".

Maps is awe-struck and crosses Eric's name out of her book.  After class she goes to find Olive, but finds Professor MacPherson there instead getting some things.  Maps hopes Olive is OK and says she wanted to tell her about the new kid in class.  MacPherson tells her he's called Damian Wayne.
Damian and Maps get stuck together.
She goes and watches him working out with a staff, and writes "Maps Mizoguchi + Damian Wayne" in her book with the quill.  Suddenly she finds herself drawn to him and grabs his hand.  They are then unable to let go of each other.  Before she can undo it, a raven swoops down and snatches the quill out of her other hand.

Maps drags Damian to see Pommeline, who has become a bit of an expert on magic.  She figures out that when Eric attacked Mr. Scarlet earlier because she wrote his name with the quill he was under a magic spell and the quill was attempting to "protect" her.

Damian refuses to believe it's the magic quill, he thinks he's being targeted because he is a Wayne.  Suddenly Pommeline pushes Damian through the window taking Maps with him.  He winds up hanging off the sill with Maps underneath him.  Fortunately he has a grapple gun on his belt. She fires it at a opposite roof and they swing across to safety.
Maps has an idea.
Then Kyle appears and attacks Damian, he swings Maps at him and knocks him out, "that was my brother you just made me clobber you jerk" says Maps.  Maps remembers Professor MacPherson's dog "Ham" was chasing the raven earlier, perhaps he can sniff it out and get them the quill back.

When MacPherson hears about the spell's effects on others she says it reminds her of a place near where she grew up in Scotland called "Inishtree".  Damian says there is Castle Wayne there, where his ancestor "Contarf Wayne" lived.  MacPherson says there have been tales of black birds secretly ruling Inishtree for ages.  As well as an incident where the towns children ran amok.  They were later found to be under the influence of a type of Avian Flu.  Batman thought the threat was over when the Wayne castle hawks sprang into action and all the black birds eggs were smashed, but the birds that laid the eggs were never found.

Maps says the quill must be made from the feathers of one of those birds, "it's a demon pen!". Damian refuses to believe that, but thinks it's an odd coincidence.  MacPherson and her dog come along to help them find the bird and the quill.  But outside are a possessed seeming Pommeline, Colton and Kyle.  Using the grapple gun they escape again and find MacPherson and her dog.  Then they spot the erstwhile bird.

Damian hurls a batarang at it.  The bird drops the quill and Mr. Scarlet appears and picks it up.  He says the quill carries Avian Flu which their friends have been exposed to.  Damian says it's a curable science problem, Maps says it's the quill's magic. Them being stuck together proves it.

Scarlet says they were never bound together, they made a choice.  If the release their grip now they'll be free of each other.  Which is what happens much to their confusion.  "I thought we made the perfect team" says Map's sadly.  Then headmaster Hammer appears and tells them he wants to see them in his study.
Damian gives Maps a gift.
He quizes Maps about the quill, but Damian says it was him that took it not her as it's maybe a Wayne family heirloom. 

Hammer: "I consider it a good day when I expel a Wayne from my academy.  It's been years since I had the pleasure.  You truly are your father's son Damian.  And I'm sure, like him you find your own unique path outside these great halls".

As he leaves Maps chases after him and shows him her book she had dropped in the cemetary, their names have been crossed out which she thinks released them from the power of the quill.  Maps then thanks him and he responds by giving her a batarang saying she might need it some day before departing.   Her excitment is shortlived however when MacPherson appears to tell her some bad news about Olive.

We then cut to the rainy funeral of Olive's mother.  Maps wants to go and comfort Olive but Kyle says to leave her alone in her grief for now.  However he goes on to watch with narrowed eyes as Olive and Tristan speak to each other. In the car home Maps says to Kyle if he can imagine what it must be like not to have a mom anymore.

Kyle stays brooding on what he saw, he goes to tennis practice where he is out of sorts then spots Tristan spying on him through the fence.  He sneaks off and follows Tristan who is visiting one of the science teachers, a Doctor Langstrom.  Kyle peeks in on them as they converse about a mysterious third person, Langstrom says "I may have to delay research into your condition to contend with the fallout" as Tristan takes his top off.
Tristan the Man-Bat.
Langstrom then says he is sorry for what Tristan is going through.  Tristan changes into a Man-bat form and says "nothing to be sorry for, Doctor".  This causes Kyle to recoil and flee.  He runs to Olive's room in a panic and tells her she has to stay away from Tristan. Olive thinks he is jealous,  Kyle says he's just worried about her but she responds:

Olive: "Sure that's fine.  But you know what you can't do? Tell me who I can and can't hang around with".

Kyle blurts out that Tristan is a Man-bat, but Olive just tells him to grow up (she already knows this as seen in volume one).  She stalks off to a Guidance Appointment.

Then Map's voice comes from the wall, she is lurking in one of the secret passages and overheard the whole thing and thinks it's terribly exciting.  Kyle wants to use the tunnels to get to Tristan before he sees Olive.  She is at a counselling session, which Kyle and Maps listen in on briefly before moving onto Tristan's room.

He catches them in the act though and Kyle confronts him saying he wants some answers.  Tristans responds by transforming and flying out of the window.  They follow him to the graveyard and finding him lying injured on the ground, he pleads with them to take him to Doctor Langstrom, he can't be out here tonight.

Doctor Langstrom examines him saying it looks bad and that they need to get Professor McPherson.  Olive goes to get her, while Kyle goes to find Olive.  She is standing by the lake and when Kyle tells her about Tristan she gets very concerned.  She has been crying and when Kyle tells her there is more to Tristan than meets the eye she responds, "it's.. it's not him I should be telling you about.  It's me."
Olive and Kyle smooch.
She confesses that she caused the fire in school over the summer break and she doesn't remember how or why.   Her mum was in Arkham Asylum for starting fires and now the same thing is happening to her, "are they going to lock me up to?"  Kyle reassures her she won't and they kiss.   Then Olive breaks it off saying it was a mistake. 

She tells him to go and she'll follow right behind, as he shuffles of despondently she suddenly spots a letter floating in the water. She picks it up and it turns out to be a postumous letter from her mum which says Olive was taken from her and surrounded by people who would hide the truth from her, "but always remember.  I loved you".

Then Maps appears behind her along with Pommeline, Colton and Kyle.  Pommeline demands to know what Olive has behind her back, but Olive won't show her the letter.  Maps tells Olive there is a monster on the campus terrorising people, this looks like a job for their Detective Club.

They go to where Tristan was attacked and find a clue, a patch of what looks like wolf hair.  Colton says he can analyse it in his secret lab to confirm what it is. The lab turns out to be a trailer, tricked out with all sorts of scientific equipment.  Maps refers to it as a "lair". Colton says it is not a lair, he calls it "Monte Carlo".

He then discovers it is indeed wolf hair and Pommeline says they have a werewolf on their hands.  She fills them in on werewolf mythology, she says ancient curse, Colton wonders if it could be a virus.  She says whatever it is they need silver to protect themselves with. Then they notice Olive has disappeared.
Colton and Pommeline join the investigation.
She has returned to her room and found the spooky looking girl, Katherine in there.  She is Map's roommate and she rushes off when Olive discovers her.  She goes to check her favourite poster and an envelope with her school admisson papers floats down.  There is stuff in there about her mum being a costumed villain, which is news to Olive.  She says "this is impossible" to herself.

Maps charges, in hears her and says "nothing is impossible Olive!". She has a silver necklace for her to protect her from the werewolf. Olive thanks her and tells her about Catherine being there.  Maps starts dragging Olive off to confront the were-wolf but Olive wants to go and speak with Professor Strange first.

She demands to know more about what she read in her school admisson notes about her mum being a "costumed freak" and that Olive needing "watching over".  She says she thought she was here on a Wayne Scholarship, but actually she's been placed there. Strange says only headmaster Hammer knows the details, and also has special interest in another student, heavily implied to be Tristan.

Olive and Maps then go and visit Tristan, he is laid out being treated by Doctor Langstrom.  The kindly Professor MacPherson is also there.  Olive plaintively says her mum was a villain, and why didn't she tell her?  "Oh Olive love, it's complicated" says MacPherson.  "When is it not?" says Olive sadly.

She goes and talks with Tristan and tells him how they have both been placed at the school to have an eye kept on them.   Tristan says Batman bought him here, the old science teacher "Milo" was supposed to treat him, but instead he used Tristan's DNA to turn others in to what he is.  Doctor Langstrom is "racing against the clock to find a way to reverse..." and he gets cut off by a huge werewolf crashing through the window.
It shouts, "Milo cursed me!  Now I'm going to curse you!"  Olive bashes it over the head with a stool and Tristan hurls himself at it and both go crashing back through the window and land outside.  Maps looks down and says did anyone else notice it was wearing "coach Humphry's uniform?"  Langstrom says he is too late with an antidote, but Colton has appeared and says maybe he can help with that.

The Detective Club run downstairs and find Tristan hurt and alone.  They hear a howling coming from close to the gymnasium.  Their plan is to take the tunnels to the gymn, evactuate the building, spray silver paint everywhere, drop a net on him, bash him with a silver plated golf club, then when he is unconcious, place charms around him to turn him back.

Maps: "What could possibly go wrong?"

They run to the gym, but the werewolf is lying in wait.  He confronts Olive when suddenly a strange ghostly figure appears behind her and exhorts her to use her fire powers.  It tells her to burn the wolf, burn the school, burn Gotham to the ground.  She starts to power up, then Colton appears and stuns the wolf with a stun dart.

The others ask what Olive did, but she can't remember.  Colton then says it was him who took the wolf out, which has reverted to the form of Coach Humphrey.  The dart was filled with antidote he concocted with Langstrom, "Just saved the day.  No big".

With Milo gone, no one was helping Humphrey keep his animal side in check. Langstrom and MacPherson find them and take a befuddled Humphrey away.  As the Detective Club walk back to their dorms, Pommeline says she needs to talk to Olive privately.

She says she stole the note Olive's mum wrote to her.  Olive is angry at this breach of privacy, but Pommeline said she has done some digging on the "Calamity" person her mum was.  She then says she was only trying to help, but then Olive sees the same ghostly figure on the school stage and it sets it on fire.

Olive and Pommeline rush out, Olive says that was her mum.  Pommeline says it wasn't her mum and starts to say their mothers are connected, but gets cut off leaving a juicy plot thread dangling for now.  The drama teacher - Simon Trent - comes rushing out too and Pommeline says seeing a ghost means time for another investigation.
Simon Trent laments while Katherine watches.
Katherine comes up to him and says she still be in his play.  Olive interrupts her and says she'll be in it too, this pleases Mr. Trent who walks off with his arm on her shoulder while Katherine just glowers.

The rest of the gang sign up too for this production of MacBeth.  They have to double up some parts so Olive, Pommeline and Maps get to be the three witches as well.  At a rehearsal though the lighting cues go all wrong.  They go up to the box to see what's happening and the boy doing them is freaked out about seeing "the phantom".

Olive says it's not a phantom, it's her mum's doing all this.  "Calamity is back in Gotham" she says.  Maps is hurt Olive shared this with Pommeline and not her, she thought they were best friends.  Olive reassures her she still is, then Colton finds muddy footprints leading away from the scene.  Olive says but she was so sure it was her mum.

We then cut to her in Strange's office telling him she seen Calamity several times now since the funeral.   She confesses Calamity has been telling her to do "wicked" things.  He advises her not to continue her extra-curricular activities for now saying they might lead her down a bad road.
Schools ALWAYS do either MacBeth or Romeo and Juliet, and not because they are good, but because they are Shakespeares shortest plays.
But she carries on playing Lady MacBeth, she is onstage doing the "out damn spot" monologue when mud plops down from the ceiling onto her head. She dives out of the way as part of the stage roof collapses.  The Detective Club all give chase to the cloaked figure fleeing the scene.  However it escapes via the secret tunnels.

They follow the mud to Maps and Katherine's room and Maps and Olive gingerly call out to Katherine.  She screams at them with a melty face then turns into a flowing line of mud and schlurps out of the window.  Pommeline appears and points to some photos that show Katherine has a beef with Simon Trent.

They go back to the theatre and Katherine is there.  When they confront her, mud rises up around her and forms the Batman villain "Clayface".  He says Trent "stole my best roles.  Then he stole my wife."  Katherine is just one aspect of his true form, "she existed to do my bidding".
Then he says he would have got revenge years ago but he was locked up in Arkham Asylum.  Then he recognises Olive and says her mother was "crazy".  Simon Trent then appears and he and Clayface have a florid argument with each other.  Then Clayface punches him. Before he can do worse damage though Olive and Maps use a stream of water from a firehose to take him down.

This dissolves the mud and leaves only Katherine behind, turns out Clayface was her "papa".  As Maps and Olive leave the theatre with her, Maps offers to have Katherine over for Thanksgiving at her house.  Then Pommeline comes up and shows them a newspaper headline and it says, "Fire Deemed Arson.  Calamity Returns To Gotham City".  Olive is confused now, is her mum still alive?

Back in counselling with Professor Strange, Olive talks about her mother and how she thinks she might be alive.   She going to accompany the tennis club's trip into Gotham to go and try and search out more evidence about her mum.  Strange advises against it, but Olive is resolute.

They arrive in Gotham, Pommeline and Colton are also there.  They make their plan, Colton and Pommeline will go to Pommeline's mother's law office to dig through the Silverlock file, while Maps and Olive will go to the city's paper records office.

To top things off, Maps dons a domino mask and says "this is the best plan ever".  After some roof clambering, she and Olive get inside the building the records office is in.  They avoid a security guard and then start their search.   Olive thanks Maps for all the effort she's gone to.

Maps: "You don't need to thank me.  We're best friends.  That's what BFFs do.  Besides how would you find the records room without your Maps?".

The find the records room and handily, the Silverlock file has been left out on top of a filing cabinet.  She tells Maps to stand guard while she reads it.
Red Robin discovers them.
Then suddenly Red Robin aka Tim Drake appears.  Maps flings her batarang that Damian gave her at him.  He easily catches it and recognises it as "one of ours".  He says that makes her one of the now many Robins of Gotham City (this is a reference to the series "We Are Robin" about a gang of Batman affliated youths).

They chat about all Robin phenomenom then he says he needs to scour the record room.  Maps tries to stop him and blurts out that Olive needs more time to find out about Calamity.  This sends us into a Robin narrated flashback.  A whole block of flats was burned down.  Batman and Robin Mk.1 went and helped rescue people and came up against Calamity.  Dick managed to bring down the ceiling on her head and knock her out.

Batman had Sybil Silverlock put away, but things were more complicated than they seemed.  She wasn't the first Calamity to terrorise Gotham City.  And when it was discovered she had a daughter, Batman put her where she wouldn't grow up to be like her mum and be watched.

Then we cut to Olive reading about generations of Silverlocks all going by the name Calamity. "Is this what my future holds?"  Then Calamity appears saying now she knows the truth she can face it.  Robin and Maps realise there is a fire and go to see whats happening and see the strange ghostly form facing Olive.  Maps and Robin fight her off and she disappears saying "Olive weeeeee shall meet again..."
Calamity in action.
Red Robin says goodbye and Maps rings Pommeline to tell her what happened.  But there is bad news.  Kyle disappeared after his tennis game and has been gone for three hours now.  The police have been called.  Colton breaks into Kyle's locker to look for clues and finds a key which Olive recognises as one for Arkham Asylum.

With Katherine having been persuaded to disguise herself as Maps to keep her parents happy, Maps herself and Olive get reading to make a trip to Arkham Asylum with the others. Colton and Pommeline pull up in a swanky car, Pommeline says not to ask where they got the wheels.

As they drive up to the Asylum, Pommeline drops the bombshell on Olive that Sybil killed Olive's dad.  She tells Olive that Calamity could "really hurt you".  When Olive mumbles that her mum told her that her dad died in a car accident, Pommeline says she thought Olive knew the truth, "well now you do.  You're welcome".
The Detective Club off to rescue Kyle.
As they sneak into the Asylum, Olive demands to know why Pommeline keeps hurting her like this.  Pommeline snaps that she doesn't want one of her only friends getting burned alive and she should wait outside where it is safe because she's a liability.  Maps more gently says it is a good idea if she stays with the car and to honk if there's trouble.  They leave a somewhat crushed Olive behind.

Inside Pommeline asks if they think  Olive is really mad at her.  Colton says he'd be surprised if she ever talks to her again after the bomb she just dropped.  Pommeline doesn't know why she said what she did.  They then discuss how to find Kyle in this maze.  Maps calls his name and gets an immediate response, "Maps? Help!  I'm down here!" he shouts up through a hole in the floor.

Outside Olive sees Calamity and goes chasing after her. Maps and the others find the door to the cell Kyle is locked in.  She asks him why Calamity brought him out here.  Kyle responds that it wasn't Calamity.  The door also doesn't have a lock for the key. Then Pommeline finds the weird symbol and puts the key into the hole in the middle which unlocks the door and they grab Kyle just as he falls into the hole he was clinging to the edge of.

Olive enters the room she saw Calamity go into and sees a white wig on the table.  Then Professor Strange appears, he tells her that her mother was a patient of his once.  But she refused him access to Calamity.  "She held on to the hope of living a normal life with you" he tells her.
Strange reveals his secret villany.
He says he's been wearing her costume to try and learn more, but sees there's another way. "Take up your mother's cloak and become Calamity" he exhorts Olive.  Olive just wants to know how her mum died and as she gets angry the flames appear.  Strange talks past her to Calamity:

Strange: "Calamity is that you?  You didn't finish telling me about the tunnels.  What did you hide in the tunnels?  Calamity reveal yourself to me!"

Then we cut to the others arrving in the room which is on fire and Olive standing in the middle of it.  They ask if Strange hurt her, she just says "It was Calamity... she saved me".  They have to get out of the Asylum quick as it's starting to collapse some more.  They get outside but falling masonry takes out the car.

Maps says they can walk back through the tunnels, "What?  It'll be fun...and if we're lucky we'll stumble upon a new mystery".  We then cut to Olive talking to Professor MacPherson who says she'll be there for Olive when she wants to talk.  But Olive just thinks to herself:

Olive: "I wanted to tell her everything.  About Professor Strange, about my mum.   But I don't feel like it.  Not right now.  She thinks I need a shoulder to cry on, but actually I don't.  I actually feel good. For the first time in a long time, I feel whole."
Olive is left with plenty to think about.
The end. Ah, this is still refreshingly good stuff.  Boarding school and detective narratives are always compelling and when mixed in with the history of Gotham and the Bat-family parade of villains and anti-heroes you get a fine piece of story telling.  Olive of course takes the main spot and the series is teasing out revelations about her family at a steady pace.  But the supporting cast are great too, especially Maps who simply cannot see a bad side to anything.  Her wide-eyed optimistic enthusiasm helps stop the book falling into the trap of being overly "grimdark" even though it deals with some pretty heavy topics.  Balancing her out is the overly brusque Pommeline who obviously has a lot of affection for Olive but keeps expressing herself badly to her. Still, like the eccentric wideboy genius Colton, she is perfectly willing to drop everything and go and rescue Kyle even though it's a dangerous expedition to embark on.  And it's those bonds of friendship, some warm, some spiky that make this such a pleasant read with witty and sharp writing from Cloonan and Fletcher.  The art is superb, Karl Kerschl channels the manga style into something more westernised and it suits the mood of the writing to a tee.  There are several questions and plot threads left dangling, I don't know how much of a new beginning the DC Rebirth will force on the title, I hope it's just left to carry on as it is, if not hopefully all the dangling plot threads have been cleared up pre-reboot.  Well a girl can dream can't she?


  1. Ah yes. Issue #7 where true love is found between a girl and a boy's oversized grappling gun. XD

    Why yes. This is pretty much the only DC series I follow. ^^;

    That said I think the next issue was an event tie-in (to Robin War) and then it switched to anthology format (the series calls these "Yearbook") so the main plot isn't really moving until the relaunch as "Gotham Academy: Second Semester" (which I've not read yet). :/

  2. I can see why the coming of the DC Rebirth might have had them put things on hold until the creative team saw where things were going. It does seem to be the only series left I'll be following now, as Constantine The Hellblazer had it's creative team kicked off and Midnighter has been cancelled. Harley Quinn possibly may have also made it through unscathed but I will have to wait until the first round of DC Rebirth trades before I judge I guess.

  3. Hmmm, again with the resonances. Got shades of Harry Potter of course; but the main thing that leapt out at me was old kid detective story genre. Very Famous Five or Secret Seven. I have to confess I found it a bit formulaic. Orphan slowly finds out parents were special and now they must take up the legacy sort of thing. Not that there's necessarily anything wrong with that. As Star Wars showed doing the classic hero's journey can be very satisfying when done well. Themes reoccur for a reason. It's a bit like the trick for making a best selling single. Make it seem like the audience has heard it before.

    In a way I think the baggage of having the familiar superheroes levered in a bit of a handicap. I'd have preferred the original characters be given space to exist in their own environment. But I like the tie in with Arkham and I especially like the portrayal of Batman. If he must get involved it's a refreshing change that he's seen as a bit of a dick rather than an almost demi-god. Also the more nuanced portrayal of the villains.

    It's funny that this follows the squirrel girl back to school thing. Is this a deliberate marketing move to make things more identifiable for a new younger audience? I have to say though I was much more drawn to the characters in SG. With this story it's more that I'm curious about the plot and how that resolves, whereas with SG it's the classic "I really care about what happens to the characters".

    I love the artwork in this though.

  4. You maybe right that this was an attempt to hook a youngre audience like Squirrel Girl, both have actually succeded seeing as both titles are have survived their respective universal reboots. And yeah although I really like Gotham Academy, I love Squirrel Girl.

    Also I think the story here is the orphan doesn't want to take up their legacy which is that of a villain and murderer. It certainly is forumlaic in a wider sense but in comics I haven't seen anything like this before which is why it felt so fresh coming as it did in the ultra manly macho New 52 era. Still there should be a crossover with Squirrel Girl where she teams up with Maps Mizoguchi, the nerdiness would be off the charts!

  5. Sorry for the delay in responding. Joined a boxing club in an attempt to improve my fitness, and have only just regained the ability to type.

    I quite like the 'parent was a baddy and the apple can't fall far from the tree' trope? Less common than the living up to heroic antecedents admittedly though.

    I do think it can make for better drama. Will Luke turns to the dark side? "It is your destiny!". Pressure to live up to the exemplar of parents is of course one way of driving an arc. With the inevitable "They'd have been proud of you" resolution.

    But avoiding becoming something is a much stronger source of narrative conflict. I think it also adds an additional layer of sympathy with the protagonist.

    (cf the second 'Omen' film. Successfully has the anti-christ as woobie)

    All of a sudden they face so many pressures. They have the rug pulled from under them in regards to what they believed about their origins. They will themselves face suspicion. And there's the fact that 'success' will inevitably lead to a betrayal of someone they can't help but love.

    So I think that's a good choice in this story. Just once though I'd love a character in that position to actually embrace the opportunity. Imagine if Harry Potter had said "You know, my muggle foster parents *were* awful to me just because I'm magical and they're pretty representative of muggle society. Voldemort has a point". (I suppose though Rowling addressed that with Dumbledore's flirtation with the 'greater good')

    I'm hoping that the portrayal here of the traditional villains as much more nuanced and Batman as the fascist he is might be setting us up for that. Especially if it turns out the Calamities do have a worthy aim in some way.

    And yeah squirrel girl/maps team up

  6. And now I got the feeling the readership around here will like Kieron Gillen's Journey into Mystery (maybe the continuing parts (Gillen's Young Avengers, Ewing's Loki: Agent of Asgard) of the Loki trilogy too). It's very much a character arc of:
    - "You'll grow up to be just like your predecessor!" "But I don't want to!" (JiM)
    - "Well, you might have a point..." (YA)
    - "You know what? F- your point!" (Loki:AoA)

  7. @Alan: No worries, actually I've spent the last couple of days playing with my New Laptop, courtesy of me mum. yes I am wired for sound and have being catching up with a years worth of my favourite webvideo series, so now I can play all the clips you point me towards. Also being able to sit in bed surfing the net feels decadent xD

    From what Malitia says it seems like the next volume is jogging on the spot before a picking up at issue one again with the DC Rebirth series. I actually think it's interesting they're looking at the effect being the kid of a supervillain is, what lies they were told by them and yes the fear they might unwillingly follow the same path. I like the kindness of the series, for example Maps inviting Katherine to Thanksgiving after they take down her dad Clayface, and Killer Croc watching over Olive in book one as a part of a promise he made to her mum. We don't see enough of those shades of grey in mainstream superhero fiction.

    @Malitia: I have heard many very good things about from a now defunct comics blog about JiM and Kid Loki's story. It's on my list to check out, gah so much stuff on that list though and I need to find a couple of hundred quid for an Xbox One this year as well >_<

  8. @ malitia

    Thanks for that recommendation. It certainly does sound like something I'd be interested in. Funnily enough I was thinking it would be great if Varalys did a review, but then I felt guilty as I'm always adding to her shopping list and I don't want Biff ending up starving! But hey, if she's happy to volunteer :-D

    @ Varalys

    Ooh cool. So glad you have sound again. I'll no doubt be bombarding you with recommends. I hope you like the giggly girls in my anti ambush training (it's a skill all 11 year olds should learn). Hopefully you'll also find that IPlayer programme in the previous thread interesting.

    @ thread

    I do like the more nuanced approach to the goodies and baddies in this story. It's normally so black and white, or if people think they're being adventurous then you might get anti-hero deconstructions like Watchmen. But you rarely see a more complex examination. I think that's why I'm quite fond of the well intentioned extremist trope. Where someone is fundamentally decent. Unfortunately media is such that they often end up being designated villain. People need to know who to root for apparently. But it's a lot more interesting when both sides have a point (that's one of the strengths of the original Edge of Darkness).

    I do often fall into the habit of considering the 'baddies' viewpoint. Not just from a rooting for the empire thing but generally. Consider for example what would happen if an aircraft carrying US citizens crashed in a foreign country and then the government of that country performed vivisection on the sole survivor next time you're watching Independence Day.

    But back to the current story, it is sweet that Croc and Clayface are looking out for their friend's kid. I don't know enough about their backstories to know their general moral principles. But why shouldn't villains have compassion, friends and generally be decent people? Let's face it, Batman is a rich white guy who uses torture and imposes extrajudicial physical punishment on the poor and desperate with the collusion of the police. Even as Bruce Wayne he seems a bit of a tosser (I know he has a charitable foundation, but so does Donald Trump. Bet it's really just a tax thing). So I really hope this story explores that.

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  10. One of my favourite series that ran in the early 2000's was Gotham Central that followed the one corruption free shift of detectives in Gotham City and just how they went about policing a city with super criminals, their vexed and combative relationship with Batman being a big part of the tensions (also contains my fave moment when for reasons Starfire from the Teen Titans has come in to answer questions and she is drop dead gorgeous in her barely there costume. The men are all drooling and one of the women gos "tsk men" only to have it pointed out that the two lesbians present are slobbering over her as well!).

    It's a series I keep umming and ahhing about covering, my main problem is it doesn't split up well and the cast is HUGE. But as a gritty Homicide: Life On The Street with supercriminals it's damn fine stuff and adds some more nuance to the Bat-verse. I'm actually a huge fan of the Bat-verse not so much for Batman, who is a problematic figure for reasons you point out, but for the depth and richness of the stories that can be told his his mileu. Gotham By Midnight is another one I covered that looked at the mystically side of policing Gotham and I feel its loss most keenly still.

    Grant Morrison's stroke of genius was giving him a son even more arrogant, ego-centric and driven to prove himself (like how Frasier's brother Niles was even more uptight and neurotic than Frasier) and their interactions went a long way to humanising Batman. But Morrison is the one Bat writer who can balance the grimdark of the Dark Age with the whimsy of the Silver Age and make it work perfectly. He gave us Bat-cow dammit!

  11. Heh, you love that cow. :-)

    I'll have to find a picture for my vegan oppressor; she loves cows. And it'll make a nice change from all the pictures of mutilated ones in slaughter houses she keeps posting.

    I like the sound of that series. I'm quite the fan of lower decks stories (it's so handy that you speak tropese). A related discussion arose recently. I was being my usual annoying self by arguing that the Potterverse having a depart of magical law enforcement was a bit of a tautology. Like when sci-fi tales preface everything with 'space' (although I like that). But then someone made the point that for all we know wizards just have an ordinary police force as well. After all even wizards must occasionally just get into punch ups or go shoplifting.

    "I've protected my shop with every anti spell enchantment going"

    *hogwarts kids exit shop laughing "Ha, should have gone with CCTV sucker"*

  12. I was deeply appreciative that Bat-cow appears in LEGO Batman 3. You can't play her alas, but you get to do a couple of quests for her.

    You probably would enjoy Gotham Central a lot, great writers, great art and some compelling characters. As said previously two lesbian characters one is the Captain of the shift the other one of the top detectives struggling with rage issues (I identify with her lol). There's another cool thing they have which is how they handle the Bat-signal. The cops can't turn it on because it would be seen as them endorsing vigilante behaviour, so they have a non copper employed to switch it on instead, exploiting a legal loophole. It's that attention to detail of what law enforcement would be like in Gotham City that I really like. They're definitely a bunch of muggles that have an almost impossible job. The Arkham Asylum revolving door and insanity pleas come in for some scrutiny as well.

    I've always wondered why the wizards in Harry Potter don't have muggle weaponry as back-up as well. Bet Voldemort couldn't have dodged a shotgun to the face.

  13. I'm always interested in portrayals of the legal system in fiction. I like the loophole abuse example. My favourite take is in Heinlein's The Man who Sold the Moon. About half the story is about corporate law. That's a very hard subject to make interesting but Mr H handles it very well. He did know a lot about the law. There's actually a quote he ascribes to a fictional judge in one of his stories that's found its way into real judgments.

    I've always fancied doing a legal 'caper' tale. Someone starts a load of seemingly innocuous legal cases, but when linked they end up taking over the world. That's influenced by the Moon story to an extent. The protagonist there uses the legal system brilliantly. What's particularly enjoyable though is that the schemes are totally plausible. They would actually work in real life. (The scheme the protagonist uses to obtain 'ownership' of the Moon would only be scuppered today because there's a specific international law against it. I wonder if that law was inspired by the story?)

    Hmm, you've reminded me of something, but I'll put it in an email.

    As you know I'm very interested in that 'muggle with a shotgun' scenario. But it would be a nice flip on the trope of the government having secret organisations that use occult weaponry if the magical community had counterpart organisations that stocked up on assault rifles and nukes.

    Oh and do you have any good pics of Bat-Cow?

  14. YAY! I'm not alone with my love for Gotham Central! :D

    For "kids of supervillains" concept I like Marvel's Runaways too even if it didn't really go for moral ambiguity. Or at least the first several volumes by Brian K. Vaughan (the writer of Saga)... no other writer really knew what to do with the team unfortunately. :/

    As for my previous recommendation: I feel the need to warn everybody that the Thor family of comics can be surprisingly meta... especially if it involves Loki. Many characters like to lean on the fourth wall very heavily. The outright breaking it is a lot rarer (not counting the recap page), not that that doesn't happen, like when Loki gave a "help wanted!" flyer to the reader in Young Avengers.

    Ugh. Harry Potter... now there is a series I couldn't finish because I felt like it was condescending to me (well, Muggles in general, and surprise I'm one :P) and I really wasn't prepared to root for the lesser evil. (Wizard-supremacist asshole, who would torture and murder me for no reason vs. slightly less wizard-supremacist asshole, who would mind rape me for trespassing. Mutual destruction was too much to hope for apparently.)

  15. Ooh I'd love to have a proper Potter discussion sometime. I did enjoy the books but you're so right about those issues. It's funny that Rowling is quite publicly lefty but a lot of the themes in the books read like the Daily Telegraph letters page. "Metric is for muggles!" (I agree with that though), boarding schools and 'traditional' educational techniques are best (wonder if there are any magical comprehensive schools?) and for all her supposed antipathy to 'blood' there's very much an idea that the magical are better. Hermione might be from muggle stock but now she's won the genetic lottery it's taken as read she'll now only 'breed' within the magical community; there doesn't seem to be a lot of 'marrying out' in the magical world. And squibs are treated like the embarrassing child that posh families keep hidden away. They have a disability so they're figures of fun or at best resources to be exploited by a community they can never fully be part of.

    As for their relationship with the non magical community, it's ok For Rowling to make a joke about how real witches weren't bothered about the burning timed because magic could save them, but she forgets to mention that non witches were burned. There's actually a reference to a magical community in Salem, so did they sit back whilst innocent victims were executed for the magical community's crimes?

    The Statute of Secrecy is supposed to be for the protection of the magical community, but for the muggle community wizards are a real threat. They're not a persecuted minority; they're an elitist cabal.

    I like Luna though.

  16. Fourth wall is a funny concept. I profess not to be keen on it but then a mate points out "But you love Tharg"

    "Yeah, but he's real"

    (He is, there are photographs)

    I suppose I should plug my mate's site. It's called 'seven penny nightmare' and it's mainly about 'Action' comic. It's quite an interesting read if you're into that period of Brit comics. He also does the restoration work for the trade compilations, so if you like the technical side of that it's worth checking out his links.

    Thanks for those additional recommendations. Varalys likes that author so maybe we can help deplete Biff's catfood budget a bit more?

  17. I originally liked that the magical community wasn't really a persecuted minority. I grew up on the X-Men so by the point Harry Potter came around I hit my "Fantastic Racism as metaphor just doesn't work for me" point.

    My breaking point with the HP series came around the reveal that the Dark Lord didn't shield the hiding place of his horcrux against House Elf magic, and a non-magic or "lesser"-magic being probably wouldn't even trigger the defences. (Yeah. I was very late to spot the thread ^^; Even if the over-reliance on mind wiping bugged me from the beginning.)

    *Malitia put the book down and tried to think* Okay so outside of the noble but stupid "our criminal, our responsibility" what reasoning do they've to not exploit this giant glaring weakness?

    Now that I think about it why didn't this book series (despite telling me over and over that persecution is wrong) ever show anybody not part of the magical community truly noble / smart / capable / etc.? Except Dobby. Maybe... arguably...

    *lightbulb goes up over my head* Oh. Oooooooooh. The main magical community is only non-bigoted by comparison, and the series (possibly writer? O.o) lacks the self-awareness to notice it.

    Ugh. I think I'll come back to this series if I hear about some positive changes. And it never truly did. :/

  18. On Thor:

    The occasional fourth wall molesting of mythological Marvel is a side-effect of gods being currently "trope based life forms"... I mean a Gaimanian explanation is in use for their very existence (technically the explanation is very old and first appeared in an 80s Thor annual, but wasn't truly acknowledged until the mid 2000s).

    This brings us strange stuff like creating a chance to win against an unbeatable enemy by forging the only existing copy of his story.

  19. Rowling did seem to miss a few tricks by not following us on the implications of the world she created. Don't get me wrong, she's obviously a very talented writer and I found the books generally entertaining. But it's perhaps more disappointing because she came so close. Dumbledore's far more nuanced backstory could have added so much depth to the character. Ultimately though it's brushed off with a reference to him seeing the error of his ways and avoiding power. He's still a flawless good guy. Even his willingness to 'sacrifice' Harry has no real consequences because of the magical get out of gaol card. I was rather hoping she'd follow up on his greater good utilitarian streak with the reveal that he'd just set up Harry to draw flack thus diverting attention from the real chosen one Neville. Ah well.

    And you're very correct about the implicit injustices in the magical community. Again Rowling could have addressed this, even if subtextually. But another missed opportunity. For all her commentary about the fantastic racism of the death eaters and the Nazi parallels, Hermione's concerns about the plight of elfs (who are essentially slaves) is dismissed as tree hugging, even by the good guys.

    As an aside, if elfs can be freed by giving them an item of clothing, do wizards have to do their own laundry?

    You also raise a valid point about both Voldemort missing obvious solutions. With the dark lord I suppose we could put it down to his arrogance. He dismisses the possibility of 'lesser' beings posing a threat. But there's no excuse for the wizards. Dumbledore is pretty savvy about the muggle world and Shacklebolt has first hand knowledge of the capabilites of the muggle government. We could have had a much quicker resolution if they'd just gone to the muggle prime minister and told him about Voldemort.

    "No problem, I'll just call Hereford"

    *12 hours later*

    "Do you want the body back?"

  20. Yeah. Harry being a decoy protagonist would have been an interesting twist (and could make sense of the "why put the chosen one in harms way" thing that went on constantly).

    The weirdest thing for me about Hermione's failed attempt at house elf liberation isn't that it failed, or that others mocked her for it (albeit they came across as asses, who willingly ignore the problem). It was a truly well meaning, but misguided and clueless way of trying to help as she never actually attempted to engage with them, or understand their situation from their perspective, or help them to help themself.

    ... and then the books go on and let the main cast save poor muggles from Deatheater oppression without ever engaging with them.

    Book, YOU JUST IGNORED YOUR OWN LESSON! *facepalm* :/

    As for laundry. I'm guessing if the wizards put the laundry in the laundry basket and the elves were just instructed to wash the content of said basket then nobody gave the articles of clothing to them so it didn't count.

    The Harry Potter series would be so much shorter if wizards didn't collectively looked down on everybody else. :D

  21. Right, well I definitely wouldn't have a house elf then. Not if you still have to pick your own laundry up off the floor.

    Hermione's SPEW campaign could have been an interesting commentary on great white saviour syndrome, but again it's another idea that just fizzles out. Of course word of god says hermione does subsequently achieve some reforms.

    It is characteristic though of my major niggle with the books that the main characters are all so bloody patronising. It might be because I have a bit of a bugbear generally about paternalism. But even Harry's always getting the wrong end of the stick and rash behaviour isn't fully addressed because the narrative always has it paying off in the end. I do find myself wishing Snape would have just grabbed hold of him at some stage and said "look you impetuous little idiot, you've already got the most popular boy in the school killed. When are you going to realise you're just a naive teenager and start listening to the people *who've already been through a war with voldemort and actually know what they're doing!*"

    It's like how Rowling has to portray him as somehow amazing for 'rescuing' the others in that underwater challenge. Why didn't someone call him out "How thick do you have to be to think we'd really drown everyone?!"

    Again it's funny because Rowling did set up a background to demonstrate how flawed Harry & Co's know-it-all tendencies could be. If you analyse the stories cloud cuckoo lander Luna turns out to be right about everything she says that the others dismiss and all Trelawney's predictions come to pass. But in the end they're both dismissed as light relief. It's like Rowling was setting up a more nuanced approach to all the characters but in the end just went down a much simpler the heroes are always right path.

    Still, it worked and now she's richer than Crassus, so what do I know?

  22. @Alan: This page on the DC Wikia is my fave, it's Damian after they liberate a slaughterhouse being used for nefarious purposes that he is now vegitarian and this is Bat-cow (it comes and lives in the Bat-cave along with his dog and cat).

    @Malitia: Yay another Gotham Central fan! It really is a super underated book especially considering the talent involved in it, and not afraid to end on a downer either, although I have bought the first half of 52 to follow Rene Montoya's story as it continues.

  23. That Bat-Cow picture is perfect! And my friend will love the veggie reference (she's so hardcore she won't even drive through a town if it has 'Ham' in its name).

    And to follow on from our Hogwarts discussion and now you have sound, here's a clip that you and Malitia might enjoy (and have probably already heard)