Learning to be a Superhero – “Whistle: A New Gotham City Hero” Graphic Novel Review

Whistle: A New Gotham City Hero
Images provided by DC Entertainment

Whistle: A New Gotham City Hero is the latest graphic novel in DC Comics’ YA graphic novel line. As the title states, it features a new hero in Gotham, 16-year-old Willow Zimmerman. She spends her time advocating for her community and caring for stray dog Lebowitz, but little does she know how drastically her, and her dog’s, lives are about to change!

I received an advanced review copy of Whistle: A New Gotham City Hero for review purposes. All opinions are my own.

Whistle: A New Gotham City Hero caught my interest because, unlike the other graphic novels I have read in the DC Comics young adult line, this is a story featuring a completely new character who lives in a familiar city. Sure, there are definitely some characters people will recognize, such as the Riddler and Poison Ivy, but this is not their tale. This is Willow’s.

Since this is an original character, you need no prior knowledge to pick up and read the book. Yes, it features some familiar names and places, but a completely new to DC Comics reader would not be at all lost in reading it. But at the same time it is fun for people familiar with DC Comics and Gotham City to see another part of it, a story outside of Batman and his family of vigilantes.

WARNING: There will be some brief spoilers below.

Whistle: A New Gotham City Hero begins in Down River, Gotham City, where Willow is outside of her school advocating for city hall to fund their schools. While she is standing outside of the school holding up her sign, new student Garfield asks her about the petition. He immediately catches Willow’s eye. In fact, an adorable heart appears above her head when she sees Garfield and the same happens with Garfield as they begin talking. Those kinds of things are so much fun to see added in comic panels.

As the story progresses, we learn more about Willow’s life. In addition to becoming fast friends (with an obvious crush on both sides) with Garfield, she also works at dog shelter in the evening, cleaning out cages to help provide extra money to help support her and her mother. Her mother has cancer, and the chemo treatments are very hard on her and affect her teaching job. Willow also befriended a rather large dog that she has named Lebowitz. She’d love to take the dog home with her, but her apartment does not allow pets.

Things start to get interesting for Willow when her mom’s old friend from college, E. Nigma, comes back into Willow’s life. She tells him about what her mother is going through and he offers her a job. Little does she know that in accepting his job offer, her life is about to change in a drastic way. After working for Nigma for a time, she and Lebowitz are attacked by Killer Croc, which results in Willow developing some interesting powers. Now that she has them, can she use them to fight those who wish harm on the people of Down River? And how will she handle being a hero while working with one of Gotham’s biggest villains?

Writer E. Lockhart is a New York Times bestselling author best known for her novels Genuine Fraud and We Were Liars. Lockhart does an amazing job creating a hero who is just like any other teenager. Willow, who is a secular Jewish person, looks at the problems in her city and does everything she can to make things better. She also works late into the evening to support her sick mother. Despite all this, the writer does not forget that Willow is a teenager. She’s still dealing with school, growing up, and having crushes.

Lockhart also does not shy away from tackling some of the grayer areas and complicated issues. Because of Willow’s unique circumstances, she has to take a real hard look at the way she is making money and if she can justify it. Willow must decide if what she is doing is okay and whether or not it goes against everything she stands for. Things for Willow are definitely not black and white, and she has to make some very tough decisions. I think Lockhart handles these topics in a very realistic way.

Artist Manuel Preitano is an Italian illustrator and graphic designer best known for his work on DC Comics YA graphic novel The Oracle Code. With this story, Preitano was creating designs for all new characters in Willow, Lebowitz, and her friends and family. Each of his characters are unique and expressive. Each panel is beautiful while still looking very much a part of Gotham City. The colors done by Gabby Metzler only accentuate each panel, making Down River feel real. The lettering done by Troy Peteri is crisp and clean. Overall, it’s just a very beautiful book.

Whistle: A New Gotham City Hero is intended for teens ages 14-17. It is a story of being a teen in today’s world. In a city that may have some supernatural and over-the-top villains but contain many of the same problems that we see in the real world. It questions a lot of gray areas when situations become desperate. It’s a story that truly makes you think. There are not really any warnings for this book other than considering some of the ethics of the decisions that Willow must make.

Overall, I really enjoyed Whistle: A New Gotham City Hero. I was excited to read about a new superhero in one of my favorite fictional series. I could easily see Willow being a permanent part of the Gotham City hero roster and I’m hoping to see her story explored more either in subsequent YA graphic novels, or even in the monthly periodicals, perhaps even fighting alongside Batman someday.

I recommend Whistle: A New Gotham City Hero to anyone who would enjoy reading more about Gotham outside of Batman and his family and to anyone who would enjoy reading about a completely new superhero. Willow feels like a real person, not someone who is larger than life, so that aspect makes her someone that all of us can relate to. This is a story that so many of us could imagine ourselves in, without the supernatural elements of course!

Whistle: A New Gotham City Hero is available today from DC, comic book shops, local and online indie bookstores, and your local library and their digital apps.

Author: Jessica Rae

Jessica has a BA in music with an emphasis in voice and spends her day typesetting, editing, writing, and moderating webinars. Jessica primarily reviews anime and comic book series. She also offers insights on various movies, books, games, and other geeky topics.

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