Archive for Oracle

Oracle’s Return

It feels like it’s been ages since I’ve been able to buy a brand-new graphic novel, but with the way the pandemic is affecting comics shops all over the country, it seemed like a good time to get some via mail order. The first one I got was this new young adult comic, so let’s take a closer look at The Oracle Code by Marieke Nijkamp and Manuel Preitano.

Let’s meet Barbara Gordon, a normal teenage girl in Gotham City. She’s got a passion for computer coding and puzzles, and she loves taking on hacking challenges with her friend Benjamin. But one night, she gets a little too close to a robbery, and she gets shot and paralyzed.

A few weeks later, she’s learning how to get around in a wheelchair, and she’s been enrolled at the Arkham Center for Independence, a school and rehab facility for handicapped children. And she’s not at all happy about it. She doesn’t like the headmaster or the teachers or the therapists. She doesn’t like feeling like she’s been dumped here by her father. She doesn’t like the way her friend Benjamin won’t text her anymore.

She doesn’t like the weird noises she hears about the building either.

But she makes some new friends like Yeong and Issy, who want to help Babs adjust to the facility, and Jena, who tells her weird, creepy stories, and who has a brother at Arkham named Michael.

But the faculty say Michael doesn’t exist.

And then Jena disappears, too.

Can Barbara unravel the mysteries in Arkham? Can she learn to adjust to her new situation? Can she let go of her anger? Or is she going to end up as another mysterious disappearance?

Verdict: Thumbs up. What’s kinda amazing about this is this is a DC Comics graphic novel with minimal DC Comics content. Yeah, it’s got Babs Gordon and her dad, Commissioner Jim Gordon. It’s set in Gotham City, and in an old, creepy mansion called Arkham. But Batman doesn’t show up. Neither does Robin, Nightwing, Alfred, Batwoman, the Joker, or anyone else. And it’s really fantastic. You’ve got a detective tracking down a mystery — who says you need people in spandex, too?

And also, this definitely isn’t an all-ages book. It’s probably going to be too intense for a lot of younger readers. There’s a lot of tension and suspense and a number of downright scary moments to go along with the constant undercurrent of weirdness inside Arkham.

And Barbara’s rage at being in her wheelchair is intense, too. It’s not cartoonish anger — it’s subtle, but clear. She’s a very controlled person, but you can see her fury on almost every page. You can even see it on the cover. Look at that fist. That’s a fist that wants to punch the hell out of someone. And that tension, that quivering, teeth-gritting, white-hot, infuriated tension blazes through most of the book. It’s genuinely awe-inspiring to feel that blistering anger in the words and artwork of this comic.

Absolute kudos to Nijkamp for crafting this excellent story and the remarkable characters and to Preitano for the great art, sometimes realistic, and sometimes nightmarish and jagged and cartoony. This is a powerful and frightening and glorious book. Go pick it up.

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Love, Superhero Style

We got another giant buttload of Convergence comics this week, and once again, I’m going to try to get all of these cleared out of the way quickly.


Convergence: Nightwing and Oracle #2

The rotten-as-snot Flashpoint versions of Hawkman and Hawkgirl are in Gotham City, looking forward to killing Nightwing. But Dick Grayson isn’t all that easy to kill, and Barbara Gordon’s awfully, awfully smart. And they both have some really great friends. Can an acrobat and a paralyzed hacker beat up a couple maniacal winged fascists and still find true love?

The backup story is the first glimpse we get of the new “Midnighter” series.


Convergence: Superman #2

While Superman battles the Flashpoint versions of Cyborg, Captain Thunder, and Abin Sur, the skinny Flashpoint Superman kidnaps the pregnant Lois Lane. He takes her to the Flashpoint Batman’s Batcave, hoping Dr. Thomas Wayne can help deliver her baby. Will Lois’s baby be delivered safely?

The backup story is the first glimpse we get of the new “Doomed” series.


Convergence: The Question #2

Renee Montoya, along with the Huntress and Batwoman, are trying to find Two-Face. Harvey Dent desperately wants to die, and since he’s not able to commit suicide as long as his coin keeps coming up heads over and over, he’s decided to track down the Harvey Dent of another dimension and get him to commit murder on his behalf.

The backup story is the first glimpse we get of the new “Starfire” series.


Convergence: Speed Force #2

Wally West has to battle the seriously psycho Flashpoint Wonder Woman and her Amazons, while Fastback, from the Amazing Zoo Crew, tries to defend Jai and Iris West. Can the Flash handle a foe who’s almost as fast as he is and a much more deadly combatant? And will the loveable cartoon turtle survive?!

The backup story is the first glimpse we get of the new “Green Arrow” series.


Convergence: Batgirl #2

It’s Stephanie Brown, Cassandra Cain, and Tim Drake vs. the Flashpoint versions of Gorilla Grodd and Catman!

The backup story is the first glimpse we get of the new “Prez” series.

Verdicts: We had some good stuff and some bad stuff. Let’s unpack this thang.

First of all, the Batgirl story is the one I was looking forward to the most, and it was just not good. While I liked the fact that she solved the issue’s dilemma through brainpower, the rest of it was not worth the paper. Confusing, badly illustrated, not well written, poor characterization. Of all the characters here, Steph probably needed closure the least — the end of her regular series was actually very well done and emotionally affecting. I would’ve enjoyed this one more if we’d gone with a good ending for Cass, instead of a tacked-on romance between Steph and Tim.

The rest were much better. The Nightwing/Oracle story was probably the best, but it was written by Gail Simone about some of her favorite characters, so that was certainly to be expected. The romance subplot didn’t feel tacked-on — in fact, it was at least, if not more important than, the entire battle against the Hawks.

Superman’s story was fine, but it was stronger as a combination of a great Lois Lane story and a nice story about the more hard-edged Flashpoint Batman finding something he was willing to care about.

The Question’s story was great just because it’s wonderful to see Greg Rucka and Cully Hamner working on these characters again.

Flash’s story was alright, but not all that spectacular. I was just glad to see Flashback survived — I take it the Zoo Crew has been taking it on the chin in the other Convergence books.

Of the sneak-peeks we get of the new series… not a lot of them really appeal to me. I’d had high hopes for the Prez and Starfire series, and they just don’t look very interesting. The Doomed series looks somewhat interesting — I knew nothing about it before — but it still stinks like ’90s Image to me…

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So Much Convergence

So the first of the “Convergence” miniseries came out this week, and most of the stuff on my pull list all showed up at once. So hey, we’re gonna try to clear these outta here as quickly as we can.

We know the general premise, yes? A mysterious entity (Pssst! It is Brainiac!) had kidnapped many cities from old versions of the DC Universe or alternate universe variants. For the past year, they’ve all been held beneath domes, and the various superheroes under the domes have been deprived of their superpowers. Now the domes have been removed, everyone has their powers back, and the champions of each city must fight other champions, or their realities will be destroyed. And the first crop of books focuses on pre-Flashpoint characters, just before DC ruined everything with the Reboot.


Convergence: Batgirl #1

We start off with Stephanie Brown as Batgirl, Cassandra Cain as the Black Bat, and Tim Drake as Red Robin. Stephanie has been designated Gotham’s champion, despite the fact that she hasn’t worn her Batgirl costume in a year — Cassandra and Tim would be much more capable than Steph would. They start training her but are all soon dragged off into the desert where they’re attacked by the Catman and Gorilla Grodd from the Flashpoint universe.


Convergence: Superman #1

Superman has been without his powers for a year, but he’s been dressing up in a simple costume to fight crime Batman-style. Lois Lane has been assisting over a radio headset. Lois is also pregnant and due any day now. Once the dome is down and Supes has his powers back, he ends up tangling with Captain Thunder, Cyborg, and Abin Sur from Flashpoint, while the skinny teenaged Flashpoint Kal-El heads for Lois, believing her to be his Flashpoint benefactor.


Convergence: The Question #1

Renee Montoya is trying to help keep things under control in Gotham, running around without her mask. Harvey Dent is running around with half a beard, beating up thieves — and his two-headed coin is only flipping good side up lately. The Huntress doesn’t really approve, but she’s not going to get in the way. And Renee is still going out nightly as the Question — and meeting up with Harvey, too. He wants to kill himself, but he can’t do it as long as the coin keeps flipping on the good side. But when the dome comes down, he decides to find a Two-Face in another city who’ll finally kill him.


Convergence: Nightwing and Oracle #1

After the Flashpoint Hawkman and Hawkgirl kill off the Justice Riders‘ Earth, they get sent after our Gotham, where Oracle is giving Nightwing her cyber-assistance in crimefighting. Mr. Freeze has lost his edge from long imprisonment under the dome, and Nightwing is worried that he’s losing his edge, too. Dick Grayson asks Barbara Gordon to marry him, and she turns him down, just before the Hawks make their appearance and offer a bargain — if Barbara surrenders the city, the Hawks will take a dive — Gotham will live, the Hawks’ home will be destroyed, and the Hawks will take over Gotham. Nightwing plans to fight them, but Oracle has her own way to make war.


Convergence: Speed Force #1

Wally West has been stuck powerless in Gotham with the rest of the Justice League, along with his children Iris and Jai. When the dome comes down and his powers return, he takes a high-speed tour of the other kidnapped cities. He gets to watch the Justice Riders’ home get atomized, then visits a bunch of other worlds, eventually picking up a new superspeed friend, Fastback, from the Zoo Crew! But they’ll all have to deal with the murderous Flashpoint Wonder Woman next.

Verdicts: Well, now, let’s add all this up.

First, I really hate the “We have to murder all these people to save our planet” plotline. It’s lazy. It’s not something that any legitimate superheroes would do, because it’s exactly the kind of scam that comic book superheroes prefer to find a way around, usually by beating up Brainiac instead of each other. And it’s short-sighted — is there any good reason to wipe out characters as awesome and fun as the Justice Riders? Only if you’re Dan DiDio, Geoff Johns, and Jim Lee, and you can’t stop thinking like a ’90s Image comic.

I liked getting to see Stephanie, Cassandra, and Tim again, but large chunks of the story bugged me bad. Steph had finally become an excellent superhero at the end of her series — now she’s struggling to do anything right, which is a severe backslide. We also don’t get to see her mother at all, and she was a great character. And I felt Cassandra and Tim were also a bit mis-handled.

Having said that, there are lots of good things here. Revisiting the pre-Reboot non-sucky DCU is a very good thing. Tom Grummett drawing the Flash and his kids is a good thing. Gail Simone writing Oracle is a good thing. Greg Rucka and Cully Hamner working on the Question again is a very good thing. Guest appearances from Two-Face, Starfire, Helena Bertinelli, and Fastback are all good things, too.

Altogether, I’ll give these a tentative thumbs up. I reserve the right to switch that to a thumbs down if DiDio is just going to kill everyone off but Flashpoint and the Reboot just to laugh at everyone’s tears.

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Friday Night Fights: Spy Smashing!

Holy abalone, kids, it’s a three-day weekend! You don’t know how bad I’ve been needing this, especially the way the last few months have gone. So heck, let’s jump right into our weekend with some… FRIDAY NIGHT FIGHTS!

Tonight’s battle comes to us from September 2007’s Birds of Prey #108 by Gail Simone, Nicola Scott, and Doug Hazlewood. (from one of the BoP collections that DC has inexplicably allowed to go out of print, which means I’ll probably never get a chance to read the full storyline. Why, no, I’m not particularly happy about that at all.)

The modern version of Spy Smasher, one of Babs Gordon’s rivals from college, has been trying to take control of the Birds away from Oracle and reckons she now has Barbara right where she wants her. Babs doesn’t have her operatives, she doesn’t have her computers, she doesn’t have her Eskrima sticks, she doesn’t even have her wheelchair. But none of that matters, because Barbara Gordon is one of the DCU’s foremost badasses.







There we go, people, if that chunk of righteous pain-bringin’ skull-thumpery can’t get you through a nice three-day weekend, you got problems that not even comic books can solve.

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The End of Oracle

The latest news on the DC Reboot is that the new Batgirl is going to be — not Stephanie Brown, not Cassandra Cain — but Barbara Gordon, the first Batgirl, who has spent the past 20+ years as the wheelchair-bound super-hacker Oracle.

I can’t say I’m happy with this. I liked Barbara Gordon more as Oracle than I ever did as Batgirl. I thought she was a stronger character as Oracle. Barbara Gordon as Batgirl was just another Bat-character, as stuck in the Silver Age as Barry Allen ever was. Barbara Gordon as Oracle was a paralyzed former acrobat who overcame adversity to become a greater crimefighter than she ever had before. Could she have done that as Batgirl? I don’t think so — without her handicap, she never would’ve been written as anything but a former sidekick.

In fact, this feels to me like we’re actually losing a lot of what made Barbara Gordon important as a character. Can you see Babs-as-Batgirl serving as the Justice League’s secret information broker? Can you see Babs-as-Batgirl founding and leading the Birds of Prey? I can’t. It doesn’t make any sense.

By the same token, can you imagine Babs-as-Oracle swinging through Gotham’s night sky? Well, no, but can you imagine her kicking ass against non-paralyzed opponents? We didn’t have to imagine it — it happened pretty often in “Birds of Prey.” She even made a decent stand against Prometheus, the anti-Batman, in an issue of Grant Morrison’s “JLA.”

Bringing Babs-as-Batgirl back means we’re losing Babs-as-Oracle forever. But we’re also going to lose any possibility of Cassandra Cain as Batgirl or Stephanie Brown as Batgirl. Heck, Babs-as-Batgirl essentially holds the exact same niche as Steph-as-Batgirl — chipper, upbeat, fun crimefighter. Heck, I wouldn’t be surprised if Steph Brown gets killed off again six months to a year after the reboot, just to make sure people stop comparing the two characters. And we won’t see Barbara returning to her role as Oracle — that would probably require re-paralyzing her, and I doubt even DC is cruel enough to do that a second time.

There was this picture that showed up earlier today on the DeviantArt website by Jamie Noguchi — it was linked in an article on ComicsAlliance. It’s generally been portrayed as a happy picture, showing Babs in her moment of triumph, finally escaping the wheelchair to return as Batgirl. Here ’tis:

It doesn’t look happy to me. I keep focusing on the wheelchair and on the invisible character — the adult woman, serious-minded, smart as a whip, capable of running the Birds of Prey, organizing the JLA, keeping every superhero on the planet connected to each other, still able to whup the tar out of bad guys — who is now going to fade away and be forgotten in favor of the jaunty, optimistic, acrobatic schoolgirl. It doesn’t look like a triumph to me. It looks like the final tragedy in Oracle’s life.

More thoughts on this subject from Andy Khouri and especially Jill Pantozzi, who brings an important perspective to all this.

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