GRAYSON: Agent of Spyral was the first in Dick Grayson’s New 52 solo series (I reviewed Volume 2 already) by Tom King, Tim Seeley and various artists as Dick goes to work for the sinister spy network Spyral in order to report back to Batman on what they’re up to. This is enjoyable, with some weird adversaries (like a guy whose optic nerves are hooked up to his guns) but not as much as the later stories. It’s also very disjointed — and Vol. 2 actually goes off on much more of a tangent than I realized reading it (no wonder some readers were confused).
THE FADE OUT: Act One by Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips (cover by Phillips, all rights to current holder) is a good noirish mystery in which a screenwriter wakes up next to a woman’s corpse, escapes the crime scene, then begins to suspect there’s something much more sinister than murder going on …. A good start.
BATMAN: I am Gotham kicks off Tom King’s run on Batman (with various artists)) as the Dark Knight accepts the help of new super-heroes Gotham and Gotham Girl in cleaning up his city, only to have a government scheme to “fix” Gotham City make everything go wrong. While it’s nice to see Batman not treating other super-heroes as if they operated only by his sufferance, but this feels like a hand-wave to allow them to get close enough for tragedy (like the way he finds the perfect girl in Mad only so her death can angst him out). Likewise his acceptance of Amanda Waller’s secret operation in Gotham doesn’t even seem remotely plausible, given how wrong it gets (nor do I see why he’d need to work with her in the endbit, other than to promote the Suicide Squad). Readable, but …
My problem with the New 52’s Wonder Woman series is that I’d like it much better if it were a completely new character, not a reboot. And as with Vol. 4, War, in WONDER WOMAN: Iron, Brian Azzarello and Cliff Chiang do a horrible, horrible job writing Orion of the New Gods. A shame since the story involving Wonder Woman and her fellow children of Zeus is actually excellent (with the exception that I hate making the Amazons “mutie haters” who despise Diana for being magically created from clay). Good, but with massive flaws.
WHAT COMES NATURALLY: Miscegenation Law and the Making of Race in America by Peggy Pascoe gets its subtitle from Pascoe’s view that the efforts to determine which marriages crossed the color line required laws identifying whether the cutoff was one-eighth, one-quarter or a single drop of black blood. Pascoe looks at how miscegenation was coined in the 19th century as a more scientific sounding replacement for “amalgamation, and the various court cases, laws and rationales for banning intermarriage (a longstanding and eerily familiar argument being that there was no discrimination as the laws applies to blacks and whites alike). All of which took various forms around the country, expanding to anti-Asian bans on the west coast while Oklahoma exempted white men who married native women (it was one way for native land to pass into white hands). The rise of organized resistance was extremely gradual as the NAACP didn’t want to jeopardize other civil-rights goals (and other black leaders, such as Marcus Garvey, didn’t support intermarriage), and Pascoe does a good job showing that the Loving case was far from an inevitable victory (a recent similar case had freed the couple to marry, but hadn’t struck down the law). Very good.
THE WILDINGS: Book One of the Hundred Names of Darkness by Nilanjana Roy has a colony of stray cats in India cope with a new psychic in the neighborhood, their own internal struggles and a crew of feral cats threatening the neighborhood. This starts fun and ends fun, but bogs down in the middle — though I think part of that is that talking-animal fantasies are not quite my thing. If it’s yours, this is definitely worth reading.