By: Jimmy Palmiotti & Justin Gray (story), Ted Naifeh (art), Randy Mayor (colors)

The Story: It’s a battle decide who has the greatest fighting skills—and one-liners.

The Review: If you watch a lot of animated films, you grow to appreciate the craft into making those things, not only a purely technical level, but from the storytelling side of things as well.  Think about it.  You have these movies which have to be generally lighthearted and frothy throughout (‘cause it’s preferable not to traumatize the kids until they’ve grown up), yet they somehow manage to achieve some credible stakes as well.

That achievement is all the more remarkable when you consider how many comic book writers can’t manage to strike that balance.  Take this title.  At first, it seemed like Palmiotti-Gray wanted to deliver a purely entertaining series in the tradition of their Power Girl run.  Then you get to his issue, and it’s like they’ve changed their minds and want to inject some melodrama and cosmic plotting in the mix.

For instance, Duela Dent’s grim origins, interesting as they are, feel wildly out of place in this otherwise colorful, lively world.  Your initial reaction is to search for the humor, but if there’s any to be had, it must be weak indeed because there’s really nothing funny about Duela getting ravaged by a flock of bats and her dad (“Gamblin’ Jack the Joker Dent”) getting shot up during a heist gone wrong and crawling to die in her arms.  At this point, you realize that the series had become something very different than the slapstick romp it started out as, and you’re not sure if you like the change.

Well, maybe you’re not, but I’m pretty sure I have no use for a title that has the appearance of a magic-girl bonanza, but inside sports such thought-provoking scenes as Gamblin’ Jack’s final monologue:

“I have to go away because the world has all these stupid little rules about right and wrong, life and death, rich and poor…  The cops, detectives, the rich, all authority figures…they all rely on following clues and look for meaning in details.  Don’t give them patterns or details, Duela.  Give them chaos…and it will drive them mad.  Then you can rule the world.”

For a man on his dying breath, he sure can talk, can he?  After a while, it just makes you want to nudge him over to the other side already.

A little tip to Palmiotti-Gray: if they have any aspirations for stand-up comedy, they’d be smart to quash them now and spare themselves from the ugly silence that follows a total bomb of an act (Harley: “You guys know when you see a boy for the first time and it feels like your entire body is floating on air?  I bet that’s what it’s going to feel like when we kill Batgirl.”) .  Here’s another tip: don’t ever try out these jokes on women (Duela to Catwoman: “Let me guess, you’re crampy?  Want me to get you some chocolate?”).

Let me just say this: I had friends in the high school anime club that drew better-looking comics than Naifeh.  Not only does he mostly fail to convey anything resembling the Japanese style, his linework looks mostly sloppy and hackneyed, and even ignores explicit prompts in the script.  In one scene, Duela mentions that her “crew back then was just a bunch of cosplay fetishists with minor criminal aspirations…”  So why don’t any of them look like they’re in cosplay?  I have little to comment about Mayor’s colors other than it does little to pretty up a truly bland, unappealing set of art.

Conclusion: It’s been a long time since I’ve given a grade worse than a C- to anything, but this issue is a bit of a mess in plot, tone, and art, and trips itself even further by relying on some amazingly bad jokes.  Obviously Dropped.

Grade: D+

– Minhquan Nguyen

Some Musings: – Really, what were Palmiotti-Gray thinking with this Rule 69 Brainiac thing?  Like a big stalk of broccoli plunked in the middle of a cake.