Thursday, August 30, 2012

Comic Book Reviews: Batgirl #11 and #12

I had been considering just leaving Batgirl out of my comic rotation altogether, as I consider it to consistently be the weakest of the five books that I've been reviewing.

That said, I'd be remiss if I didn't close out its first year post-New 52 since I've still been getting the book in my pull box. I'll run through the stories and then share my thoughts on Barbara Gordon's first year back in active duty

Issue #11

I was very impressed with this issue. As a matter of fact, it's one of the reasons why I decided to do these Batgirl reviews.

This issue, provided you can find it, which should still be easily possible, showed Barbara actually behaving competently. She knew what was left in her utility belt and was analyzing the battle the way she would have as Oracle. I really appreciate that.

Batgirl is - once again - fighting meta-humans in this book, and she requires the help of the cop who has had a vendetta against her to sneak her off. It is at that point that the cop, who is connected to the villains from their attempted escape at Arkham, explains Knightfall's backstory and a few of the side villains' powers.

However, this ultimately serves as a lead-in to the next installment, as the last page shows Batwoman spying outside while the dialogue completing talks about being careful as to what side a person is on.

I was legitimately interested by this issue and it actually brought me back from pulling away from the book.

The side story of Barbara's brother dating her roommate while clearly giving off a "I'm still a psycho" vibe was really chilling and fun to read.

Barbara appeared very skilled and it was fun watching the fight. For the first time since the reboot, there was a Barbara Gordon story that didn't focus on her legs working again and was just her doing her thing to the best of her ability.

Issue #12

And then we got to the follow up and boy, did this book get me angry.

Ignoring for a second the story, which ends on a cliffhanger that is very upsetting given that it will take two months to reach a conclusion, my biggest complaint is with the Batwoman-Batgirl crossover.

What aggravates me is that Batwoman basically hands Batgirl her ass in the fight. And then after that, there is a scene where Barbara talks about how Batwoman has reminded her what it means to be a hero and WHAT AM I READING?!?!?

I get that Batwoman (despite having about the same experience as Barbara) is supposed to be the bigger deal and should be able to win fights. And I also get that JH Williams has returned to the Batwoman book and the stories aren't as incoherent crap now, and they want to push the character.

But I also understand what a crossover should accomplish: Make both characters, especially the title character of the host book, look amazing. Even Bruce Wayne took clean hits from Barbara in his cross with her, and pre-Flashpoint Damian Wayne took clean hits in the Stephanie Brown Batgirl book.

Having the character whose importance is measured by their book take a beating from a fellow hero IN THEIR OWN BOOK makes them look bad by comparison. It makes the reader wonder why they are paying for a Batgirl book if even the creative team there thinks there are better female heroes in her own family of Bat-heroes.

There wasn't even a thought bubble where Batwoman acknowledges Barbara's toughness. She's basically just a thug who swoops in, whips Barbara's ass and then is talked down when she realizes she's fighting the wrong people. Ugh.

This is not helped by a cliffhanger that shows Batgirl unable to defeat the villains of her book while Batwoman is downstairs beating the tar out of henchmen. This was just a spit in the face of this character.

If you can get past that, though, it isn't a bad plot. You don't get much in the way of motivation, but you see all the abilities the villains have and at least see a (fairly gruesome) resolution to the kidnapped car thief thing.

Overall, I don't know what to make of this title. The art was amazing in both, and I want to like this character because I loved her older stories and loved both successors to the Batgirl mantle (even if neither has existed yet post-Flashpoint). But Gail Simone made the wrong Bat look good and has been fairly inconsistent recently.

Hopefully the Joker's return will make for a trip back to interesting after this arc concludes.

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