Review – Anti/Hero: New Kids in Gotham

Comic Books DC This Week
Anti/Hero review
Anti/Hero cover, via DC Comics.

Review: Anti/Hero – Kate Karyus Quinn, Demitria Lunetta, Writers; Maca Gil, Sam Lofti, Artists; Sarah Stern, Colorist

Review: Ray – 9.5/10

Ray: One of the biggest surprises of DC’s big foray into OGNs has been how many original characters are joining the DC family of characters. We saw a new legacy hero in The Secret Spiral of Swamp Kid, and a fantastic new civilian player in Roberta Lee in Superman Smashes the Klan. But for the first time in the delightful Anti/Hero, two new original superheroes are joining the fray in a story taking place in Gotham City.

It’s very firmly grounded not in Batman’s network but in the diverse life experiences of two young underdogs with very different ideas of what putting on a costume means.

For boisterous, super-strong Piper Parajo, aka the Hummingbird, her attempts to foil crimes usually end in more property damage than she prevents (and her love for nacho snacks has given her the nickname the Cheesy Chipster). For tech-savvy vigilante Sloan MacBrute, her undercover work as The Grey usually has a less-legal bent. But both girls’ fledgling careers in costumes adventure hide some real pain – Piper’s explorer parents have been out of the country for a long time, and she clearly misses them despite the support of her grandmother and uncle. Sloan, meanwhile, is dealing with a sick single mother and the major stigma of being related to one of Gotham’s most notorious villains.

Piper’s recklessness and Sloan’s willingness to cut moral corners to help her mother collide in hilarious fashion when Sloan pulls a heist of an experimental device, and Hummingbird is there to stop her. But the device gets broken just as it zaps both girls, resulting in one of the all-time classic twists – the body-swap. This has been seen a lot, in movies ranging from the classic “Freaky Friday” to its many heirs and copycats. But the writing team of Quinn and Lunetta manage to keep things feeling fresh thanks to the book’s unique look at what it takes for these two thirteen-year-olds to survive in that most challenging of environments – middle school.

While an upcoming challenge that combines physical skills with a science-based test may not be the highest of stakes, the plot makes great use of the different backgrounds and learning styles of the two girls. It seems like DC is really trying to call attention to the fact that not all students who struggle are missing the will to succeed – something that they also deal with in another all-ages OGN out now, My Video Game Ate My Homework.

The two girls start as rivals, but over the course of the story, they learn a lot about what drives the other, learn to trust each other, and eventually give each other a crash course in how to be the best Piper or Sloan.

But this is a superhero comic, and there’s a larger threat lurking behind the curtain in the form of The Bear, a notorious crimelord who has been blackmailing Sloan to commit crimes for him – with a surprising tie to her family’s past. When he enters the story, he’s genuinely menacing and adds some real stakes, and the final act of this story is as thrilling as any teen superhero comic I’ve read in a while. Also surprising – while this story does focus on original characters, it very much takes place in the DCU, as some famous Gotham characters show up for a brief but significant role at the end of the story.

I don’t know if there’s a larger plan for these characters or if Piper and Sloan are meant to just exist in this stand-alone world, but Anti/Hero is one of the most charming and original superhero stories to come out of DC in a long time.

It’s a perfect introductory story to the DCU for kids, but there’s enough to chew on in this book to make it a perfect all-ages story that reminds me in tone of the best Pixar movies. The art style is the right combo of cartoony and expressive, and DC has a trio of bold new talents in the creative team. At only $9.99 for a full arc worth of stories, this is one of the best projects to come out of DC’s OGN line yet.

To find reviews of all the DC issues, visit DC This Week.

Disclaimer: GeekDad received this comic for review purposes.

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