Batgirl: Volume 1 Batgirl of Burnside by Cameron Stewart and Brenden Fletcher

batgirlIn 2011, DC relaunched their comic lines as the “New 52” after the “Flashpoint incident” when the Flash went back in time to try to alter the events of the present. This changed the storylines of other DC characters, resulting in DC discontinuing some titles, starting new ones, starting the old series over at #1, but also keeping the continuity of some of the more popular series. All in all, DC debuted 52 new titles, hence the name: the “New 52”. (A lot of other things have changed with DC since the New 52 was released, but that’s for another day and another blog post..)

Batgirl was one of these reboots. Before the Flashpoint event, Barbara Gordon, the original Batgirl, had been shot and paralyzed by the Joker as revenge against Batman. She goes on to be the Oracle, becoming the information access queen for the entire DC superhero community, and further joins forces with the Huntress and Dinah to become the Birds of Prey. The important thing to remember about pre-New 52 Batgirl is that she remains paralyzed.

In Batgirl: Volume 1: Batgirl of Burnside, Barbara is no longer paralyzed. She has moved to Burnside, considered the trendiest neighborhood in Gotham City, to go to college and work on the algorithm she designed after she was horribly injured. Right after she moves in, her friend Dinah, aka the Black Canary, comes and lives with her after a fire destroys all of her belongings, PLUS all of Barbara’s Batgirl gear. This gives Barbara the opportunity to reinvent her costume, but also forces her to get creative to find new weapons sources.

What really hooked me into this graphic novel is that the content and the art style are made to hook into a newer generation. Barbara lives in the hip neighborhood, is going to college, has friends that are working with new computer tech, and is able to attend a wide variety of new concerts and events. Barbara and her friends are all over social media and the majority of the characters in this book are either all in college or in that young up-start community. With hashtags galore and an imposter Batgirl popping up all over various social media platforms, Barbara is forced to “re-brand” the Batgirl image in order to prove that Batgirl is not a nuisance, while also struggling to figure out where the lines are between what she should do as a super hero and what she should let the police handle. Barbara clearly struggles with a lot of the issues that young adults face when they are going away to college and the fact that she is a superhero doesn’t detract from her problems, it instead adds a necessary level of perspective and understanding that people of all ages can benefit from.

Black Widow: Volume 2: The Tightly Tangled Web by Nathan Edmondson

the tightly tangled webIf I sounded impressed with my review of the first volume of Nathan Edmondson’s Black Widow a few weeks ago, then I can firmly tell you that his second volume, Black Widow: The Tightly Tangled Web intrigued me even more. This volume shows you that Black Widow is indeed a human capable of feelings. (If that statement made you roll your eyes, let me explain.) In the first volume, and really throughout any of the Avengers movies, the Black Widow, aka Natasha, is shown as a cold,  yet ruthless, killing machine, one who will do whatever it takes to complete her mission, an M.O. that makes perfect sense since she used to be a KGB assassin. Edmondson expands upon Natasha’s past in this second volume, allowing readers a glimpse behind the dark curtain that hides Natasha’s true self.

Black Widow: The Tightly Tangled Web tackles the bigger idea of superheroes as a whole. In both volumes, readers see Natasha as part of the Avengers and SHIELD, going on missions for them, but also going on side jobs in order to atone for her past life as a KGB assassin. Once the Black Widow is seemingly outed through media footage splashed all over the news, other superheroes, SHIELD operatives, and the regular public are forced to question the idea of superheroes operating outside the reach of the law.

Another ongoing thread in this second volume focuses on the people who come and go in Natasha’s life. In San Francisco, Natasha runs into her ex Matt Murdock, also known as Daredevil, while hunting for cyber terrorists. On what she thinks is a simple mission in Prague, Natasha finds herself face to face with the Winter Soldier, who unbeknownst to her is there to stop the train from being robbed. Later, she runs into the Punisher, aka Frank Castle, a former Marine turned vigilante, while searching for information about a deadly criminal network that seems to be running communications off of the boat she is searching.

Add in a run-in with Hawkeye and this second volume reads less like a stand-alone Black Widow volume and more like a combination superhero graphic novel, which I found to be equally disappointing and riveting. I did enjoy the interactions she had with each person because it added an extra layer of depth to Natasha as a human being and highlighted important aspects of her past and her personality that would have been missed if readers were only privy to the conversations between her and her attorney, Isaiah. (Isaiah seems to be her closest friend and confidante and the doozy of a mess that Natasha finds herself in in this second volume comes back to harm Isaiah.) I just wish this volume had been more of a focus on Black Widow, more of a true stand-alone comic. I personally can’t wait for Edmondson’s new issues of Black Widow because it sounds like they will show more about her background.

Black Widow: Volume 1: The Finely Woven Thread by Nathan Edmondson

bw finely woven threadWhen I watch any of the Avengers movies or really any movie about a superhero, I get really excited because it gives me more of a chance to understand each of their backstories. Sadly, one of the Avengers doesn’t have her own movie and it’s the one that I have the most questions about: the Black Widow. I’ve had to exhaust other sources to learn more about this infamous former KGB assassin and why she is on a mission to atone for her past sins.

My newest Black Widow source of information is Black Widow: The Finely Woven Thread by Nathan Edmonson. (This is currently part of a series, so stay tuned for my review of the second volume whenever I can get my hands on a copy!) In this first volume, readers are introduced to the mysterious Natasha, who is known to her friends and enemies alike as the Black Widow. When she’s not helping the Avengers or on missions as an agent of S.H.I.E.L.D., Natasha is working to make up for her past as a KGB assassin. She still utilizes the tools and tricks she learned as an assassin, but is now able to pick and choose the missions that she goes on. In this volume, she finds herself thrust up against the “Hand of God” on an undercover mission in Russia. With the mention of Chaos, she quickly finds herself entangled in a deadly plot that has wrapped its web across the globe. No one is safe from Chaos’ grasp, not her close friends or even her employers.

This first volume mainly introduces readers to the sorts of missions that Natasha goes on and the people that are closest to her. She’s still cold-hearted, but as you follow Natasha through her missions and through her interactions with the stray cat by her apartment, you realize that she is working to better herself the only way she knows how. It gives a little more depth to the character of the Black Widow that Scarlett Johansson plays in the Avengers movies. This volume gives you enough information about present day Natasha to understand how she operates and gives you very little information about her past, just enough to leave you curious and hopeful that the subsequent volumes will explore more about her past.

In Black Widow: The Finely Woven Thread, Edmondson has written an introduction into the Black Widow that allows for the truly artistic work of artist Phil Noto to shine. Throughout this graphic novel, Noto varies the colors used and the way he draws to highlight different scenes and the many different places where Natasha travels. The mysterious nature of Natasha as the Black Widow is elevated by the dark colors and stylized way of drawing the Noto employs. Edmondson’s words serve to add another layer of depth to Natasha’s character, since she’s primarily alone and spends a lot of time thinking out her next actions in her head.

 

The Avengers!

With the release of the new Avengers: Age of Ultron movie on May 1, requests for anything and everything superhero has gone up significantly from books to t-shirts to toys to costumes. If you’re interested in anything Avengers or superhero related at the library, let this blog be your guide.

For those unfamiliar with what superheroes are a part of Marvel’s Avengers, the big names in the movies are Captain America, the Hulk, Thor, Iron Man, Black Widow, and Hawkeye. More Avenger superheroes are listed in the comics, but as far as the movies are concerned, those six are the key characters.

avengersAvengers: Age of Ultron is the sequel to Marvel’s The Avengers, which came out in 2012. In this movie, Director Nick Fury, the head of S.H.I.E.L.D., the Strategic Homeland Intervention, Enforcement and Logistics Division, has gathered together and initiated multiple super heroes as part of the Avengers Initiative.  The Avengers are tasked with working together to stop Loki, who happens to be Thor’s brother, from harnessing the full power of the tesseract, a magical object of unimaginable and hard-to-contain power that has the ability to destroy the Earth. All of the Avengers must stop Loki and his alien forces from destroying the Earth and enslaving humanity to do his bidding.

Avengers: Age of Ultron, which is still in theaters, draws upon events from the previous Avengers movie to bring together the Avengers one more time to fight against Ultron, a robot part of Tony Stark’s new peacekeeping program, that ultimately rebels and takes his job as a peacekeeper too far, leading him to believe that the best way to keep the peace is to exterminate all of humanity.

If the Marvel Avengers movies have you curious about other Avenger or superhero books, the library has many items available for you to check out. Here are just a smattering of the Avenger materials available for checkout. Click on the covers for more information and to put them on hold!

For more superhero or Avenger comics, books, movies, or videogames, check out the library catalog and search for anything you can think of. As always, feel free to call the library and we will be happy to find whatever you are looking for.

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avengers guide

 

The Secret History of Wonder Woman by Jill Lepore

secret history of wonder womanA riveting work of historical detection revealing that the origin of one of the world’s most iconic superheroes hides within it a fascinating family story – and a crucial history of twentieth-century feminism.

Wonder Woman, created in 1941, is the most popular female superhero of all time. Aside from Superman and Batman, no superhero has lasted as long or commanded so vast and wildly passionate a following. Like every other superhero, Wonder Woman has a secret identity. Unlike every other superhero, she has also has a secret history. Harvard historian and New Yorker staff writer Jill Lepore has uncovered an astonishing trove of documents, including the never-before-seen private papers of William Moulton Marston, Wonder Woman’s creator. Beginning in his undergraduate years at Harvard, Marston was influenced by early suffragists and feminists, starting with Emmeline Pankhurst, who was banned from speaking on campus in 1911, when Marston was a freshman. In the 1920s, Marston and his wife, Sadie Elizabeth Holloway, brought into their home Olive Byrne, the niece of Margaret Sanger, one of the most influential feminists of the twentieth century. The Marston family story is a tale of drama, intrigue, and irony. In the 1930s, Marston and Byrne wrote a regular column for Family Circle celebrating conventional family life, even as they themselves pursued lives of extraordinary nonconformity. Marston, internationally known as an expert on truth – he invented the lie detector test – lived a life of secrets, only to spill them on the pages of Wonder Woman.

The Secret History of Wonder Woman is a tour de force of intellectual and cultural history. Wonder Woman, Lepore argues, is the missing link in the history of the struggle for women’s rights – a chain of events that begins with the women’s suffrage campaigns of the early 1900s and ends with the troubled place of feminism a century later. (description from publisher)

Hark! A Vagrant by Kate Beaton

Webcomics collected for the printed page rarely hang together as cohesive singular works, and this book is no exception. They also rarely deliver a consistent laughs-per-page number or manage to be as fresh on page 50 as they are on page 1; and for these, Hark! A Vagrant is indeed an exception. Kate Beaton’s comic is very funny and accessible; she pokes fun at various literary and historical figures (both infamous and obscure), in addition to hipsters and teenagers and even superheroes. If you like smarmy, witty, smart comedy and drawings that range from the moody and surreal to the supremely cute, this book is a great choice!

Since the humor is hard to describe, just check out this comic. If you like humor about 200 year old inventors or have a soft spot for Tesla…

Source: http://harkavagrant.com/index.php?id=256

For more awesome, check out Kate Beaton’s comics at their original home: harkavagrant.com.

I’m Dying Up Here by William Knoedelseder

Died, killed, slayed…these comedy concepts are many and nebulous.  They do not detract, however, from the chronicling in I’m Dying up Here: Heartbreak and High Times in Stand-Up Comedy’s Golden Era by William Knoedelseder.  We get late 70’s snapshots in time of the rise (some meteoric, some not) of fresh-faced twentysomethings from all over the country dead-set on staking their claim in the stand-up comedy gold rush.

We meet a big-chinned pipe-wielding kid out of Boston College named Jay Leno and a young Indiana ex-weatherman Dave Letterman (turns out management didn’t like his wisecracks during weathercasts).  Three decades ago they were friends, galvanized through the common cause of working pro-bono for comedy tastemaker Mitzi Shore in her Hollywood clubs.  Some of these bell-bottomed quipsters achieved the ultimate goal of sharing a two-shot with Johnny Carson.  Some experienced the kind of bohemian poverty that would shock a college student on Ramen noodles.  Still others among these clowns exhibited the kind of offstage sadness that got them into rehab clinics and cemeteries.

This work tells the kind of unflattering after-closing stories that keep the pages turning.  I wish there were more photos.