New 52 – Batgirl Annual #1 review

The Court of Owls is alive and well in Gotham and they have a plan for revenge against Bruce Wayne. The first step is hiring the homeless to burn down some buildings and cause the deaths of countless innocents, deaths that will be tied back to Bruce Wayne who wants to buy those buildings, demolish them, and rebuild that section of the city. The second step is paying Catwoman to break Mary, the Talon from Batgirl #9, out of prison.

In short: if you can ignore the fact that a powerful clandestine organization would hire some homeless people to burn down buildings or  pay Catwoman to break into prison (not exactly the kind of job she’s known for) rather than use the countless un-killable, uber-obedient ninja assassins they already employ for the job, well you might really enjoy this comic. If you can suspend your disbelief over that bit of stupidity then this may just be one of the most exciting issues of Batgirl with a lot of cool, fun fight scenes and great moments not only for Batgirl but for Catwoman as well. The current Catwoman series is so terrible that this is probably the best chance you have of seeing a half-decent Catwoman story for a few months now so savor it. You’ll wish Simone was writing Catwoman.

But come on, I can’t be the only one who is getting sick of the Court of Owls. When are these guys going to get some kind of motivation other than “to be evil” and when are they going to come up with a decent plan? They want to burn down buildings and pin it on Bruce Wayne? Fine. But they’re so cocky about how fool-proof their plan is when it took Batgirl like 5 minutes to ask around and find not one but TWO homeless guys who were like “Yeah, it was the Court of Owls.” and not just that, but one of the homeless guys even SHOWED BATGIRL WHERE THE BAD GUY LIVED! These guys suck. And apparently Batgirl doesn’t take them all that seriously either since in one of the book’s more intense situations when she and Catwoman face certain death she takes a time out to ask if rumors of Catwoman and Green Arrow knocking boots are true.

The art is pretty solid with some awesome splash pages, especially one of the very first with Batgirl inside a fiery building. The problem is that the book’s art is inconsistent, not only from page to page with Catwoman looking great in one panel and then rather manish in the next, but the book features not one but two artists. Couldn’t DC have found someone who could illustrate the entire book? This would’ve looked okay with either Admira Wijaya or Daniel Sampere’s pencils (moreso Wijaya, Sampere’s cowls never looked quite right and some of the facial expressions were a bit off) but their styles are too different and don’t mesh together well. I found the transition to be pretty jarring. There was also a rather amusing lettering mistake in which a helpful hobo (who we’ve seen in previous issues) tells Batgirl to “Go back to whatever people you do.” Or maybe he really was getting fresh with Babs.

So yeah, the comic’s weakest points for me would have to be the plot and the price tag. Its $4.99 and it really doesn’t feel worth it, especially as a Batgirl book. Other than a few cool shots of Barbara early on, this comic was far more about Catwoman and Mary the Talon who are the real heroes of this story. I hope Nocenti’s Catwoman series takes note of what happened in this issue because these events should have a major impact on what goes on in that title. Also, this book serves as an introduction to Mary the Talon as one of the new members of the Birds of Prey! So…I guess it’s sort of like a Catwoman and Birds of Prey annual more than anything. If it’s truly Batgirl’s annual adventure, she shouldn’t have to play second fiddle to these other gals. $4 bucks might of have been a more appropriate price for this but $5 bucks is pushing it. When you start crossing the $5 dollar mark you might as well spend a couple extra bucks and purchase a full-size trade paperback that’ll take you a while to read. If it were cheaper I’d give it a better score, but it’s too expensive– especially on a day with so many great comics. Seriously, there are a lot of really good Halloween themed books out today.

SCORE: 5.5/10