52 Catch Up: Batgirl

batgirl152 Catch Up is a series devoted to looking at issues from DC's New 52 and seeing how they're faring now that they're underway, why they're worth reading (or not), and places we hope they will go in time.

By Robert J. Baden, Guest Contributor to Fanboy Comics




Barbara Gordon, the daughter of Gotham City’s police commissioner, joined forces with Batman several years ago as a reluctant partner before being shot by the Joker, paralyzing her and confining her to a wheelchair.  Now, three years later, a medical miracle has allowed Barbara to walk again…and to take up the mantle of Batgirl once more.  Barbara readjusts to her former life with the skills of an intelligent woman with an eidetic memory and a desire to do justice, not to mention a need to prove to herself that she’s the right girl for the Bat costume.


Previously on Batgirl: Covering Issues #1 - #6

On her first night back in the caped costume, Batgirl attempts to rescue a family from brutal killers, but ends up having to be saved in the end by one of the intended victims.  Slightly ego-bruised—and in a lot of physical pain—the vigilante hops back to her father’s apartment and rests, secure that the killers are either in the hospital under guard or in jail; however, a new villain, the Mirror, decides to set things right and plans on killing would-be murderers, starting with the wounded one first.  Barbara attempts to stop him but has a post-traumatic event when he points a gun at her, allowing for the Mirror to both kill his intended target and shoot a GCPD detective.

Unsure of herself and her abilities, Barbara takes off after the fleeing Mirror and confronts him in the most elite cemetery in Gotham  After an intense fight between the two, the Mirror manages to flee once again, but this time letting Barbara see his list of past and intended victims—including herself, in both her identities.  Using her eidetic memory and skills she honed as the hacker Oracle, Barbara figures out who the Mirror really is and why he’s obsessed with setting the world right to his standards.  Before she can finally take him out, Nightwing has a “word” with her about her return to being Batgirl…in the form of patronizing remarks and a brief hand-to-hand combat exercise.  Beaten, but having made his point, Nightwing leaves her to her work.

After dealing with some more crime on the streets of Gotham, Barbara plays on the Mirror’s past and lulls him into making a mistake and easily dispatches him.  Tired from her ordeal, she enjoys an evening with her new roommate in their new apartment, only to be disturbed by someone at the front door.  When she goes to answer it, Barbara is faced with seeing her mother for the first time since she was twelve: Holy Unexpected Mom, Batgirl!  Wary of the reasons why she has returned, Barbara keeps her at arm’s length.

Fortunately—depending upon how you see it—Barbara investigates a new villain, Gretel, who seems to have the power to make men do her bidding.  She is able to stop one of the men from being killed but is unable to stop Gretel from escaping.  Not long afterwards, Gretel uses her powers to attacking Bruce Wayne on his way to a public rally supporting (and protesting) his recent investment decisions; however, Bruce himself falls under Gretel’s powers, and Barbara finds herself facing off with her mentor and former partner.  Eventually, she’s able to defeat him by playing on his emotional weak spots, but Gretel escapes once again.  In a final confrontation, Barbara and Batman corner Gretel and keep her from injuring more people (and herself), but are unable to truly save her from her own mental breakdown.

High Points

Believable Struggles: The best part of the entire series thus far has been the struggles, external and internal, that Barbara faces in her renewed life.  She may be walking again, but the scars of being paralyzed, of being reliant on her wheelchair, continue to haunt her.  It’s clearly evident that she’s suffered post-traumatic stress, but she doesn’t let it push her away from doing what she wants, what she needs, to do.  She makes progress throughout the issues, but, initially, she can’t even face a loon with a gun without thinking of the Joker.  Her struggles show that she’s not perfect, but, more importantly, she knows she’s not perfect, and she’s not going to let it stop her.

Art Flow: The flow from frame to frame is beautiful, showing a clear progression from one aspect of the story to the next and so on.  There isn’t too much shown, yet there’s enough to really bring the reader into the internal workings of Barbara’s mind, showing you what she thinks and how she sees the world around her.  Aside from a few spots, most of the point-of-view is from her, and it’s great to see the panels show something as though you were looking through Barbara’s actual eyes.

Low Points

Clichés: A major problem with the storytelling thus far has been clichés to the point where it seems as though Gail Simone wasn’t trying too hard.  Utilizing elements that are associated with detective themes are one thing, but throwing in parts that rely so heavily on them is another.  Specifically, the vendetta of Det. Melody McKenna: her partner was killed, and she blames Batgirl for it, but can she convince Commissioner Gordon that she hasn’t even thought of vengeance against the masked vigilante?  No, it should be clear that she’s not in a good mental space to be a cop, yet it seems as though people will turn a blind eye to see only what they want to.

: A few times throughout the issues, I noticed some inconsistencies with plot and artwork, where one thing was shown that later wouldn’t be true.  While this can be expected every now and then when going from one issue to another, one of these inconsistencies happened within the same issue—in fact, within a few frames of one another.  I may be wrong in that there’s a reason why the art was different, but, if so, I didn’t see it.

Looking Ahead

: As Barbara struggles to achieve the life she wants, her familial and personal relationships undertake a drastic toll.  She has a tenuous relationship with Batman and Nightwing as both friends and fellow crime-fighters, she has a strained relationship with her father, and she has an aborted romantic involvement with her physical therapist…and then, her estranged mother shows up out of nowhere.  Barbara is rather guarded with her emotions, not wanting to let someone inside of her comfort bubble, and the drastic appearance of her mother has shattered her already fragile appearance of trying to stay afloat.  The only indication she’s made is that she wants to be a part of Barbara’s life, though it seems obvious—to Barbara, at least—that there’s something more to her sudden appearance after countless years of absence.  Just what is it that she wants, and why did it take her so long to come back to Gotham?

: Alysia Yeoh, Barbara’s bartender/activist roommate, has shown she is very concerned about Barbara’s wellbeing despite their brief experiences together.  Believing Barbara’s wounds and scars are the result of an abusive relationship, Alysia makes it clear that she’ll only stand by and overlook it so often before she calls someone.  This, coupled with her protests against Wayne Enterprises, has the potential to cause Barbara some problems with her nighttime activities.  How exactly will the female caped crusader maneuver around her inquisitive roommate for an extended length of time, especially given the seemingly continual incursions by her mother?

GCPD: Commissioner Gordon at least has a working relationship with Batman, but what about Batgirl?  She is both associated with and independent of Batman, yet, thus far, the police have treated her as though she’s a criminal, or at the very least, they consider her a hindrance to their work.  Could something come about where Batgirl has the same working relationship with the police that Batman does—and if so, how much more of a strain would that put on her relationship with her father?




Last modified on Friday, 21 June 2013 01:34

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