DC Comics has been putting out consistently good original graphic novels under their DC Ink imprint. They’ve hired top-name YA talent, like Lauren Myracle (Catwoman), Mariko Tamaki (Harley Quinn), Kami Garcia (Raven), Danielle Paige (Mera) and Marie Lu (Batman) to tell a more human story for each of these super-teens. When I received copies of Louise Simonson’s upcoming graphic adaptation of Leigh Bardugo’s Warbringer and Sarah Kuhn’s Shadow of the Batgirl, I squealed.
Before she was Wonder Woman, she was Diana, daughter of Hippolyta and the only inhabitant of Themiscyra to have been created, molded, given life at the behest of her mother and granted by the gods. This vision of Themyscira is more like a Valhalla for fallen female warriors: the way in is to die in battle. Because Diana’s existence differs from other residents of the island, she constantly feels she must prove herself to her Amazon sisters. The chance comes during a race – which she becomes diverted from when she sees a sinking ship and one survivor flailing in the water. The ship, from the world of Man, should not be there, but Diana can’t stand to let anyone die. She rescues a young woman named Alia Keralis, hiding her away until she can figure out what to do. But Themyscira reacts to Alia’s presence, and after consulting with the Oracle, Diana learns that Alia is a Warbringer – a descendant of Helen of Troy, and doomed to bring war, bloodshed, and misery wherever she goes – decides to bring Alia back to her world. When Diana and Alia arrive in modern-day New York, they find themselves in the middle of a struggle between factions who want the Warbringer for themselves, whether to end her line or possess her power.
Louise Simonson is a comic book legend, with Marvel and DC titles to her credit. Here, she masterfully adapts Leigh Bardugo’s novel to graphic format, focusing on Diana’s relationships: with the Amazons, with her mother, with Alia; each one fraught with tension. Diana learns to navigate these relationships while unraveling an ancient mystery in order to save the world. Literally. Kit Seaton’s artwork gives us mythic monsters, urban living, and sprawling Themyscira. There are moments where Diana’s innocence about the modern world of Man is played for laughs, like when she goes back at a guy making comments on the subway. Alia and her brother are biracial; Alia’s best friend, Nim, is Southeast Asian and bisexual.
Like the other DC Ink books, this one is a good add to your YA original graphic novels.
Cassandra Cain, teen assassin, is on the streets hunting her latest prey. But the dying pleas with Cain to relay a message to his daughter strikes a chord, and she goes on the run, hiding out in… a library! She sits in on a Batgirl storytime talk, delivered by my favorite comic book librarian, a wheelchair-bound Barbara Gordon, and finds herself enamored with Batgirl. Never taught to speak by her father, crime lord David Cain, she finds refuge with a local restaurant owner, Jackie Yoneyama, and eventually, Barbara Gordon herself. As Cassandra begins opening up to the two women, she also learns to speak, read, and write, and discovers that her father is wreaking havoc in Gotham City in his quest to gain control over the world’s assassins. It’s time for someone new to assume the Batgirl mantle, and Barbara knows the Cassandra has what it takes.
I am psyched that we get a Batgirl story that stars two different Batgirls! Barbara Gordon is more of an mentor/guiding force here; readers familiar with Batgirl’s history will know she’s in a wheelchair after the events of The Killing Joke. If you don’t know, it’s fine; it has no bearing on this story. Barbara has to pass on the cape and cowl, and Cassandra – an Asian-American girl who knows how to fight, and has a strong inner morality that steers her away from her cruel father. Sarah Kuhn can write great comic moments, and there a few in here, to lighten the storyline. The artwork is more colorful than I’ve seen in other DC Ink books, which tend toward two-color, with extra color for emphasis; here, we get some warm oranges when Cassandra is in the presence of Barbara and Jackie; colors tend toward cooler blues and purples when she’s struggling with her thoughts or shades of rose for other character’s memories. I loved Shadow of the Batgirl. Sarah Kuhn knows how to give readers a great superheroine origin.