[GUEST POST] Abhinav Jain Reviews Batgirl Vol. 1: The Darkest Reflection from DC Comics New 52
With DC’s relaunch of its entire line-up under the “New 52″ umbrella, several Batman-related titles were announced, no less than ten of them! We have the main Batman title, Nightwing, Batgirl, Batman and Robin, Detective Comics, Batman: The Dark Knight, Red Hood and The Outlaws, Batwing, Batwoman and Birds of Prey. That’s one heck of an overdose of everything Batman. Plus the fact that the first twelve issues of most of these titles came under the Court of Owls crossover event, and keeping track of the various appearances and stuff is pretty overwhelming. At least, that’s one of the reasons why I avoided reading anything other than Batman by Scott Snyder, Birds of Prey by Duane Swierczynski and Nightwing by Kyle Higgins until now.
Recently, it was as if there was more and more praise for writer Gail Simone, who is penning Batgirl at the moment. It made me curious. I’ve never had much of an interest in Batgirl, a character little seen in the movies and the various TV shows alike. Duane and Kyle have both featured her quite a bit in their ongoing series, with Batgirl being one of the core members of the current incarnation of the Birds of Prey, so I wondered how she would be written in her own solo series. And how it would all tie to the various crossovers that are ongoing for all Batman-related titles. As I said above, first we had the Court of Owls crossover, and now we have Death of the Family, in which Joker returns to Gotham with a vengeance and an axe to grind.
So I picked up the first two issues of Gail’s Batgirl. Then another two, and then two more. As things currently stand, I have all fifteen issues of the series so far, the fourteen regular monthlies, and the special prequel #0 issue. I’ve only read through to the sixth issue, but I can honestly say that Batgirl has become one of my favourite DC characters, ever.
Gail’s scripts are thoroughly engaging. Her “voice” is very different to that of Scott’s or Kyle’s or Duane’s, even though she is writing in the same setting and for a character that has ties to all of the others I’ve been reading about for the last eight months. Her Batgirl/Barbara Gordon has spunk and is often tongue-in-cheek, a combination I like. I also like the fact that Batgirl is set after the traumatic events in which Joker left her paralysed. The first time I came across that plotline was in the live-action series Birds of Prey featuring Ashley Scott as Helena Kyle/Huntress, Dina Meyer as Barbara Gordon/Oracle and Rachel Skarsten as Dinah Lance. Of course, that series is set several years in the future, one in which Batman has left Gotham and moved on, leaving behind his daughter in Barbara’s care. The most poignant fact about the series was how it showed Barbara as always in a wheelchair. She struggles constantly with her disability and her frustrations were real. That’s exactly what Gail does in Batgirl, except that Barbara has healed to the point where she can walk around and even go on patrol as her superhero persona. But anything that reminds her of her disability can still shock her.
That’s where the villain known as Mirror comes in. He is a guy obsessed with miracles, and he is going around Gotham killing people who have been saved in accidents by “miracles”. Barbara Gordon just happens to be on his list. Mirror was, I think, a great character to play off against Batgirl for the first arc of the new series. The challenge Batgirl faces when going up against him isn’t to win through with brawn or crazy acrobatics, but it is something deeply psychological for her. Going up against him means she has to confront her disability, and the cause for it.
And she has to do it all on her own, because everyone is dealing with their own demons. Batman is preoccupied with the Court and Nightwing is preoccupied with his own past demons. It’s a great arc for the series, and one of the reasons why I love it: Batgirl is on her own and she doesn’t rely on others to help her.
There’s also Gretel, who makes for another great villain for the arc once Mirror exits left. She was an even more compelling villain, who is facing psychological scars of her own, and also has a super-power she employs regularly and to quite a devastating effect. She was a villain who got me to believe that she was going to be an even bigger challenge to Batgirl than Mirror had been, and the resolution of the conflict between the two women was a good one.
Some of the other moving moments of the first arc are the scenes involving Barbara and her roommate, as well as the ones with Barbara and her father, Commissioner Gordon. A discussion of her disability comes up with both of them at several times and it’s always interesting to see how things work out between them. Strong characterisation seems to be something that Gail Simone is damn good at.
The creative team of Ardian Syaf as penciller, Vicente Cifuentes as inker, Ulises Arreola as colourist, Dav Sharpe as letterer and Adam Huges as the cover artist is a rock-solid team. They don’t have the panache and amazingness of the Batman team, but they are right on par with the Nightwing team. I really like how Syaf draws Batgirl and the various other characters, with Commissioner Gordon being really, really good. With Arreola’s colours and Cifuentes’ inks, Syaf’s panels become studies in detail, the character expressions being the standout features.
Adam Hughes’ covers for the first six issues are just amazing. They show off Batgirl really well, in poses that are dynamic and alive. I still prefer Capullo’s covers for the Batman-related titles, but Hughes has also done a great job, mixing in characters and locations from the script to great effect, and using a variety of colour palettes and styles.
In sum total, Gail Simone’s Batgirl is off to a great start and I’m looking forward to reading more of the series in the coming weeks, since I’m eager to get to the Batgirl portion of the Death of the Family crossover, which, from what I’ve seen of Batman #13-14 is just tremendously awesome.
Long-time science-fiction and fantasy geek, lover of all things star wars and warhammer (mostly all things anyway). Abhinav Jain currently has several works in progress for both science fiction and fantasy in different formats – short story, novella, novel. He is also a book reviewer for The Founding Fields and a movie reviewer for Just Beyond Infinity. You can follow him on twitter @abhinavjain87 and through his blog.
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