Review – DC’s Saved By the Belle Reve #1: Back to School

Comic Books DC This Week
Saved by the Belle Reve #1 cover, via DC Comics.

DC’s Saved By the Belle Reve #1 – Becky Cloonan/Brendan Fletcher, Tim Seeley, Peter Tomasi, Dave Wielgosz, Art Baltazar/Franco, Brandon Thomas, Dan Watters, Andrew Aydin, Writers; Karl Kerschl, Scott Kolins, Max Raynor, Mike Norton, Art Baltazar, Craig Cermak, Juan Ferreyra, Nelson Daniel, Artists; Msassyk, John Kalisz, Adriano Lucas, Allan Passalaqua, Hi-Fi, Dee Cunniffe, Colorists

Ray – 9/10

Ray: DC’s latest anthology celebrates back-to-school—including the return of three fan-favorite franchises that wrapped up a while back. How does it shake out, and does it live up to the originals?

Credits. Via DC Comics.

First up is the return of the Gotham Academy crew by the original creative team in “Sophomore Year.” This follows up on Maps Mizoguchi’s backup story in Batman earlier this year. Maps is back at Gotham Academy before the start of her sophomore year, but Olive isn’t returning—no one knows where she’s gone. Maps reunites with her crew, including snarky Pomeline and mischievous Colton for one more mystery, which may just involve a mysterious and massive Gotham figure roaming the grounds. There is a lot of story in only ten pages here, but the pacing is perfect. The ending promises more to come, and we can only hope they’re telling the truth—this is a series that begs to be revived as an OGN series.

Sophomore year. Via DC Comics.

Next up are Tim Seeley and Scott Kolins in “High School Lows,” a Suicide Squad story that shows just how badly things go when the Squad is assigned to monitor an elite high school in the Swiss alps. Assigned to protect the son of an infamous general, the team of Harley, Peacemaker, Katana, King Shark, and Weasel disguise themselves—with Harley taking on the role of a guidance counselor, never a good idea. Seeley’s dark sense of humor works perfectly for this, particularly in the absurdity of the roles that King Shark and Weasel find themselves in. Then it turns into a fast-paced action story as the truth of their mission there is revealed, and things barrel towards a hilarious and explosive finish. I’d read “Suicide Squad High.”

Peter Tomasi and Max Raynor reunite the Super-Sons in “Back to School.” Obviously Jon and Damian are still prominent characters, but many people miss the status quo of them as kids and best friends. I often find these versions of the characters a little irksome, but this story works really well. At their new prep school in Metropolis, the two boys encounter a new non-binary student named Sydney—who is immediately viciously bullied by an older boy. Damian and Jon both try to help, although they have radically different approaches to this—and the story seems to argue that both are needed sometimes. It can feel a little heavy-handed at times, but this story takes on even more meaning knowing Jon’s own journey down the line.

“Earn it Back” by Dave Wielgosz and Mike Norton focuses on one of the most troubled hero-sidekick relationships, Green Arrow and Speedy. With Roy failing in school, Ollie takes Batman’s advice a little too literally and benches the boy from superheroics—except he goes a little too far and doesn’t really give Roy an off-ramp. Watching Ollie fail as parenting isn’t a surprise—we’ve seen him fail in a much bigger way down the line—but this story does a good job of exploring some of the reasons why he’s not all that equipped for this. It’s kind of funny watching Batman be the most reasonable guy in the room here.

“Piece Making” by Baltazar and Franco reunites the Tiny Titans, one of DC’s fan-favorite all-ages books. Why are the Tiny Titans visiting Belle Reve prison to hang out with the Suicide Squad? No one really knows, but it leads to some fun villain puns, great visual gags, and a Harley who will be really familiar to anyone who read the team’s “Arkhamaniacs.” Amanda Waller’s presence is amusing because she’s really the only person in the entire series who doesn’t seem to be in on the joke. Overall, this feels like it could have been taken right out of the original run.

“This Is Why” by Brandon Thomas and Craig Cermak turns the clock back to the age of President Luthor to explain why exactly Jefferson Pierce took the job of Secretary of Education. This is a really obscure plotline to call back on, but Thomas does a great job of explaining the motivation—he is willing to degrade himself personally to gain access to the resources that could help his kids. Flashbacks to the individual students who made the biggest impact on Jefferson really drive this home. I’ve always felt Pierce’s status quo is easily the most underrated in the DC library, and I’d love to see Thomas write a full series for him.

“How Angels Are Made” by Dan Watters and Juan Ferreyra is a very good story, but does not fit with the tone of this issue at all. It’s an extremely dark Azrael story as Jean-Paul returns to the religious school where he was reared by the Order of St. Dumas. Secretly being groomed to be the Order’s assassin, he was horribly abused by a sadistic old teacher—leading his programming to come out. Azrael is a fascinating character, one with a lot of potential. This feels like a great companion piece to the series by Watters that just started, but I don’t know if it meshes with the audience this book is going for.

Finally, there’s “A Night Off” by Andrew Aydin and Nelson Daniel. Set when Dick and Barbara were teenagers in high school together, the duo plan a prom night together—as friends—at the prodding of an over-eager friend of theirs. Their ride to the dance gets derailed by a villain attack—and oddly, it seems like Dick is Nightwing here, not Robin? This is a fun, chaotic story with an oddly understanding Batman—you can tell this is probably the first time the writer has handled these characters, but the big things are right. There’s a clever twist ending that may just be a joke, or maybe something more…

Overall, not every story in this book hits on all cylinders, but this is one of the most fun anthologies DC has done in a while.

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

GeekDad received this comic for review purposes.

Liked it? Take a second to support GeekDad and GeekMom on Patreon!