Lightning Review

Whistle: A New Gotham City Hero by E. Lockhart



by E. Lockhart

Whistle is the latest YA Graphic novel from DC, and like other books in this run it emphasizes social justice and inclusion. In this book, a Jewish high school student takes care of her mom (who has cancer), works at an animal shelter, attends school, flirts with a cute boy, and participates in protests to try to keep gentrification from erasing her neighborhood of Down River in Gotham City.

Her life changes when she meets E. Nigma and his friend Pammie Isley, and then starts working for E.Nigma. In this capacity she makes big money, but also realizes that E.Nigma is gentrifying her neighborhood and that she is complicit because she works for him.

Will Willow fight for her community? GUESS!

Willow stands in front of her school holding a sign that says Tell City Hall to Fund Our Schools!

Yes! She will!

I enjoyed this book for daring to show that Willow is not a perfect saint and that E. Nigma and Pammie Isley are charming and genuinely friendly. However, the real draw of this comic is Willow’s bond with Lebowitz, a Great Dane that becomes her loyal sidekick. This is a really fun story for anyone who loves dogs. Although there is a scene in which Willow and Lebowitz are both hurt, they recover with some new and special abilities that lead to hilarity.

The art by Manuel Peitano is bright, active, and realistic, full of city grime but also bright colors and fashion. If Lebowitz will forgive me for saying so, this is a pure catnip book – I’m just never NOT going to love a superhero who rides a skateboard to crime scenes and whistles for backup from all the dogs in town (hence her superhero name, Whistle).

Willow in her costume of black and white pants and jacket, looks over the city from a rooftop along with Leobowitz, a white Great Dane. Willow's thought text says Eventually I figure it out while Dog says I love my new logo collar. We look so fine right now.

The book is solid fun, which frankly I need more of these days anyway. But I felt that, even for a superhero comic, too many plot points remained dangling. It’s common for superhero stories to end with cliffhangers, but this story felt different. Instead of leaving with a plot cliffhanger, it wrapped up a full origin story character arc except for the most important plot points – Willow struggles to make time for romance and she struggles with having to lie to everyone around her. Also, can you really fight armed, organized criminals by using kickboxing, pepper spray and earnest speeches? I am dubious, and also concerned for the safety of our young crime fighter.

I recommend this as a fun read that tackles some big issues but remains optimistic in tone. I especially recommend it to dog people. We do get to hear Lebowitz’s inner thoughts and they are a treat!

Carrie S

From New York Times bestselling author E. Lockhart (Genuine FraudWe Were Liars) and artist Manuel Preitano (The Oracle Code) comes a new Gotham City superhero in this exciting YA graphic novel.

Sixteen-year-old Willow Zimmerman has something to say. When she’s not on the streets advocating for her community, she’s volunteering at the local pet shelter. She seeks to help all those in need, even the stray dog she’s named Lebowitz that follows her around. But as much as she does for the world around her, she struggles closer to home–taking care of her mother, recently diagnosed with cancer. Her job as an adjunct professor of Jewish studies does not provide adequate health insurance–and Willow can see that time is running out.

When in desperation she reconnects with her estranged “uncle” Edward, he opens the door to an easier life. Through simple jobs, such as hosting his private poker nights with Gotham City’s elites, she is able to keep her family afloat–and afford critical medical treatments for her mother.

Willow’s family life quickly improves through the income provided by these jobs, but it comes at the cost of distancing herself from the people she truly cares about. Her time is now spent on new connections, such as biologist and teacher Pammie Isley. And when Willow and Lebowitz collide with the monstrous Killer Croc outside the local synagogue, they are both injured, only to wake up being able to understand each other. And there are other developments, too…strange ways in which they’ve become stronger together. Willow’s activism kicks into high gear–with these powers, she can really save the world!

But when Willow discovers that Edward and his friends are actually some of Gotham’s most corrupt criminals, she must make a choice: remain loyal to the man who kept her family together, or use her new powers to be a voice for her community.

Graphic Novel, Science Fiction/Fantasy, Young Adult
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