Whistle: A New Gotham City Hero

DC Comics. Sept. 2021. 208p. pap. $16.99. ISBN 9781401293222.
Gr 8 Up–Sixteen-year-old Willow Zimmerman lives in Down River, a borough of Gotham City. She is an activist for school funding and befriends a new classmate, Garfield, who has just moved to town after growing up in Nigeria. She works late shifts at an animal shelter to help support her mother, who is battling cancer. An opportunity arises when her mom’s old friend E. Nigma comes to town offering Willow a large salary for helping organize exclusive events for his friends and clients. Willow accepts, and the money is an enormous help, but she begins neglecting Garfield. She also befriends Pammie Isley, a die-hard environmentalist and one of Nigma’s cohorts. The first two-thirds or so of this story is a street-level view of Gotham City as led by a spunky, conscientious teenager. There are references to and cameos from the DC universe, but Willow is definitely the star. Willow and her mom are Jewish, and there is information about Gotham’s Jewish history and culture, dialogue about mitzvahs and tikkun olam, and settings ranging from a synagogue to stores with names like Moishe’s, Rosen Bros. Delicatessen, and Shelsky’s Bagels. Willow struggles to balance personal, social, and professional goals, especially when a big payday requires her to compromise her morals. The third act, in which Willow quickly gains and uses some canine powers to foil Nigma and Isley’s criminal enterprise, feels out of place and unnecessary. Preitano’s sharp, angular art depicts Willow and Gotham as having many layers and sides—superheroics somehow drain the color from both. Willow, her mother, E. Nigma, and Pammie are white; Garfield is Black.
VERDICT Willow’s street-level perspective of Gotham City makes for a unique, if uneven, adventure in activism and morality.

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