Thursday, January 30, 2014



“I’m just like everybody else now, Pepper. I’m just…normal. And I hate being normal.”

- Tony Stark

     For context, there was a time when I was out of the loop with comics, and I wanted to get back in. So, I remember asking someone in my college cafeteria: “What’s happening with The Avengers these days?” All I knew of The Avengers back then was from videogames, and a few appearances in cartoons. He said: “Oh, they disbanded.” I said: “What?”  Okay, so my jaw dropped. So, when I got back into comics, the first storyline I followed was “The Avengers: Secret Invasion” slightly before the first Iron Man movie came out.

Okay, that was for context. Because I believe “World’s Most Dangerous” may have been an attempt to close that Secret Invasion/Iron Man story arc, and here I have only one part of the story. But, it’s a good one! Tony Stark is on the run from Norman Osborn, who became a mayor, stole Tony’s tech and replaced SHIELD with HAMMER. Anyway, this is less an action graphic novel and more a chase across the globe…though there are battle scenes.

What bothers me the most though about this comic is the way Tony Stark is destroying knowledge of his tech by giving himself memory loss and brain damage. Surely, there must be a more efficient way…but we can tell in this respect that the Marvel movie era is in full swing, as it has him swing by Russia, and ultimately to Afghanistan, where it all began…previously his origin began in China.

Cleverly, he borrows Crimson Dynamo’s suit (an older Russian model.) as his understanding of more complex suits begins to dwindle. But, this gets him clobbered by Pepper Potts in her own suit until they recognize each other…there is some forced drama…but it’s nice to see Pepper kick butt for once.

In a way, the story is oddly prophetic…in Iron Man 3 he DOES DESTROY his suits for no good reason. I know…true love or something. But it least here he’s got brain damage as an excuse. There’s a subplot with Iron Man and Madam Masque, suggesting they had an affair…because of his brain damage? I guess when you remove Stark’s intelligence…he becomes a real jerk. But, I suppose he’s doing it for a good cause.

Lastly, at the big showdown in The Middle East…he gets shot by some terrorists, and he tells them they should just finish the job. But, they can’t, seeing that he’s not the “eternal angel of death” they make him out to be. The message is kinda mixed. It’s forgiveness and self-sacrifice, but also…he has the brain damage…which also seems to insinuate that he has a license to be a jerk.

The ending was satisfying, though. Because Stark gets the crap beat out of him by Osborn, showing the world’s media that Osborn isn’t a hero. So, he’s on the way out. It’s an all right read. Especially the little cameo reveal at the end by Thor-in-disguise! Maybe he can give him his brain back! I mean, without his brain, he is kind of a jerk. And I know it’s about empathy and self-sacrifice, but the way it’s portrayed is hardly a disability rights spin. But, maybe that’s next issue…also the art is fantastic…in spite of the sappiness! 2 out 5 stars!

Tuesday, January 28, 2014


"Are you seriously going to complain that you can walk again? You think you’re the only person who’s ever regained mobility?”

- Black Canary to Batgirl

Oddly, with Batgirl Vol. 2, Gail Simone goes back to Batgirl’s past rather than immediate recovery after The Killing Joke. It begins with the day she became Batgirl and puts on a bat suit while trapped in the GCPD. This volume deals more with the psychological damage caused by the Joker, instead of her physical frailty. More to the point, it incorporates The Court of Owls and even a Bane-type character in a gang. I get that it all connects her to Batman’s history, but frankly it feels a little recycled.

Batgirl faces three enemies: An epicure in a devil mask named Grotesque who can channel electricity. Now, I liked this part of the story, but mainly because there’s a brief cameo from Black Canary who trains with Batgirl and reminds her she never complained before when she was in a wheelchair. (As Oracle, leader of The Birds of Prey.)

From there, there’s a weird subplot about a young girl, (Ms. Carnes.) whose home was invaded by a mass murderer, and she now tortures evildoers for revenge! And now James Jr. is a psychopath working with The Court of Owls. Ew. Too many good-guy-turned-evil twists. But, I guess comics just work that way.

That’s not the Bane girl. Her name is Bonebreaker, her gang member. Their leader is the young girl…who’s name is Knightfall. But, as Batgirl is tracking Grotesque, the Owls take over Gotham. This is clearly meant to overlap with The Court of Owls storyline, which was running at the same time. Fair enough. I just don’t see why James Jr. had to be brought in. We’ve established that the histories are intertwined. Leave Batgirl’s family alone.

Also, her estranged mother comes and leaves again. And it’s established that Joker is tracking her a la The Killing Joke near the end. Poor Batgirl just can’t get a break with the family issues. Although I guess it follows the same logic as Court of Owls Vol. 2, where it’s revealed that Batman’s long-lost brother is leading the owls.  Not a lot I liked about this one, with it’s constant interwoven plot twists.

 One part I did like though, was when she mistakenly battles Batwoman in a police detective’s apartment, believing her to be an undercover agent of Knightfall’s gang. (Yeesh. What a corny name: Knightfall. Even the name Knightfall recalls Bane‘s entry title!) So in the end, she’s able to track Knightfall and work with Batwoman to free the prisoners. She gets the prisoners to hold Ms. Carnes back so she can fight her. The end of the novel seems to suggest a volume 3, with all Batgirl’s former villians being freed, (Mirror, Grotesque, and Gretel.)

Overall, I feel like Volume 2 kind of sacrificed the originality of exploring her recovery in favor of getting her back into action. This is okay, since action is what heroes and heroines do, but I was more upset by the co-opting of The Court of Owls and Bane-type plotlines. Surely, Batgirl can survive with an original rogue gallery rather than cheap Batman knock-offs. And not to dwell on the training scene with Black Canary, (My favorite part!) but that one scolding scene is basically all we get from the recovery angle so richly explored in the first volume.

So in conclusion, the action was fun, and I really enjoyed the first half, until The Court of Owls and a Bane clone were brought in. I don’t think Batgirl should be a Batman clone. She’s got her own individual origin (Explored in this volume!), rogue gallery, and set of issues to deal with…such as being paralyzed by Joker.

Now, some might say she can’t dwell on it forever, but I maintain that without her own set of issues, Batgirl becomes a Batman clone…and she’s capable of more than that. In sum, I knew they’d drop the recovery angle, but I guess I…was still disappointed by how quickly it was dropped. By the way, for the original characters in the first half, I give this 3 stars, but the Owl/Bane parallels are groan worthy.

Monday, January 27, 2014

Ohayocon 2014

Yesterday I went to Ohayocon. My friends took me directly to the comic store. I bought an Iron Man graphic novel for $5. Sundays are the cheapest because they’re trying to sell everything. I saw some strange toys. Who wants to play as Whirlwind in an Iron Man set? Collectors, I suppose. The funniest toy I saw was an Invisible Woman action figure. I guess if you wanted to play as her without powers. Anyway, a friend bought Japanese chocolates and then we headed out.

Once we were on the main floor, I of course took time to take in the costumes. I’m growing used to the sight of big animal costumes, and the sheer  number of Doctor Whos. I was lucky enough to be recognized by all of these groups. And of course, I always see some cat girls who have wheelchairs, which is nice. I mean, the accessibility is nice. And the costumes. And before I left some girl told me: “I just have to say…your outfit…is amazing!” Which is always nice. It’s part of why I go. To share in the fandom.

Granted, I ran over two people accidentally, but its really crowded on those dealer floors. I couldn’t (or rather my friends and I…) couldn’t find any artists doing superhero prints. I got a Full Metal Alchemist wall scroll though, which looks really nice, and that’s one of my favorite animes. All the rest of the artists seemed to do more girly animes, or zombies. But, I still got my wall scroll! A friend said he could swend me some DVDs later, so I didn’t have to worry about my budget…still kind of disappointed to get no superhero prints, though. But, my friend also gave me a 3D-printed Green Lantern ring as a parting gift: win-win!

That’s why I like cons. Such nice people, and such weird stuff to see! Where else can you see two dudes just hanging out in Kryptonian armor, and eat Japanese chocolate? (Well, Japan maybe…but not both at once.) And as I went dressed as the 4th Doctor, I never got tired of hearing “Hello, Doctor!” or “Hey, look, it’s The Doctor!” There were dozens of Doctors, so that was really special when someone pointed me out of all of them. I love going to cons because I don’t feel disabled when I go…and I think I’m getting the hang of coordinating these trips with friends. Just stay with the group…try not to run people over. But, hey, it happens.

Really, the only thing I didn’t like about the con was the crowdedness. But, that really can’t be helped. Also, even though I went on a day when things were cheap, things like DVDs and prints were still relatively expensive. But, I kept a reasonable budget. My friend Eric said he saw a man who came with thousands of dollars who bought out an entire booth of DVDs! Such was the craziness of Ohayocon 2014. But, I had a blast, and everyone was friendly!

I recommend going to Ohayocon especially for anyone with disabilities, because it’s such a positive experience to be around people who see you for the you…you want to be! And also, this trip wouldn’t have been possible had I not planned it out with my friends. So, I’m grateful that we went! I had a blast. I always do when I go to these things and see all this stuff I never would’ve otherwise. Great company! Good times! More pictures forthcoming!

Friday, January 17, 2014



“I'm not Barbara Gordon. I have to keep remembering that. Tonight, I'm not Barbara. Tonight, I'm not the Police Commissioner's daughter. Tonight, I'm the one who pored over the details of the confidential police and reports when her dad wasn't looking. I'm the one who recognized the vintage costumes you wear. Tonight? Tonight, I'm Batgirl.”

- Batgirl

     I have to admit, when I first heard that Barbara Gordon was out of the wheelchair for The New 52, I was extremely skeptical. But, far from avoiding disability issues, this graphic novel deals specifically with Batgirl becoming accustomed to being able-bodied again. In any case, it is rare that a graphic novel directly addresses disability and able-bodied presumptions.

She accepts her time in the chair, and even says as much throughout the comics:  “Does everyone see me as broken?” I was a little upset that they only had her as Oracle (That is, disabled.) in the story, for 3 years. But, no matter, maybe she got Bat-physical therapy.  She’s out to prove that she never was broken and is ready to take on cases alone.

A big theme of the comic is self-doubt, and contrasting her new able-bodied life with her old one. She keeps her lift-van. We begin by seeing Batgirl taking down a Halloween-themed gang of youngsters, The Brisby Killers, whose costumes she recognizes. After she takes them down (But, she’s critical of herself for using the wrong intimidation tactics.) we’re introduced to two new characters: Mirror, the graphic novel’s primary villain…a Federal Agent after people who got second chances while others didn’t…and Batgirl’s new radical-feminist roommate Alysia.

Outside the apartment, Alysia makes a comment about her lift-van and being in a wheelchair “Like being in prison.” Batgirl gives us this stunning insight in an aside: “She doesn’t mean anything by it. I know she doesn’t. She doesn’t know what it’s like, what the chair helps you do. And I guess I don’t feel like explaining that to her able-bodied-but-well-intentioned self right now.” How many times I’ve thought this to others myself!

Okay, so Batgirl got me hooked on the disability issues. But what about the villain, and the action? Well, Mirror’s got a list of survivors, and Batgirl’s on it. The first victim should’ve drowned, so we meet him drowning someone with a hose. But, Batgirl meets him in a hospital where he attempts to shoot her in the spine and break her legs even. He knows how to exploit her survivors guilt. Because he was one. He survived a terrorist train-bombing.

So, not only does he “mirror” the accidents the survivors lived through, but also their fear, which makes him kind of bizarre and nightmare inducing. He sets several traps for Batgirl, including in a cemetery, on an exploding train, and finally, in a hall of mirrors where she tells him he can survive, and defeats him by using his fear against him.

Now,  there’s a ton of other self-conflicts throughout the comics, especially when she fights Nightwing who wants to prevent her from being put back in the chair (irony?), but Batgirl insists that she must fight Mirror alone…each relationship has sort of an overprotective, presumptive quality that I dare say I’m used to. For example, when Barbara goes on a date with her former physical therapist, he tells her: “Miracles do happen.” Batgirl replies: “I’m a skeptic. I don’t believe in miracles.” (Yes!)

Also, when she goes to tell her father about where she was, two word bubbles appear, one is “What I want to say is” followed by “But, what I really say is” she is exhausted by the over-protectiveness. And I’ve been there too. Sometimes, it feels like others just see nothing but the disability, even in spite of more obvious talents.

Finally, in the last story, we meet a villainess named Gretel who can hypnotize people. Once hypnotized, they chant “338” and become zombie-like. But, it turns out Gretel was actually shot in the head three times by a mobster with a .38; Batgirl uncovers this after their first meeting. Gretel’s hypnotic ability functions as part of her trauma.

Gretel has since declared war on all powerful men, because they like to stay in power while others suffer. Her next target is Bruce Wayne. But, Batgirl realizes he’s faking being a zombie for the sake of his identity; in the end, she avoids getting hurt and Bruce whispers: “You were always meant to be Batgirl…” Finally, some confidence! After turning Gretel in, Batgirl says she’s been where Gretel’s been too, and can’t blame her. So have I!

To conclude, the art is beautiful…but I don’t think…I would’ve overcome my apprehension about this story if it weren’t so masterfully crafted by Gail Simone. I mean, I always knew Batgirl was disabled, but I guess somewhat foolishly I presumed that once she wasn’t Oracle, she’d be done with disability issues. I’m happy to be proven wrong. If you need a glimpse of disability issues in comics, I think this graphic novel would be in my Top 5 recommendations. 5 stars…Go read it!