New 52 – Batgirl #14 review

The first of the real Death of the Family tie-ins is a good one. Better, I believe, than any of the Night of Owls tie-ins. There’s actually something at stake here for Barbara, an emotional weight to the scenes. What happens matters not only for Barbara but for the entire Death of the Family event and that’s what a good crossover should do. It doesn’t feel like a cash grab, it feels like good storytelling. I think we can all agree that Barbara’s role in Death of the Family is one we were all looking forward to with great anticipation. After the numerous flashbacks and references to The Killing Joke over the past year, seeing a mended Barbara confront the Joker should be a must read and I’m happy to report that this is definitely a must-read.

There are couple of negative points that I can think to make about this comic, but even those small flaws are far outweighed by how much I enjoyed reading what happens here. There are so many twisted and unexpected things going on that I don’t see how you could read it and not get excited about what’s to come next month for Batgirl.

Firstly, the making of the sandwich. If you’ve seen the free preview DC posted on their site, then you know that Barbara is talking on the phone to an unseen foe who she believes to be the Joker. The voice on the other end of the line tells her to calm down and go make herself a sandwich or else momma Gordon dies. Well, Barbara actually makes the sandwich. This bugs me only slightly because I don’t think any of the other heroes would’ve gone along with this but at the same time, she’s stunned and scared and she’s often portrayed as being younger and more naive than in her Oracle days so it’s understandable that New 52 Babs would go along with all of this. However, she does this without ever suspecting that she’s being watched. It never comes up. She opens the fridge, the bad man says “Yes. That’s better.” and Barbara never wonders if the man on the phone can see inside her home. If she just acted calm and quiet, would he know she isn’t making the sandwich? Even when the situation is momentarily defused after the break-in she never collects herself and wonders if the guy on the phone could see into the kitchen. Anyway, the next problem is that we’re apparently missing a key scene, a phone call. After Barbara easily dispatches the goons running into her home, she interrogates them to no avail and then the bad guy on the phone gives no info either. We cut to Batgirl outside of a skate rink the same night, she’s found the Joker and she’s back on the phone with the unknown bad guy. Did he call her back? Did they never hang up on each other earlier? Batgirl later says in conversation with the Joker that the man on the phone told her where to go, but we never see that. Slipping a detail like that into the dialogue so much later felt very off. The last problem I had was with the way, and again these are spoilers, the way that the man on the phone knows Joker’s every move even though they aren’t working togethr. How is it that James Jr. figured out what Joker was up to before anyone else? That character is being given way too much credit, but there’s plenty of time for Jr’s involvement to be better explained in the next issue. Perhaps he was stalking the mom at the time and saw her being abducted and then used this knowledge to his advantage?
My non-spoiler complaint would have to be that the book has a fill-in artist. Unless a comic squeezes in a flashback or dream sequence or something, the transition to a fill-in artist is always a jarring one. Sampere and Benes are quite different and the Joker here just doesn’t look very good in my opinion. Capullo seems to have that new leatherface look down, but seeing other artists attempt it just makes it even clearer how this design shouldn’t be a permanent one.

Besides those minor troubles I had a great time reading this. Couldn’t put it down. And the ending? It’s going to have everyone talking. Simone did a fantastic job with the Joker and he reads almost exactly like he does in Snyder’s Batman. I’m just curious about when this fits in with the events of today’s Batman issue and how Joker’s actions in Batgirl #14 fit with his greater scheme. It’s intriguing stuff that sparks fun speculation.

Batgirl #14 is a must-read for any fan of Barbara’s and a great tie-in to the Death of the Family event. But perhaps best of all, it’s new reader friendly. If you’re at all familiar with Jim Gordon’s family and what took place in Alan Moore’s The Killing Joke you can jump on board right now with issue #14. Everyone should check this out, you won’t believe what Joker does on that final page.

SCORE: 8/10