By Molly Jane Kremer and Jarrod JonesOur Week In Review serves to fill in the gaps our frequently verbose comic book coverage leaves behind. Each week, we take a brief look into the books that demand attention. 

DTC-Cv37-ds-22cd6Detective Comics #37

DC Comics/$3.99

Written by Francis Manapul and Brian Buccellato.

Art by Francis Manapul.

JJ: Trust me when I say that there is no one more pumped than me to see Anarky join the New52.

I started reading comics in 1989 (which, I know, ages me quite a bit), right around the time Anarky made his first appearance in Alan Grant and Norm Breyfogle’s Detective Comics #608 (remember when comics went up that high? *sigh*). And even though my six year-old mind, fed on a steady diet of The Real Ghostbusters episodes and Calvin and Hobbes strips, could scarcely understand the socio-political implications the character had for the world around me, I knew that Lonnie Machin was a kid just like me. But he was also a kid who took on the Batman. (I still have the first printing of that issue, and it remains a sentimentally valuable part of my collection.)

Francis Manapul and Brian Buccellato’s latest Detective Comics storyarc, titled rather tediously as Anarky, looks and seems like a throwback to that era, told during a time when feelings about the establishment couldn’t be more severely negative. Cloaked in a hoodie and sporting a featureless mask, Anarky is more than a fitting villain for the (primarily) law-abiding Dark Knight, a fictional embodiment of the underground activist network Anonymous who seeks to utterly disrupt what little order Batman brings to Gotham City. There’s no better time than now to bring Anarky into relevance. It’s a gutsy move for DC Comics.

What bothers me most is that the task is undertaken by two storytellers who rely on more flash than substance. To own a piece of Manapul’s work is always reason to spend $3.99, but the story he co-plots with writer Brian Buccellato indicates that the men are no closer to confidently tackling a satisfying Batman story than they were during their Icarus tale. They are more than capable of bringing a palpably visceral – albeit superficial – life to Batman’s world (the art in this issue is beyond top-notch, and Manapul’s Bruce Wayne is appropriately world-weary), but when it comes to igniting a fire fitting of the eponymous villain, Buccellato and Manapul are no Grant and Breyfogle.

6 out 10

GOTHAC_Cv3_dsGotham Academy #3

DC Comics/$2.99.

Written by Becky Cloonan and Brenden Fletcher.

Art by Karl Kerschl.

Colors by Geyser, Msassyn, and Serge Lapointe.

MJ: Gotham Academy feels like it’s really kicking into gear with this issue. Our doe-eyed protagonist, Olive Silverlock, begins to strip away her slightly misanthropic tendencies, interacting with her fellow students much more than before. Making her less isolated not only makes for more entertaining reading (while she’s adorable when mopey, all that angst gets old after a while), it also helps to propel the story forward, and to unfurl some new mysteries.

Olive makes friends with more of her archetypal fellow students: pinch-faced mean-girl Pomeline Fritch (suddenly much less mean since she’s realized Olive can help in her ghostly extra-curriculars), Heathcliff (Pomeline’s sweet pushover of a boyfriend), and sunglasses-sporting troublemaker Colton Rivera. All of these new personalities bouncing off each other gives this comic some fizzy fun, even when Olive finally sits down to have that conversation (we knew it was coming) with her ex, Kyle (still, adorably, wearing his tennis visor).

More light is shed on the mystery of what happened last summer as well, both through Olive and Kyle’s short conversation, and later on when a group of students break into the closed-off North Hall for some “ghost hunting”, leaving some enticing hints about Olive’s mother and where she is now.

As usual, Karl Kerschl’s art is flawless, never showing less than the perfect amount of emotion in everyone’s faces. He even makes a single panel of nothing more than Olive’s hand next to Kyle’s a moving homage to young love. Gotham Academy continues to get stronger and stronger with each issue, and with this still only being its third installment, who knows the heights this book will reach. I’m legitimately excited for next month’s issue.

9 out of 10

4252008-0+grson_cv5_dsGrayson #5

DC Comics/$2.99

Written by Tom King and Tim Seeley.

Art by Mikel Janin.

Colors by Jeromy Cox.

JJ: It is certainly no secret that Grayson is a favorite within the halls of DoomRocket (I’m just kidding; we don’t actually have halls). Tom King and Tim Seeley have successfully taken Dick Grayson and given him a home within the new paradigm of DC’s New52, but here’s the rub: it’s not as Nightwing, but as a double agent within the super-secret spy agency known as Spyral. While the series looks to redefine Dick Grayson as a hero, it ably strengthens his place in the world as a man. The level of character development Grayson employs is rarely utilized in contemporary superhero comics anymore, even when we’re being told that it totally is.

There’s no room for pretense with this kind of creative innovation. And issue #5 has a lot more character to offer than most any other comic released this week, or this month… maybe all this year. It effectively functions as a downbeat from the kinetic havoc that has been at the forefront of Grayson‘s delightful insanity, and Tom King, taking the scripting reins from co-plotter Tim Seeley while helping me forget his Future’s End tie-in earlier this year, sheds so much light on Dick Grayson’s motivations, not just as a double-agent (on which a lesser writer might spend most of their energy), but as a human being. Hold on to something: Grayson might be the actual beating heart of the New52.

Mikel Janin and Jeromy Cox’s beautifully rendered desert is far more than lines and color, it’s an endless (and gorgeously realized) void wherein King and Seeley place Grayson, Helena Bertinelli, Midnighter, and a small newborn to face their certain doom. But hope prevails. Why? Because Dick says so. I won’t lie: I’m one of the biggest Nightwing fans there ever could be. But I’ve always understood that Nightwing was merely artifice, as was Robin, Batman, and even Agent 37. It was Dick Grayson that has always been one of the brightest-burning stars of the DC Universe. Thankfully, King, Seeley, Janin and Cox understand this as well.

9.5 out of 10

toothandclaw02_coveraThe Autumnlands: Tooth & Claw #2

Written by Kurt Busiek.

Art by Benjamin Dewey.

Colored by Jordie Bellaire.

The high-fantasy genre isn’t very well-represented within the medium of comics, either in quantity or in quality. But if you’re looking for one of the few that scores high on the quality card, thankfully there’s Kurt Busiek, Benjamin Dewey, and Jordie Bellaire’s The Autumnlands: Tooth and Claw, a gorgeous and engrossing example of classic fantasy.

And while the book’s anthropomorphic animals speak, dress in ornate costumes, and walk upright, this is no Wind in the Willows; these animals are wizards and mages, they speak in spells you’d half-expect to hear from Doctor Strange (the Third Instance of Concentrated Sight, and the Scrolls of Perceptos for instance), and they’re trying to figure out how to stop the magic in their world from dying. And while it does make use of many high-fantasy tropes, the comic doesn’t shy away from darkness; this book has a particularly violent battle scene that goes on for over ten pages, partway into which we are introduced to the series’ only human being.

The art in this book is truly stunning. Often artists will say that they have trouble drawing certain animals, but somehow artist Benjamin Dewey draws 20 (at least?) different species, and gives them all expression, personality, and feeling without ever making them feel… human. Jordie Bellaire’s colors are rich and masterly, at times bringing to mind the paintings of N.C. Wyeth.

The contrast between human and animal is done perfectly; man is colored in swaths of blood, dirt and darkness. And while the animals are all clothed in fine raiment, the man spends the entire issue – throughout a vicious battle, no less – completely nekkid. This wonderful dichotomy, illustrated visually and verbally between the savage human and the civilized, urbane fauna he defends takes this comic beyond “great” and close to “classic in the making”. It’s another piece of absolutely top-notch fiction from Image Comics.

9 out of 10

Agree? Disagree? Which books would you like to see us review in the future? Leave your opinions in the comments section below.