DC’s Saved by the Belle Reve #1 review

Big points to whoever came up with the title for this giant collection of school-centred stories. Juni Ba’s cover is a fun scene-setter, with characters from the issue having a hoot. Great logo, too.

Inside, there are some real treats, with a trio of much-missed DC features back for the occasion. The issue opens with a return to Gotham Academy, DC’s charming kid detective series. The ever-inquisitive ‘Maps’ Mizoguchi has a new mystery to solve in the weeks before her second year at the school begins, with help from pals Pomeline and Colton. Writers Becky Cloonan and Brenden Fletcher and artist Karl Kerschl have me itching for more, and that’s just what the ending hints at. 8/10 (yes, we’re at school so Mr Gray is giving out grades).

Also returning are Super Sons Superboy and Robin at their tween peak, meeting a new pupil at the wonderfully named West-Reeve School. There’s a definite after-school special vibe as Jon and Damien try to help Sydney in their very different ways, but writer Peter J Tomasi subverts expectations with his usual wit, while Max Raynor’s well-observed art is perfect for the occasion. 9/10

The mention of Kathy from Peter Tomasi and Patrick Gleason’s wonderful Superman run made my day

Aw yeah, the Tiny Titans are back too, and Belle Reve has them! But what are they doing at the Suicide Squad’s base! Find out in a typically terrific tale by Art Baltazar and Franco. Baltazar’s unapologetically bright colouring has me very nostalgic for the days before computers began offering a million colours and loads of people hit the button marked ‘dull’. 9/10

Speedy has problems juggling superheroics and school in a story from his early days as Green Arrow’s sidekick. Ollie Queen is fun as a guardian, but not a natural dad, so asks for advice when Roy’s teacher tells him he’s falling behind.

It’s the giant puppet from Green Lantern #1 – I never expected that!

And yes, Batman proves even worse than Ollie when it comes to advice on looking after kids. Dave Wielgosz hits the target with a sharp short that, while ending happily, nods towards the problems Speedy has down the line. Mike Norton’s clean lines are perfect for this throwback story – who knew just seeing the Silver Age Brainstorm would have me grinning like a loon. 8/10

Remember that time Luthor was President and random DC characters were crowbarred into Cabinet positions? Sgt Rock was Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Amanda Waller the Secretary of Meta-Human Affairs… it didn’t make a lick of sense. So here writer Brandon Thomas answers the question that’s kept us all asleep at night for two decades – why did Jeff Pierce, secretly the hero known as Black Lightning, agree to be Secretary of Education?

To help kids on a bigger scale than he could in his Suicide Slum school in Metropolis, apparently. Excerpt all the montage sequences seem to show him acting on a very local level, bringing in the likes of fellow Outsiders Metamorpho and Katana to make education fun. And with no regard for his secret ID. Thomas’s script is efficient for what it is, and Chris Cernak’s storytelling is more than decent, but the whole thing is a headscratcher. 6/10

Cards on the table. I cannot stand Azrael. He was created to be unlikeable and unlikeable he was, driving me off the Bat-books for a good while. And yet I truly enjoyed this strip looking back at Jean Paul Valley’s training/indoctrination by the Order of St Dumas. The story by Dan Watters is tight and entertaining, mixing character and action to good ends, while Juan Ferreyra’s full-colour art is great, especially in the flashback sequences featuring a mad monk. 9/10

‘Once upon a time in Gotham City High School…’ That’s the suitably fairytale beginning to a story that breaks DC canon, having Dick Grayson and Barbara Gordon at the same school as teenagers, and already operating as Nightwing and Batgirl. Here they fight crime in Prom Night bat-costumes… Andrew Aydin – who wrote a brilliant Titans short a couple of years ago – probably won a bet when he got this commissioned. The attractive, expressive art by Nelson Dániel has me wondering if a DC YA book is in the offing. 7/10

The Suicide Squad – movie version – star in my hands-down favourite story, in which writer Tim Seeley and artist Scott Kolins send them undercover at a posh school in the Swiss Alps. The plotting is hilariously brilliant, the character work first rate and the artwork big, bold and bonkers. Oh, and there’s an utterly delightful cameo by a longtime comics star. 10/10

I’ve not mentioned the colour artists and letterers as I’ve zoomed through this book, but suffice to say that with talent like letterers Steve Wands and Rob Leigh, and colourists John Kalisz and Adriano Lucas on hand, the artwork is always enhanced. Gold stars all round.

As with recent DC 80pp and plus giants, this is a high quality offering, definitely worth a look if you have the spare cash. All stories have something too offer, and there are a few real gems. No detentions!

3 thoughts on “DC’s Saved by the Belle Reve #1 review

  1. Great review! I, too, miss Gotham Academy. There was recently a really fun backup feature in Detective Comics with Maps that was delightful.


  2. Anthologies are always a mixed bag. Overall I liked this, though I was lukewarm about some of it.

    Gotham Academy: I guess not everything Becky Cloonan writes is utterly awful, just all things Batgirl and Wonder Woman. I enjoyed this, though I don’t know the backstory. Between the way this ends, and the backups in Batman earlier this year, looks like there’s going to be a Gotham Academy series coming, and I’ll probably buy it.

    Suicide Squad: Hey, I actually followed (most of) Tim Seeley’s story, for once, and enjoyed it. (He’s been writing a lot of weird, high-concept books lately, like “Robins” and the preposterous and impenetrable “Gwenverse,” where really all you are supposed to think is how cool it is to see a Thor, Captain American, Iron Man etc. version of Gwen Stacy. How we get there? Or restore the status quo? Don’t ask questions like that!) The exposition here threw me – is the kid, or his father, the demon?

    Super Sons: Nicely drawn, and was fun for the first two pages. The cover isn’t kidding when it says this contains tales of “academic adventure.” There was no final exam, so I say we all get an “A”. Meghan Fitzmartin has also given a recent pronoun lesson in her Young Justice tale.

    Green Arrow: Love that Arrow Car!

    Tiny Titans: Yeah!

    Black Lightning: Are we supposed to admire Jefferson, or feel disappointed in him?

    Azrael: Finally DC has published some nice-looking, finished monochrome art where you can actually tell what’s happening!

    Batgirl and Nightwing: Cute but goofy. Excellent gymnastics from Barbara as she tumbles down the stairs yet lands on her feet.

    These books are so darned expensive!


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