I have mentioned before that while the new iteration of Batgirl is very well done, I wasn’t particularly enjoying it. It had a bit too much of a hipster feel, I thought it was trying a little too hard when it came to Barbara’s personality. I also didn’t really care for the whole spat between Batgirl and Black Canary, and in general the book felt like it was forcing its premise. Having said all of that, I’ve stuck with the book because there were certain aspects that still intrigued me, and I liked the art. Now, at issue #39, this book is finally starting to click for me.
Until the last issue, Batgirl had been embracing her new role as “Batgirl of Burnside,” fighting crime in her local neighborhood much like Daredevil does in Hell’s Kitchen. Last issue, however, the residents began to turn on their beloved new heroine, and this issue starts as Batgirl finds herself being pursued by an angry mob carrying those angry mob standards such as a rolling pin, pipe, and bat with nails in it. (I was disappointed there were no torches or pitchforks.) As the issue progresses, readers find out that there has been a massive bounty placed on Batgirl’s head by the same entity that has been hounding her since she moved to Burnside.
While the hipster feel is still maintained, it is no long one of the driving forces behind the book. Yes, Batgirl still lives, works, and fights crime in the Gotham equivalent of Williamsburg, New York, but it is now more of a background. It sets the scene for the plot that is unraveling, rather than being the main part of the plot. I can’t even begin to describe how pleased I am that this shift has occurred. I’ll be the first to admit that there are some stories in which the location is incredibly important as the driving force behind the characters. This is just not one of those stories, and it’s good that the creators recognize that.
When this re-launch of Batgirl started, Barbara was often all over the place mentally and emotionally. The best word I can think of to describe her at that point is manic. She would flip from nervous to giddy to serious to totally freaking out at a pace that would concern most mental health professionals and really threw me for a loop. My recollections of Barbara Gordon were of a cool and collected individual who, as either Batgirl or Oracle, was in control of the situation. While Batgirl still isn’t in complete control, she is far better than she used to be. Cameron Stewart and Brenden Fletcher are also doing a much better job of adding nuance to Barbara’s interactions with other characters. At one point Batgirl needs a resupply and the guy who makes all her tech gives her what he has but then says he’s out because he now distrusts her, thanks to her detractors. Babs is more than a little hurt and frustrated by this and it shows, without being over the top.
One of the things I enjoyed most from the last run of Batgirl was the relationship between Batgirl and Black Canary. They made a great team before their falling-out. Despite their conflict being rooted in something realistic (or at least realistic for super heroes), it felt like it was extended well past its natural conclusion and it became tiring. With this issue, the team is back together. Black Canary comes to Batgirl’s rescue and while the two of them are training, Barbara comes to an important realization.
With regards to my last complaint–the feeling of a forced premise, I don’t know exactly what has solved it, I just know it’s gone. It might have just gone away naturally as the book hit its stride or it might have been thanks to some subtle manipulation by the creative team. Regardless of what happened, I’m now digging the book and its premise.
As I stated before, I was really sticking with this book for the art and I’m glad I have, both because the book as a whole has gotten better, and also because the art has remained very solid. The action sequences have steadily gotten better since the new team has taken over. The angry mob scene that I mentioned earlier is fairly straight forward, but very well executed. At no point did I have to go back and re-read any panels to understand what is going on. That has become one of my biggest pet peeves as of late, and it made me very happy to not deal with it. I’m also loving the creativity the team is using with some of these sequences. One towards the book’s conclusion was had a really great mix of Batgirl’s skill and tech and I was thoroughly impressed.
I’m really excited to see what comes of this story when it concludes next issue. From a book that I was barely keeping on my pull because of the art, to one with which I’m truly impressed, Batgirl has made impressive strides in a very short time. 5/5 Death Stars