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'Saved by the Belle Reve' #1 balances silly little jokes with sincere life lessons

Comic Books

‘Saved by the Belle Reve’ #1 balances silly little jokes with sincere life lessons

If only learning was always this funny and deliberately weird.

The Syllabus:

It’s back-to-school season, and what better way to celebrate than with heightened cartoon violence? DC’s giant-sized Saved by the Belle Reve contains eight stories about the awkwardness and fisticuffs that occur as everyone returns to school. What stories put in the work and which need to see me after class?

Here’s the CliffsNotes version:

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Gotham Academy – “Sophomore Year”

Writers: Becky Cloonan and Brenden Fletcher
Artist: Karl Kerschl
Colorist: Msassyk
Letter: Steve Wands

Saved by the Belle Reve #1

DC Comics

Here’s a mostly cutesy tale of one final adventure at Gotham Academy before summer break. This whole issue feels like it was tailor-made for this kind of generally low-stakes tale of friendship and the trials of growing up as a crimefighter (or even just as a normie). The art doesn’t always help make this feel less overly sweet and safe, but some moments (like a brief interaction with Solomon Grundy) gave the story some much-needed heft. It’s inoffensive enough if you’re not a fan of the G.A. concept, but there’s plenty of charm and heart if you’re a regular student. B+

Suicide Squad – “High School Lows”

Writer: Tim Seeley
Artist: Scott Kolins
Colorist: John Kalisz
Letterer: Wes Abbott

DC Comics goes back to school with 'DC's Saved by the Belle Reve' #1

DC Comics

You know how the first Suicide Squad movie missed the boat on the humor, as the second flick all but nailed it? This story, about the team playing pretend at an elite boarding school, was a solid middle ground. The jokes about Weasel saving the day from demons hit, even if it all felt a little to exposition heavy for much bigger laughs. But it excelled in the emotionality department (not to mention for great art expertly blurring the lines between the silly and the surreal) for embracing the school gimmick and letting the team feel deeply nuanced and human. Really, though, Weasel saved the day. A-

The Super Sons – “Back To School”

Writer: Peter J. Tomasi
Artist: Max Raynor
Colorist: Adriano Lucas
Letterer: Rob Leigh

DC Comics goes back to school with 'DC's Saved by the Belle Reve' #1

DC Comics

This story won me over by just being an all-new chapter of the great Super Sons series (also by Tomasi, FYI). From there, it scored huge bonus points for being an after-school special about gender identity without ever feeling cheesy and hokey. Both Damian and Jon got to engage with the new non-binary student, Sydney, and learn about themselves as well the idea of finding yourself in the world. It felt like the first story to take the school shtick and do something that felt thoughtful and pertinent. Was the ending a little forced and/or contrived? Sure, but it sure had plenty to teach along the way. A

Speedy and Green Arrow – “Earn It Back”

Writer: Dave Wielgosz
Artist: Mike Norton
Colorist: Allan Passalaqua
Letterer: Steve Wands

Saved by the Belle Reve #1

DC Comics

From a design standpoint, this story nailed it, with a mix of old-school (vintage Green Arrow costume!) and the new to make it feel universal in its overall appeal. But it did feel odd to have a story about Speedy, considering the ups and downs Roy Harper would experience later in life. Luckily, there were some great lessons and ideas here about the responsibility of hero “parents” and excelling in life and crimefighting — even if it felt a little untethered to any actual character work or development. Still, the Roy-Oliver dynamic had more punch than a boxing glove arrow. B

Tiny Titans – “Piece Making”

Writers: Art Baltazar and Franco
Artist and Letterer: Art Baltazar

Saved by the Belle Reve #1

DC Comics

I kept my mouth shut when they spun Teen Titans into Teen Titans Go!, but I can’t keep silent here with what was effectively Teen Titans Babies. Whether it’s the bad jokes/references about Bugs Bunny, or the irritating choice of crayon drawing style, the whole thing felt like the most forced story in the whole issue. I won’t give it an F because there was some upside, namely that having the Suicide Squad always adds a little something weird to the mix. But it certainly needs to be held back a bit for simply being too much of a hackneyed gimmick compared to other stories. D

Black Lightning – “This Is Why”

Writer: Brandon Thomas
Artist: Craig Cermak
Colorist: Hi-Fi
Letterer: Josh Reed

Saved by the Belle Reve #1

DC Comics

It took six stories but I finally got choked up a bit. Was it the ‘90s-comics-meets-after-school-special vibes of the art? Sure, that singular aesthetic always make things feel more crisp and impactful. Was it that they explored Black Lightning in a way that showcased his multifaceted humanity? For sure, he’s a solid hero across the board. But it’s mostly for having lessons about learning and life and our shared connection told in a way that felt honest and still inspiring. This issue clearly needed more stories like this, and to let the ideas about life and learning be the real focus. This one will make you want to thank your favorite teacher. A+

Azrael – “How Angels Are Made”

Writer: Dan Watters
Artist: Juan Ferreyra
Letterer: Josh Reed

DC Comics goes back to school with 'DC's Saved by the Belle Reve' #1

DC Comics

I love Dan Watters’ continued, thoughtful development of Azrael. Similarly, I liked the art here — the sort of simple pen and ink-inspired approach really fostered a lot of power and sentimentality to the story of Azrael’s hellacious time in school. And I even liked that they made the extra smart decision to place something so intense and visceral among other mostly adorable stories. But in the end, the whole thing felt like a setup for another Azrael story, and not a moment to just explore the character and perhaps offer a glimmer of real hope amid some continuously depressing circumstances. I’m all for grit, but it needed to be executed a tad more smoothly. C+

Nightwing and Batgirl – “A Night Off”

Writer: Andrew Aydin
Artist: Nelson Daniel
Colorist: Dee Cunniffe
Letterer: Ferran Delgado

Saved by the Belle Reve #1

DC Comics

I felt a little torn here. The whole art style felt like Totally Spies, which mostly sort of worked with the whole “Nightwing and Batgirl at prom” story. I thought it felt a little forced and still didn’t give us as much Babs-Dick action as merited, but we did get a very wonderful moment of pure Batman awkwardness. Ultimately, I felt sort of lukewarm about the whole thing; not exactly the best setup, and even a little sluggish in the execution, but there was just enough here to feel entertained if not like we actually learned anything of value. In short, lots of heart but not nearly enough Nightwing dancing. C

Final Grade:

There’s heart and charm galore even if some of it felt pulled from a halfhearted lesson plan. B-

'Saved by the Belle Reve' #1 balances silly little jokes with sincere life lessons
‘Saved by the Belle Reve’ #1 balances silly little jokes with sincere life lessons
Saved by the Belle Reve #1
Despite a tendency for the cheesy and the heavy-handed, this giant-sized collection showcases some of the robust humanity that defines DC's catalog of characters.
Reader Rating1 Vote
8.5
A solid mix of creators get to explore their favorite characters.
It's not all silly gimmicks, and there's deeply touching and poignant moments here.
The creators make room for real-life talk about identity, family, and trauma.
Not every story is of equal quality, and the downsides feel generally annoying.
7
Good
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