DC Comics’ latest young adult super-duo is out to change the world for the better, and they are coming with big ambitions and even bigger hearts.
Whistle: A New Gotham City Hero, by bestselling author E. Lockhart and illustrated by Manuel Preitano, is a heartfelt balance of one’s love of their community, their heritage, their friends, and their family, as well as that special bond and connection that can only come from the pure souls of pets.
Willow Zimmerman lives in one of the more troubled areas of Gotham City, Down River. She is already trying to find ways to make a difference in her community, and isn’t shy about vocalizing her views or taking a proactive stance. The problem with Willow isn’t her self-confidence by any means. She appears from page one ready to take on the challenges that face her community.
She is genuinely compassionate and loving (she is longing to adopt a stray Great Dane, Lebowitz, near the dog shelter where she works), with a bit of hopeless romantic geared towards the kindhearted new boy in school, Garfield. She also believes firmly in making sure the culture and history of her neighborhood isn’t lost. This includes her proud connection to her Jewish heritage.
Willow’s problems are not fault of her own, but rather of her circumstances. Her family’s income is vastly limited as she struggles to care for a cancer-stricken mother. Anyone who has experienced a loved one go through chemo will sympathize with this.
Sometimes, between wanting to help her community, to being a good caregiver to her mother and trying to keep some semblance of teenage normalcy can be overwhelming. In the case of Willow who wants to see the changes all around, it can be overwhelming.
I’ll try not to hit any big spoilers, but Willow meets up with her mom’s cousin, E. Nigma (guess who). He seems personable enough and briefly ropes her into his world, one where she can make a little money to help her mom.
It is after she and Lebowitz sustains injuries from another well-known Gotham baddie, she suddenly develops an entirely new connection to Lebowitz. They can understand each other completely, as if they now spoke the same language. Willow also begins exhibiting a few other “dog like” traits. This includes possessing the ability to summon dogs by whistling….and not just at close range.
This is where the change begins. She works to get physically and mentally stronger, and with the help of her canine companion, develops their super alter egos: Whistle and The Hound.
Without giving any more of the story away, this character origin allows Willow and Lebowitz to “be the change” they want to see in the world, feel less helpless, and help protect their corner of Gotham, Down River.
Lockhart gave Willow a good head on her shoulders as she exhibited the traits of the leader right from the get-go. Yet, she wasn’t perfect, and seeing her head down the wrong path for a short bit made her more real. I also like seeing the familiar strangeness of Gotham through the eyes of Garfield, a newcomer who hasn’t gotten used to it.
There are a few familiar characters who pop up, and are give a fresh depiction, one in particular who is especially deceiving at first.
It was Lebowitz really captured my heart. She was gentle giant when she needed to be, and a formidable ferocious hero when the time came. She was already my favorite character before she was able to communicate “verbally” with Willow, and after, she was a voice of fun, and intelligence.
In short, she was good dog.
Preitano’s art also shows a detailed sophistication I haven’t seen in Young Adult graphic novels in awhile, and I appreciated the attention he put into both setting and characterization. I particularly liked his work on Lebowitz herself, giving her some range the will win over even those who aren’t “dog people.” All the doggos were portrayed with energy and personality, for that matter. There were a couple of images of Lebowitz that were heartbreaking and others I practically wanted to hug.
I have often heard the phrase, “we don’t deserve dogs,” which is something I completely understand in terms of the love and loyalty of a good dog being unmatched.
However, when a good soul meets a very good dog, these two not only deserve each other, but also are a match made in Heaven.
As to whether of not the world around them deserves such selfless pair of heroes is another story. Thankfully, they can together work on making their corner of the world worthy, deserving place.
Whistle: A New Gotham City Hero blows into bookstores, and will be available in digital format on Sept. 7.