EXTRA! EXTRA! (NOV 14-20, 2012)

Batgirl #14

(w) Gail Simone
(p) Ed Benes

While last month’s “Death of the Family” prologue issue of Batgirl barely contained any Joker references, Batgirl #14 more than makes up for it by throwing Barbara right smack-dab in the middle of the Joker’s terrifying schemes. Gail Simone’s writing improves significantly this month from last as Barbara’s terror and fear over the return of the Joker is positively palpable — the mysterious caller leading Batgirl to the Joker definitely adds to the air of darkness and horror. Simone is actually tackling two plot lines here, as DC’s February solicitations touted the return of James Gordon Jr, Barbara’s insane brother who is revealed to the sadistic caller who manipulated Barbara into the Joker’s clutches. Not only are we getting Joker-related “Family” drama, but we also get actual family drama between Barbara and her brother — I’m seriously considering re-subscribing to Batgirl.

GRADE: 8/10

Batman and Robin #14
(w) Peter J. Tomasi
(p) Patrick Gleason

I don’t know what Batman and Robin is doing anymore — after a positively fun first arc featuring an old-yet-new villain tied to Bruce Wayne’s past, Peter J. Tomasi has struggled to find solid footing with the series since, and it’s starting to get annoying. Of course, Tomasi is very good about making sure each issue he writes includes some relationship-building sequence between Bruce and Damian, but when that emotional journey overshadows the actual plot right in the middle of a generally hectic sequence, then it doesn’t work well anymore. And while “Death of the Family” doesn’t start up in B&R until next month, the Joker is shoehorned into being the villain behind the ‘zombie’ outbreak in Gotham, for some reason. It doesn’t make a lot of sense, making it feel like DC editorial keeps pushing Tomasi around until they get what they want from each issue.

GRADE: 6.5/10

Thor: God of Thunder #1
(w) Jason Aaron
(p) Esad Ribic

Jason Aaron’s take on Thor Odinson is yet another instance where ‘Marvel NOW!’ has gone against the grain of my usual comic preferences — Thor: God of Thunder #1 is the most fun I’ve had with Thor ever. By looking in on Thor at three different points of his life, Aaron is giving readers a much deeper understanding of the Asgardian god that’s been missing from the character for years in the name of plot development (see Siege). Also, Thor’s in space for the Present Day sequence, and that’s just awesome in and of itself. I was surprised at how much I enjoyed Thor: God of Thunder, and how invested I am in Jason Aaron’s dark and twisted tale of the God Butcher.

GRADE: 8.5/10
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