Swamp Thing: Twin Branches by Maggie Stiefvater, Illustrated by Morgan Beem (ARC Review)

Swamp Thing: Twin Branches by Maggie Stiefavater Cover

Information

Goodreads: Swamp Thing: Twin Branches
Series: None
Source: ARC from Edelweiss
Published: October 13, 2020

Official Summary

#1 New York Times bestselling author Maggie Stiefvater (the Raven Cycle series) and artist Morgan Beem unearth the primal power of memory and how it twists the bond between two brothers.

Twins Alec and Walker Holland have a reputation around town. One is quiet and the other is the life of any party, but the two are inseparable. For their last summer before college, Alec and Walker leave the city to live with their rural cousins, where they find that the swamp holds far darker depths than they could have imagined.

While Walker carves their names into the new social scene, Alec recedes into a summer-school laboratory, slowly losing himself to a deep, dark experiment. This season, both brothers must confront truths, ancient and familial, and as their lives diverge, tensions increase and dormant memories claw to the surface.

Swamp Thing: Twin Branches is a story of shadows, both literal and imagined—and those that take form and haunt us.

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Review

I fell in love with Maggie Stiefvater’s writing while listening to the Raven Cycle series on audiobook. Stiefvater’s work impressed me as highly original and intelligent, with a special talent for creating realistic teen characters. So when I saw she was writing a YA graphic novel for DC Comics, which has lately been releasing a stellar lineup of middle grade and teen titles, I knew I had to read it. Her choice of Swamp Thing, whom I have to admit I had never even heard of, was intriguing. But the darkness of the tale seemed a perfect fit. While Swamp Thing: Twin Branches does have weaknesses, ultimately I believe that fans of Stiefvater will not be wholly disappointed. The book showcases Stiefvater’s signature writing style and characterization, delving into the secret lives of plants and linking them to her protagonist, a troubled teen who finds it easier to interact with plants than people.

Swamp Thing: Twin Branches immediately drew me into its world as twins Alec and Walker Holland move to the countryside to spend the summer with their cousins. Rural life is vividly depicted, with Alec feeling appalled that his cousins spend their days driving around town beating mailboxes with baseball bats and going to raving parties, and Walker doing his best to embrace the social scene. Their relationship lies at the heart of the story, with both twins trying to bridge the differences between them–Alec, more interested in his biology experiments than in making friends, and Walker, trying to carve a space for himself in their new life—but finding it increasingly impossible. I loved both twins at once, and longed for them to reclaim the close bond they clearly once shared.

Characterization is one of Stiefvater’s specialties, and she makes her characters come alive as much as possible with the limited space she has. Admittedly, however, the story seems too short to do all the characters justice. Alec and Walker are clearly defined, but their cousins receive scant attention, making them seem more like a plot device than anything else. And Alec’s love interest receives only a cursory backstory, making her attraction to Alec and their subsequent romance seem a little too quick and forced. The outlines of what the characters could be are all there, but they are never fully fleshed out. And readers may see this as a weakness in Stiefvater’s first foray into the graphic novel format.

Where Stiefvater does shine, however, is in her signature prose, which manages to be truly evocative, without falling into the pitfall of being over-the-top. Her emphasis in Swamp Thing: Twin Branches is on the intelligence of plants, which can sense danger, seek out scarce resources, and even communicate with each other. Her research into the topic and her fascination is clearly evident, and she manages to insert educational facts about plants into the narrative and actually make them seem necessary and beautiful. Readers begin to understand why Alec is so obsessed with biology–there is something mesmerizing about their mystery.

Unfortunately, however, Swamp Thing: Twin Branches seems just a little too short to be the five star read I was expecting. The characterization feels incomplete, but so does the ending, which is too sudden to evoke more emotions than a sense of confusion and disappointment. Stiefavater was evidently going for an origin story, but such a story needs to go beyond the first transformation. Imagine if Peter Parker’s tale ended with him being bitten by a spider–no villain to fight, no adjustments to be made as he comes to term with his new powers, no…anything. Swamp Thing: Twin Branches is basically that–an origin story that stops immediately after Alec realizes what he can do. It feels like half a story–and I think readers will be a little let down.

Still, despite its flaws, Swamp Thing: Twin Branches is well worth the read for fans of Maggie Stiefvater. She introduces readers to two lovable protagonists, creates an immersive world, and makes plant life seem absolutely fascinating as she links their quiet intelligence to the dark downward spiral Alec Holland seems to be on. The book is not a perfect graphic novel, but it is a mighty first attempt. And I would love to read more by Stiefvater should she choose to continue the story with a sequel.

3 Stars

Supergirl: Being Super by Mariko Tamaki, Joelle Jones

Supergirl: Being Super Cover

Information

Goodreads: Supergirl: Being Super
Series: None
Source: Library
Published: 2020 re-release

Summary

Sixteen-year-old Kara Danvers has pretty great parents and great friends. She should be happy. But she also possesses powers she cannot explain–and now they seem to be going rogue. Then an earthquake strikes her small town. Will Kara embrace who she truly is? Or will she continue to hide away from the world?

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Review

Supergirl: Being Super is a phenomenal introduction to the Girl of Steel. Kara Danvers has wonderful adoptive parents and two great best friends, but she is still troubled at night by her strange dreams and how she cannot remember her past. Worse, her alien powers seem to be malfunctioning, but she is afraid to talk about it to her parents, because they fear what would happen if their small town found out Kara is different. Supergirl: Being Super introduces readers to a teenage girl who has not yet decided to become a superhero, but whose story of self-discovery is as gripping as it feels relevant. Readers will fall in love Kara, and cheer her on as she decides what she wants out of life.

Supergirl: Being Super is so wonderful in part because Kara feels so relatable. Even though she has super speed and super strength, she feels like the average teenager. She loves her parents, but does not want to admit it to them. She feels a little ironic about school. She is worried about her future and trying not to think too hard about things like impressing college scouts. Her weird fluctuating powers may be a big concern to her, but readers may feel Kara is not so different, after all. She really wants the same things most people do: a loving home, a certain future, a general sense of safety and stability.

This message of common longings is the subtle heart of the story. Mariko Tamaki never says it explicitly, but Supergirl: Being Super is about who embraces or does not embrace the stranger, the refugee, the person who is different. Some of Kara’s relatives love her unconditionally, but others do not. And there are some who believe that Kara does not deserve protection or dignity simply because she is not from Earth. Kara herself grapples with these issues, sometimes fearing to reveal her true self in case of rejection, but also sometimes clearly fearing that she might, after all, not really belong. Her story is about reminding others that she is worthy, but also about reminding herself.

I fell in love with Kara from the start. Though she doubts herself, she possesses bravery and a true heart. Even if she never decided to be a superhero, she would have been enough. I think most readers will fall in love with Kara, too. So if you were wondering where to start with Supergirl, or even if the Supergirl comics were for you, Supergirl: Being Super might just be the book you were waiting for. The book that will show you we all need a little bit of Supergirl and her love in our lives.

4 stars

Why I Love DC’s New Middle Grade and YA Graphic Novels

In early 2019, DC announced two new imprints that would focus on publishing middle grade and YA graphic novels, respectively: DC Zoom and DC Ink. New stories would be introduced in the lines and some reprints would be issued, as well. The stories would not take place in DC’s main continuity, but instead would focus on introducing readers to some of DC’s characters in teen or tween incarnations. Popular authors such as Shannon Hale, Gene Luen Yang, and Maggie Stiefvater would be writing.

Initially, I paid little attention to this new endeavor. I tend to be more of a Marvel fan, after all. Was I supposed to be excited about Swamp Thing? I don’t even know who that is. However, eventually I began picking up a title or two that seemed interesting. Now, I can’t seem to stop.

In every way, the new DC graphic novels seem calculated to succeed. They have proven the perfect entry point to the DC universe for readers like me–people who want to know more about their superheroes, but who have no background knowledge of them and do not know where to start. The stories are generally self-contained, so they are easy to pick up and start reading without feeling like you need to have read a couple decades’ worth of comics to get yourself oriented first. For the same reason, they are also low commitment: you don’t have to worry about committing yourself to twelve volumes for each of the five new superheroes you discovered and now love. And even when the books are not origin stories, they provide enough information for readers to understand the characters and the world.

The graphic novels have also managed to target a segment of the market that many other titles seem to be leaving out. The middle grade titles, for example, often fit neatly in that space between chapter books and upper middle grade, so they are targeting the fifth and sixth graders who are beyond Magic Tree House but not quite ready for something like Percy Jackson. And the YA titles–hurrah!–are actually often aimed at younger teens–the thirteen and fourteen-year-old readers who have largely been ignored by the YA market for years now. If you are looking for YA books written for teens and not for adults, DC is publishing them.

So far, I have enjoyed every title I have picked up from the DC Zoom and Ink imprints. Consequently, I was dismayed to learn that DC has discontinued the lines, but it looks like they are still committed to publishing graphic novels for middle grade and YA audiences–just with different labels. DC Kids will now mark books marketed towards readers 8-12 while DC books will focus on readers 13+. The DC Black Label will be for readers 17 and up. This is great news. Because, as long as DC keeps putting out this kind of quality content, I will keep reading.

Zatanna and the House of Secrets by Matthew Cody, Yoshi Yoshitani

Information

Goodreads: Zatanna and the House of Secrets
Series: None
Source: Library
Published: 2020

Summary

Zatanna lives with her father, a professional magician, in a house the neighborhood largely avoids. Still, her biggest worry is actually school. Her best friend seems to be growing up faster than she is and she’s tired of being teased by the school bullies. Then, one day, she returns home to find her house invaded by magical creatures. How did she never realize her house is actually the House of Secrets, full of magic many would dearly love to possess? Now it’s up to her to find her father and save the house.

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Review

Zatanna and the House of Secrets invited me to pick it up with its colorful and, dare I say, adorable artwork. The cartoony style, the soothing color palette, and the playful air Zatanna and her father possess all made me want to dive into what seemed like an exciting new middle grade graphic novel from DC Comics. Only later did I find out that Zatanna is actually a real sorcerer superhero in the DCU–complete with overly sexualized magician outfit. But no matter. In my heart, she will now always be a cute middle school student with her faithful rabbit sidekick Pocus.

The book drew me in from the start, introducing the delightful Zatanna and her equally delightful father–a magician who can make even breakfast amazing by making pancakes disappear! I loved their rapport and was excited to see where the story would take them. Clearly Zatanna was about to find out that maybe her father’s magic is real! Even though he did not appear in the story for long, it was easy to see how much he loves Zatanna and tries to care for her after her mother’s death.

The relationship between Zatanna and her father, unfortunately, ended up being one of the most developed in the book, her father’s disappearance notwithstanding. Her friend she gets teased about for having a crush on and her friend who seems to be growing up too fast are mere side notes, barely relevant to the plot or Zatanna’s character arc. The witch queen and her son who appear to threaten Zatanna and her house are also under-developed. Readers never know who the witch is or why specifically she wants the house’s magic. She’s really just a plot device, a reason for Zatanna to discover the house’s secrets.

Indeed, much of Zatanna’s world remains unexplained. How does magic work? Where is the witch queen from? What other magical creatures are out there? What’s up with Pocus? I love fantasy worlds that are highly developed, explaining the rules of magic–at least to some degree–and making it feel as if the world could be real. However, Zatanna’s world is merely a backdrop, a reason for her to have fun adventures. It does not feel like a world with real rules that someone thought out.

I enjoyed Zatanna and the House of Secrets and I would probably pick up a sequel if one ever appeared. However, I admit it is not my favorite in the DC line, largely because the worldbuilding simply is not there. I loved Zatanna and her dad, and I loved the artwork. But this just isn’t a memorable story that I can see myself recommending to others or rereading.

3 Stars

Wonder Woman: Tempest Tossed by Laurie Halse Anderson, Leila del Duca

Wonder Woman: Tempest Tossed

Information

Goodreads: Wonder Woman: Tempest Tossed
Series: None
Source: Library
Published: June 2020

Summary

Princess Diana is excited to be accepted into the Amazon tribe on her 16th birthday–she hopes that the weird changes she has been experiencing will disappear, and the others will recognize her strength. But then a group of refugees make it through the weakened Themysciran barrier. The Amazons want to leave them to their fate, but Diana believes that it is their duty to help those in need. But when she leaves the island, it disappears behind her. Now a refugee herself, Diana has to try to figure out what it means to be home.

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Review

Laurie Halse Anderson’s Wonder Woman: Tempest Tossed continues the noble tradition of superhero stories engaging with real-life social justice issues. In one slender volume, Anderson manages to address war and refugees, child trafficking, child hunger, gentrification, homelessness, immigration, and teen activism. It’s a lot to pack into one story, but it is valuable for readers to see the world through Diana’s eyes. Themyscira may be a paradise, but our world is not. And Diana shows that it is up to each individual to stand up and make a difference.

I grew up watching the Wonder Woman TV show with Lynda Carter, so Wonder Woman holds a special place in my heart. I admired that she did not seek to meet violence with violence, but, rather, routinely saved the day through truth and love. She does, of course, fight when necessary, but she is an inspirational superhero to me because her superior strength and speed are not really what helps her uphold justice. They are, rather, supplemental to what makes her heroic: her belief in the goodness of humanity and her willingness to help humanity to live up to that ideal. Anderson’s Wonder Woman, though just starting out on her superhero journey, continues to look upon humanity as what they could be, rather than as what they are–and I loved that about her.

Also important to me is that Anderson’s Wonder Woman fights evil as part of team of strong women. To end injustice, we all must work together, and Anderson’s story illustrates that we are more effective when we do. Wonder Woman may have the physical strength and the bullet-proof bracelets, but she succeeds because she is surrounded by people who care–about her and about the causes she champions. It would be easy for Diana to dismiss the humans around, to imagine that they can never measure up to the power of the Amazons. But Diana chooses, instead, to see that she can learn from them–from their empathy, their concern, and their passion. We all have our strengths and we all have a role to play. And Diana, time and again, chooses to appreciate the inner beauty of everyone she meets.

To say that Wonder Woman: Tempest Tossed is important and inspirational feels a little like an understatement. Anderson has given readers a perfect superhero for this moment–one who will not turn a blind eye to injustice, who is willing to suffer to do what is right, who is dedicated to forming a team of people who care as actively as she does. Just thinking about it makes me a little teary-eyed. And I really hope that this is just the start of Diana’s new adventures.

5 stars

Anti/Hero by Kate Karyus Quinn, Demitria Lunetta, Maca Gill

Antihero DC Comics

Information

Goodreads: Anti/Hero
Series: None
Source: Library
Published: April 2020

Summary

Piper is a thirteen-year-old with super strength trying to become a hero. Sloane is her classmate, doing odd jobs for a supervillain known as the Bear, so he won’t hurt her mom. When the two collide during a robbery, their bodies are switched by a powerful scientific device. Now, they have to work together to fix the device and keep it away from the Bear–all while trying to pretend to be each other. An original middle-grade graphic novel from DC Comics.

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Review

Anti/Hero introduces readers to two characters new to the DC universe: Piper Pájaro, a young teen hoping to become a superhero, and her classmate Sloane MacBrute, a teen genius reluctantly on her way to becoming a supervillain. When they switch bodies courtesy of a scientific device, the two learn that they may not be as different as they thought. Anti/Hero is the perfect tween superhero story–by turns funny, thoughtful, and heartwarming. This one is sure to make you feel all the emotions.

I fell in love with both Piper and Sloane from the start. Even though they perceive themselves to be very different from one another–Piper is athletic, has a stable home life in a nice house, and is struggling in school, while Sloane is a genius who lives with her mom in the poorer part of town and struggles with gym class–it is evident they both share the same heart. Both want to do the right thing and protect others: Piper by becoming the superhero known as the Hummingbird and Sloane by doing odd jobs for a supervillain so he won’t hurt her mom. Their teaming up seems like a matter of destiny.

And what a team they make! I loved the girl power in Anti/Hero, with Piper learning to appreciate Sloane’s habit of slowing down to think a problem through all the way, and Sloane discovering that being strong does not mean someone cannot also be smart. They acknowledge each other’s strengths, work through each other’s weaknesses, and support each other through everything that comes their way–school, superheroing, and even family life. Their friendship is definitely the stuff of life goals.

The art style beautifully adds to the story. It has a sort of cute and fun feeling that will appeal to the tween crowd, while being just edgy enough for a superhero story. This is really the story of superheroes just setting out, and it manages to capture the innocence and excitement of that without downplaying the drama. I think fans new to DC comics will really like this one and that the characters, combined with the art, will do much to create new comic book fans.

Anti/Hero is really the perfect superhero book for middle schoolers. It deals with important issues without ever getting too dark and, perhaps more importantly, never feels too childish. Middle school readers looking to get into superhero comics can start here and feel entirely welcome.

4 stars

Superman Smashes the Klan by Gene Luen Yang, Gurihiru

Superman Smashes the Klan by Gene Luen Yang

Information

Goodreads: Superman Smashes the Klan
Series: Collects issues #1-3
Source: Library
Published: May 12, 2020

Summary

When their father gets a new job, Tommy and Roberta Lee move out of Chinatown into Metropolis. Tommy is excited to live in the same city as his hero, Superman, but Roberta struggles to fit in. Then the Klan of the Fiery Cross starts targeting the Lee family. Can Tommy and Roberta help Superman stop the Klan from hurting more people?

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Review

Superman Smashes the Klan is Gene Luen Yang’s take on a 1940s radio serial that featured Superman defending a Chinese-American family against the brutalities of white supremacists. Decades later, in the midst of a pandemic that has seen an increase of racist attacks against Asian Americans, the message remains timely. Readers will be inspired to see two Chinese-American protagonists leading the fight for acceptance and equality, along with their hero Superman–who, as it turns out, may also need a little encouragement from his new friends. Gene Luen Yang delivers another unforgettable story with Superman Smashes the Klan.

Superman Smashes the Klan is the perfect entry story for readers who have little to no knowledge of Superman–and it is especially perfect for younger readers. The two protagonists are, of course, children: Tommy and Roberta Lee. But Superman, even though an established hero, is still learning about himself and his powers. The stories of the Lees and Superman intertwine as the Lees struggle to find acceptance in their new home, but so does Superman. Because, as it turns out, Superman is an outsider, too–an immigrant from another planet! Superman Smashes the Klan is thus sort of an origin story, with Superman learning more about his past and more about what he is able to do. Readers do not need to possess any prior knowledge about Superman to enjoy this story.

Genen Luen Yang is a phenomenal writer and that shows here, not only in how the stories intertwine, but also in the characterizations of our heroes. At first, it seems like Tommy Lee might be the main protagonist. He is utterly charming and able to make friends and fit in with just about anyone. His sister, meanwhile, gets anxious easily, has trouble making friends, and never feels like she really belongs. Roberta, however, ends up as the real hero of the story, saving her brother when he is kidnapped and finding her voice with the help of her role model/mentor Lois Lane. Most importantly, however, Roberta is able to use her experiences to connect with Superman and teach him something about himself. She is a far cry from the “unnamed” sister of the original radio serial!

Superman Smashes the Klan is just as amazing a story as one would expect from the pen of Gene Luen Yang. It teaches a pertinent message, but without ever feeling preachy. Rather, it relies on its incredible storytelling and its lovable characters to make its point. The brilliant illustrations by Gurihiru make the book complete. You don’t have to be a Superman fan to enjoy Superman Smashes the Klan. You only have to love a good story.

5 stars

The Oracle Code by Marieke Nijkamp, Manuel Preitano

Information

Goodreads: The Oracle Code
Series: None
Source: Library
Published: March 2020

Summary

Paralyzed by a gunshot, Barbara Gordon is now living at the Arkham Center for Independence. They promise they can help, but Barbara is sure she will never feel whole again. Then she begins to suspect that not everything about the institution is quite right. Barbara is drawn by the mystery, but also hesitant to return to her old habit of solving puzzles. But, when a friend needs her, Barbara knows she has to uncover the truth about the center.

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Review

The Oracle Code is a new introduction to Barbara Gordon, with her time as Batgirl either removed or simply left unspoken. Teenage Babs is an aspiring hacker whose life takes an unexpected turn when she is paralyzed by a gunshot. Now recovering in the Arkham Center for Independence, Barbara has to decide if she is willing or able to return her former hobbies of puzzle solving and code breaking. She believes she has left that all behind. But, when a friend disappears from the Center, Barbara will rely on her old skills if she wants to solve the mystery.

Intriguingly, superheroes are not really a part of The Oracle Code, which focuses instead on Barbara’s character development and her puzzle solving skills–skills anyone could theoretically acquire. Batgirl is not mentioned, but neither is Batman. And Barbara never calls herself Oracle. Right now, in this moment, she is simply a teenager trying to figure out who she is. And I think that plot line will resonate with readers.

The story is fairly dark, which seems in keeping with what I know of Batman’s world. Barbara is now a resident in a creepy institution, where a nightly visitor spins her tales of children lost or stolen. All too soon, the stories become real. The illustrations match the tone of the story, making it feel even more suspenseful.

The Oracle Code stands alone as a story about Barbara Gordon–readers do not need to be familiar with Batgirl or Batman to enjoy it. I appreciated this immensely, as someone new to DC comics. I ultimately found that The Oracle Code is a wonderfully gripping tale, one that makes me want to learn more about Barbara.

4 stars

Batman: Overdrive by Shea Fontana, Marcelo Di Chiara (Illustrator)

Batman Overdrive

Information

Goodreads: Batman: Overdrive
Series: None
Source: Library
Publication Date: March 2020

Summary

Bruce Wayne will shortly turn sixteen. All he can think about is restoring his dad’s old car and finding out who murdered his parents. His friends worry he is living in the past. But Bruce is desperate to blame anyone for that night–anyone but himself.

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Review

My reading preferences tend to lean more towards Marvel than DC, but I have recently attempted to get into the DC world by reading some of their newest releases, graphic novels aimed at the YA and middle grade audiences. The journey so far has been somewhat uninspiring. I enjoyed Sarah Kuhn’s Shadow of the Batgirl, but had more mixed feelings about other reads. The difficulty is that, while I am broadly familiar with DC characters, I am not well versed enough in their histories to feel like I can appreciate all of the recent releases–not without more background information.

Batman: Overdrive neatly solves this problem, however. While it does feature an array of characters from the Batman comics, it also works as an origin story, an introduction to Batman and what makes him tick. I appreciated the ability to jump into a story without feeling lost, as well as the emphasis on character development. The story explores Bruce’s reaction to his parents’ deaths, and his desire to do something to feel connected to them and make them proud, while showing the creation of the Batmobile. This allows any reader to dive in without needing to know Batman’s history, but also gives a twist to his origin story so seasoned readers have something new(ish) to enjoy.

Batman: Overdrive is clearly aimed at a younger audience, featuring a soon to be sixteen Bruce Wayne who is restoring his dad’s old car, while also investigating who may have really been behind his parents’ murder. The illustrations straddle a fine line. They are clearly for children, but they are not cutesy. Neither are they really gritty, however. They seem to seek the approval of preteens or young teens, trying to exude an aura of “cool.” For the storyline, featuring classic cars and road chases, the style works very well.

For me, however, the real draw is the characters. Bruce is trying to find his place in the world, as well as someone else on whom he can blame his parents’ deaths. He was the one who asked to go to the movie theatre that night, so he still feels guilt. Only by discovering that their deaths were part of some greater pattern or plot will he feel exonerated. But he is living in the past, as well as in his father’s shadow, and he is missing out on all the good relationships he has in the present. Bruce’s growth is a key part of the story, the part that made it more about looking cool, the part that resonated with me.

Batman: Overdrive is a great introduction to the DC world for those who are new to it. Its sympathetic characters, however, will appeal to old fans, as well.

4 stars

Batman Tales: Once Upon a Crime by Derek Fridolfs, Dustin Nguyen

Batman Tales Once Upon a Crime

Information

Goodreads: Batman Tales: Once Upon a Crime
Series: None
Source: Library
Published: 2020

Summary

Features retellings of classic tales starring Batman characters.

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Review

I tend to be more of a Marvel comics fan, but, in the interest of expanding my knowledge of the DC comics characters, I picked up  Batman: Once Upon a Crime.  It appeared to be cute and fun, which was what I wanted, rather than some dark, brooding tale of the Batman.  At least to start.  However, I am afraid that neither the stories nor the characters resonated with me.  I think you may already have to be an avid DC fan to appreciate this one.

Batman: Once Upon a Crime contains several retellings of classic stories and fairy tales, all featuring characters from the Batman comics.  For example, there is “Wayenochio,” featuring Damien Wayne as Pinnochio, a retelling of Alice in Wonderland starring Alfred as Alice, and a mystery centered around “The Princess and the Pea” (as well as “Jack and the Giant Beanstalk”).  There is also a retelling of “The Snow Queen” starring Batman, which differs from the rest in that it tends to feature full-page spreads rather than panels and tries to be evocative.

Usually, a successful retelling will reference the original story while successfully providing some sort of twist. In this case, the twist is that the characters are all Batman characters. So I would assume that there in some sort of in-joke there. For example, I think Alfred as Alice is supposed to be amusing because Alfred is an uptight butler who likes everything in its place, and he cannot stand the “mad” Wonderland. However, because I lack sufficient knowledge of the characters, the most I could really do was kind of go, “Oh, it’s Catwoman as the Cheshire Cat!” If there is any joke to this beyond the fact that they both are cats of some sort, I don’t know. So the stories did not make many successful allusions, for me.

I did hope that the stories themselves would be sufficiently interesting, and provide enough character development and background, that I could feel emotionally invested in the tales. However, this never happened. Mostly, I slogged through the book, feeling grateful it was short and soon end. I imagine readers who are already intimately familiar with the DC characters might feel differently. However, I cannot say that I would recommend this as a first read for those who are hoping to become fans.

3 Stars