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October 11, 2020

2 New Superhero Comics from DC Comics

by MK French

Comics have a long history. According to Wikipedia, European comics trace back to 1830s, but they became a popular medium in the 1930s. While often thought of something for kids and somewhat second-class on the literary scale, the introduction of manga in the U.S. and the graphic novel, illustrated texts have seen a rise in popularity and also in acceptance as a literary form.
Amazon affiliate links are used on this site. Free books were provided for an honest review.

Swamp Thing: Twin Branches by Maggie Stiefvater and illustrated by Morgan Beem

Swamp Thing Twin Branches
October 2020; DC Comics; 978-1401293239
ebook, print (208 pages); YA superhero
Twins Alec and Walker Holland are inseparable, even though Walker is the social butterfly and Alec tends to retreat into scientific studies. This doesn't change even though they visit cousins the summer before they go off to college.  There are secrets in the swamp, and the twins' lives begin to diverge.

Written by Maggie Stiefvater of the Raven Cycle fame, Swamp Thing: Twin Branches is a book targeting high schoolers. Morgan Beem had worked on Adventure Time, and to an extent, I can see similar styles in the artwork. We begin with Walker being the charming and exuberant one, while Alec is more attuned to plants and that they carry a consciousness all their own. He has Type I diabetes, complete with a transdermal monitor, and he is socially awkward. The text explicitly states that he always was very shy and felt like it was too much work to interact with people. This could be severe social anxiety, or coupled with his detailed knowledge and interest in plants could be coded as being on the autism spectrum. He enjoys science for science's sake, while Walker craves activity and interpersonal attention.

I found this to be an interesting retcon of the character, and it'll be lots of fun to follow Alec in future adventures.

Gotham High by Melissa de la Cruz, illustrated by Thomas Pitilli

Gotham High
April 2020; DC Comics; 978-1401286248
ebook, print (208 pages); YA superhero
Bruce Wayne had to return to Gotham City after getting kicked out of his boarding school, but nothing is the same. Wayne Manor is more like a mausoleum, Selina Kyle is the popular girl at Gotham High School along with the class clown, Jack Napier. Bruce sees himself as the dark and troubled knight to investigate Gotham High, but nothing is what it seems.

As part of the reimagining of classic characters in new ways, Bruce is now of mixed descent. Martha Wayne used to be Ma-Sha Dean, so he has an Uncle Alfred in Hong Kong that had shipped him to Arkham Prep after the death of his parents. Their death is different too, changed from the alleyway outside the theater to walking into their home being burgled and then being killed there. Bruce was at the scene, too frightened to do anything at the time but hide. His neighbor was Selina Garcia Kyle, who has a father with Alzheimer's, so her background had also changed. Jack Napier is one of the comic backgrounds for the Joker, and here he's from the wrong side of the tracks. We also see other classic characters in a new light and plenty of cameos for the classic Batman comics.

The art is lined and mostly in black and purple in the beginning, then colors brighten up as we proceed into the present. There are so many fun touches in the colors and the way the characters are positioned on the panels. I focused on that as much as the story, which actually was well laid out. Even if the reader isn't as aware of the Batman mythos, it's a well-contained story and flows well from start to finish. I laughed at the end of it, not because it was funny, but because it made so much sense and I didn't see it coming. I cheered them all on because it's hard enough to be a teenager, let alone with the secrets they carried. This is a story not just for fans of the original property, but for teens as well.

Buy Gotham High at Amazon

Born and raised in New York City, M.K. French started writing stories when very young, dreaming of different worlds and places to visit. She always had an interest in folklore, fairy tales, and the macabre, which has definitely influenced her work. She currently lives in the Midwest with her husband, three young children, and a golden retriever. 

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  1. Gotham high sounds great. I love books that take me back to ha years