Last month’s Batgirl #14 laid it’s claim as the best Death of the Family tie-in yet (overthrown, in my opinion, by Batman & Robin #15) and one of the best cliffhangers this year: Joker proposing to Barbara with her own mother’s severed ring finger– if she says no then a nail bomb explodes! How messed up is that? Naturally, this was a book I was really looking forward to this week and I’m sure many of you are as well. And in case you’re wondering, you can feel free to read this one before Batman #15 if you like. It’s Batman & Robin that needs to be read after Batman #15.
So was it good? Yes, but it wasn’t as strong as the last installment. There were a couple of problems here that took things off track. One was the pacing, there’s an interwoven flashback to a visit Joker had with an Arkham psychiatrist long ago that although gave off a spooky vibe was wholly unnecessary. That creepiness would’ve been better served in the skating rink where we are in the present day. That lack of creepiness in the most important scene and the overall look of the comic is my second complaint. This is something that was a lot more evident to me after reading Batman #15 and Batman & Robin #15 before opening up this particular comic. After seeing FCO’s dingy and dirty colors in Batman and Gleason’s absolutely disturbing pencils in Batman & Robin, Batgirl’s book looked way too clean. Way, way too clean. This is one of the darkest scenarios in ANY of the Death of the Family books so far and one that has the most emotional weight because of Barbara’s history with Joker. Yet the colors are all too pure, the inks too crosshatchy, and the pencils never deliver the level of haunting imagery that the script requires. This material is horrifying and it should look that way. Instead it’s too bright and clean. And that Arkham flashback also had a rather cringeworthy bit of dialogue that had to be an editorial decision because it spoon feeds us so much that it completely robs the moment of its horror.
The real meat of this story is the skating rink. That’s what we really came to see, the only problem is that it can’t play out the way we, as fans of Batgirl, would like it to. It would be amazing if this was really Batgirl’s story. It really would. Yes, you see her beat on the Joker here and it’s a alright payoff for over a year’s worth of Batgirl comics that showed us a girl still shaken by the trauma suffered by this monster. But we won’t get the satisfaction of having her triumph over him, will we? After all the flashbacks, fear, and shattered confidence we have witnessed this incredibly likeable, spunky girl suffer through nothing would be better than to see Barbara defeat the Joker. It would be the perfect end to this arc (and Gail Simone’s run), but we all know that this is only a cross-over issue. The Joker is in Batgirl’s comic, but he’s just here on loan. Joker won’t be beaten here, nor will he be beaten in Nightwing, Detective Comics, Teen Titans, or any of the other tie-in books he’s going to show his severed face in. No, he will be beaten in Scott Snyder’s Batman and because this is only a companion piece to the bigger Death of the Family story it can never reach its full potential and that’s kind of sad to me. It feels like all the stories of Batgirl have been leading to this and it can go nowhere.
I’m not deducting points from the score at the bottom of the page for this, I’m not hating on the player so much as I’m just railing against the game so to speak. Just pretend this paragraph isn’t even part of the review of this particular comic but it’s my big complaint with all of these tie-in issues so far. Everyone is in a holding formation because no answers can be given until Snyder’s Batman gets to it first. Anytime a hero asks what Joker is up to he never gives the real explanation, it’s always a repeat of the same speech from Batman #13 or #14. It makes it feel like all of these other bat-titles aren’t real books. I argue that it feels like it diminishes their value when they can’t advance the plot at all or do something, anything that creates an impact on the other books. Snyder’s and Capullo’s Batman is the leader and all of the other books must follow. It makes the other bat titles feel optional.
At least there are some consequences in Batgirl as a result of the Joker’s appearance. Barbara Sr. lost a finger and these events are drawing James Jr. further into the book so maybe I’m just being too pessimistic about crossovers. I’ll let you decide.
I could say more but I don’t want to spoil anything and frankly I’m rather exhausted from writing about a thousand words already and doing a 2,000 word Batman review. I think my reviews have been too long winded for a while now and I should rein it in a little. Or a lot. I’ll just wrap things up by getting straight to the point and send you on your way: Batgirl #15 is an entertaining read, but it features an unnecessary flashback, art that doesn’t fit the material, and a somewhat confusing ending to be honest. But even with those flaws you’ll still have no regrets from picking this up because even though it’s only for a few pages, you do see Barbara beat the crap out of the Joker and that’s sure to make you smile.