Batgirl #1 Review
- Published on Sunday, 11 September 2011 01:00
- Written by Andrenn
The DC Universe has been rebooted/Relaunched/Revivacious and there are plenty of changes hitting heroes. Some controversial, some not. No one can deny that the change that caught the most attention and riled up fans the most was DC bringing back Barbara Gordon as Batgirl. There are supporters and haters of this idea. But with three months of arguing and hype behind us, does Gail Simone's re-introduction of Babs as Batgirl into the DCU rise above all the chaos or was Babs better left at the computer? Let's find out!
Writer: Gail Simone
Artist: Ardian Syaf
Inks: Vincente Cifuentes
Colors: Ulises Arreola
Story Rating: 7 Batgirls out of 10
Art Rating: 8 Batgirls out of 10
Overall Rating: 7.5 Batgirls out of 10
Synopsis: The Mirror is visiting his latest victim, a sailor who survived when the rest of his ship did not. The Mirror drowns him with his gardening hose. He crosses the older man off the list and looks to his list, on it is Barbara Gordon.
Atop a gargoyle, Batgirl monologues how she's not Barbara Gordon. That tonight as she moves in to save a couple from being murdered she proclaims that tonight is is Batgirl.
In the apartment, the couple being threatened are introduced to the Brisby Killers. A bunch of hoodlums dressed up in old monster masks slaughtering people. Suddenly, Batgirl bursts through the window and attacks. She works her way through the others knocking them out when the leader holds the couple at gun point, telling her he's going to kill them.
Batgirl pretends to surrender herself when she makes her move knocking out the last goon before the leader. Batgirl taunts the leader and he attacks her pushing her out to the balcony where they both hang. She gets him up and cuffs them and tells the couple to call the police. While she thinks to herself how terrifying that all was.
Barbara flashes back to her being shot in the Killing Joke. She thinks about how terrified she was after that, but how she never let it beat her. Barbara recollects that she was paralyzed for the three years. She goes out to greet her father Jim Gordon (looking much, much younger by the way) and its revealed that she's moving out, telling her father that its time she stretch her legs.
The next day Barbara is moving in to her new place when she meets her roommate. She starts taking her things and her roommate reveals she is an activist. Meanwhile, at the hospital the leader of the Brisby Killers is in the hospital with the cops trying to talk to him.
Barbara and her roommate go out to her van. Her roommate comments on the wheelchair lift and mentions that it must be like a prison. Barbara does not get upset, she thinks how her roommate just does not know. At the hospital Mirror has shown up coming after the Brisby Killers leader.
Barbara gets a text that the hospital is under attack and she gets her Bat cycle out of the van and hits the streets. She makes her way into the hospital as Mirror mows people down to get to the leader, killing one of the cops guarding him. Batgirl is able to get to the hospital room before Mirror kills the leader.
Mirror pulls a gun, aiming it right at Batgirl's spine. She freezes up suddenly in fear. Mirror pushes the leader out a window and Batgirl comes to her senses. The cop left alive points a gun at her calling her a murderer.
The Good: It is near impossible to review this comic without at least mentioning the controversy that surrounds it. When it was announced that Babs would walk and Gail Simone would be writing her new adventures a lot of people were split down the middle. You either loved the idea or you hated it and a lot of people hated it. While the haters had good reason to be upset, I could not help but fall on the side of people happy with this announcement.
My perspective on this is as a Barbara Gordon fan from the Saturday Morning cartoons of my youth. I am a product of the 90's and while I was a little too young to watch the classic Batman: TAS when it first debuted I did get in to the show by the final season (also known as New Batman Adventures) and I caught tons of re-runs over the years. While watching New Batman Adventures, I became a fan of Barbara Gordon as Batgirl. When I thought of Batgirl I thought of that familiar redhead.
A little over 10 or so years later when I get back in to comics imagine my surprise when I check out the DCU and find someone named Cassandra Cain was Batgirl. Much to my surprise, Barbara had been shot before I was even born and was now Oracle. While I grew to like Cassandra Cain (like five minutes before she got booted out of Gotham mind you) I could not help but want to see Babs as Batgirl. She was the Batgirl I knew as a kid and I was interested in reading more recent story lines with her as Batgirl.
That is not to spit hate at Cassandra, Stephanie or Oracle. Babs was great as Oracle, Cassandra and Stephanie also made great Batgirls. But I could not help but hope that Barbara may one day become Batgirl again. Though I still enjoyed the characters and stories that came with them. So that is my perspective, as a fan of the character when I was kid excited to see what she will do as Batgirl now.
I am not saying anyone who is mad that Barbara is out of the wheelchair is wrong, or anyone who misses Stephanie should be quiet. Not at all. All I am saying is that I, me, Andrenn, am very happy to see what she'll do as Batgirl. I am not coming into this issue with any anger over the loss of Oracle, though I know everyone who is has a perfectly legitimate reason.
Now with that huge controversy out of the way: Batgirl #1 is a strong debut for this series. Gail Simone does a good job of re-introducing Barbara to everyone while keeping her the same great character. Simone clearly put a lot of hard work into Batgirl #1 to make it a good read which is also a reminder of why Barbara Gordon is such a great character.
Batgirl #1's biggest success is Barbara Gordon. While the issue has its problems it succeeds at the most important part of retaining Barbara as a great character while bringing her back to her old digs. Nothing that came before is lost. Simone has always written a great Barbara Gordon back when she was Oracle and that same great character work has carried on to Babs as she becomes Batgirl once again.
Simone also handles the big Elephant in the room of Barbara's time in the wheelchair. 23 years aren't swept under the rug, they just subtracted the 20. Simone knows how important that was to Barbara's character as well as long time fans of Oracle. She treats the wheel chair from her past with respect and addresses it properly.
The scene with her roommate calling the wheelchair a prison and Barbara's reaction, saying it did so much for her. That was the best scene in the comic. It shows plenty of respect for what once happened to Barbara without preaching about how great those times were. It strikes that perfect balance of respect without over doing it and telling your readers the obvious.
Simone also addresses that not only did the Killing Joke happen but its affects are still felt today. Babs may be able to walk but she hasn't forgotten what changed that years ago when the Joker came knocking. While I am a little worried that Simone may end up over using this as a plot point in future issues, we got just enough of it here. I'm hopeful that this is the most we'll see of that iconic scene and that the series doesn't bring it up constantly. Its a huge moment and very important to Babs but we don't need to be reminded of it every issue. Lets hope that won't be the case.
Barbara's narration was great through the entire issue. Simone is perfectly in Barbara's head and gives us a nice look inside. We get to know Barbara through her narration and Simone paints a strong and confident character without forgetting her weaknesses. Moments like mentioning how terrifying being a super hero is are important for showing us that Babs isn't just jumping into this and not having troubles.
The entire issue is about re-introducing Barbara and with that huge success its definitely the strong point of the comic. Anyone not familiar with Babs gets a really great look into her mind and a showcase of what she can do. Anyone familiar with Babs, like myself, are not being regurgitated her basic characteristics though. She is still as interesting to read as always without relying on telling us what we know about her.
So, the most important part of the comic is good. Success and definitely the highlight. Thankfully, the action is not a slouch either. The opening scene showing Barbara getting back into the groove of fighting was a lot of fun. We also get a good feel that this is not very easy. Babs struggles with the fight and in the end she comes out on top due to her smarts instead of just her brawn.
The second action scene at the hospital is much shorter but also effective. Simone injects some nice little comedic bits that keep us from getting too much tension in one issue. While the importance of the scene is not lost its always impressive when a writer can make you chuckle in the middle of a still serious and exciting action scene.
The villain Mirror is mysterious and interesting. While Mirror's motives are unknown, Simone shows us that our villain is not playing around. That Mirror is a ruthless killer that will do whatever it takes to get the kill. With Barbara still getting re-adjusting to being Batgirl again this makes him a great villain for the debut arc. Barbara is confident but not at her A-game, while Mirror is unrelenting and totally in control. So, while the villain remains a mystery Simone did a good job of making me interested in seeing what Mirror is up to next.
I was not too excited when Ardian Syaf was announced as the artist of Batgirl. I do not think he is a bad artist, just not the most exciting artist in DC's stable. Still, he really impressed me on Emperor Aquaman so I came in to this issue with hope. I was more than happy with his artwork, this is definitely some of Syaf's best work. While not every panel is great, overall he nailed it.
Syaf pulled off some really strong stuff here that changed my opinion of his work. While he may not be my favorite artist at DC, he turned me around and made me a fan. Pages like Batgirl soaring and Barbara with her father capture the emotions of those moments perfectly and he really kills it on the action. Despite my apprehensions, he turned in some great work and won me over.
The Bad: The dialogue in Batgirl #1 is a bit uneven. While it never gets downright bad, it does falter from time to time. Batgirl saying “My babies” when talking about the Brisby Killers just came off as weird. Again, it is not bad dialogue but it was weak enough for me to take notice and hurt my reading experience.
I could not care less about the roommate character. Simone has introduced her as a very generic quirky character who's about as throwaway as can be. I know these characters are created usually for the sake of humor, but I find them incredibly boring and certainly not funny. While Simone did not have to devote half the issue to developing her, something a little more interesting than quirky activist girl is not much to ask for.
This issue does a really good job of re-introducing Babs. I have said that a few times now. However, I feel like it needed to go just a bit further. We stop just when we are starting to get used to her character and then suddenly she has got to ride off into action. I do not really blame Simone for this but rather the page count. If this issue could have had just a few more pages to devote to Barbara's character I think it would have been a better read.
The cliff-hanger was generic and definitely the weakest part of the whole comic. Cliff-hangers are not always easy to write. I understand that. But here with the police officer turning on Batgirl it just felt forced. She could clearly see that Batgirl was stunned with the gun pointed at her. I could understand the cop being upset with Babs, but calling her a Murderer? Really? When the person who actually killed him is standing right there holding a gun at you? That is a bit much.
This complaint is purely cosmetic and has absolutely nothing to do with the score of Batgirl #1 or even my recommendation of it, but I do not like the costume. I know this is the big reboot, everyone has got to wear silly overly done costumes with lots of lines and circles all around for no good reason. And hey, when separating all the designs from good to bed amongst The New 52 the Batgirl suit falls into the better looking designs.
But my complaint with it is the same complaint with Superman, Batman, The Flash, Green Lantern, Booster Gold and all the other designs: It is just too busy. Lots of lines that mean nothing and are just there for show. It is the opposite of the old saying less is more. These designs, Batgirl especially, feel overly done just to try and be fancy and it does not really work. It looks silly and pointless and it certainly does not add anything to the look of the character.
Overall: Batgirl #1 gets things going strong. For anyone who was nervous about Barbara Gordon's return to being Batgirl I can happily say your fears can be calmed. While it may have some kinks to work out in the coming months, Batgirl is still a good read. Anyone who is a fan of Barbara Gordon or how Gail Simone has been writing her needs to pick this up.
Gail Simone brings back Babs as Batgirl and overall she succeeds. While it is clear everything is not perfect, I came out of this issue with high hopes for the future of the series. Simone was the perfect choice in writer to bring Barbara Gordon as Batgirl back and she gets the job done well. If you are interested definitely pick up Batgirl #1, it is going to be a fun ride.