The solicits I saw for this week’s Upcoming Comics article were wrong and now is indeed the time for Ray Fawkes to begin his two month stint on Batgirl. As you’ll recall, there was a big controversy in which Gail Simone was fired via email. Her fans rallied loud enough that DC brought her back within a week or so but they had already hired Ray Fawkes to pen a couple of fill-in issues in the meantime. However, on the surface it doesn’t exactly look like a fill-er sort of story, does it? It’s Barbara vs. James Junior! This is something that Gail’s been alluding to for months but even so there’s no mention of her co-plotting this comic so it’s entirely Fawkes’ creation. How’s he do?
Well, to be honest I’d like to find a happy medium between Gail and Ray. I know that many Batgirl fans often don’t agree with my reviews for this series. I really don’t see where all the Simone love comes from. But what I gathered from this particular comic by Ray Fawkes is a Batgirl who is smarter, stronger, and overall more capable. It’s a more mature Barbara and one that actually does some computer hacking to give us a sense that she in fact was Oracle at one point in time. When Barbara speaks I actually hear the character’s voice, not Gail Simone’s tweets (then again, Barbara doesn’t speak much at all in this comic). The pacing of the book is less frenetic as well. HOWEVER, what I don’t get from Ray Fawkes is a book that’s any fun to read. As much as I get annoyed by plot holes and gaps in logic in Simone’s Batgirl, her stories are almost always a good time. There’s more of a sense of adventure to them and the narration isn’t anywhere near as heavy handed. Fawkes’ doesn’t go the thought-box route, instead the story has a narrator and the prose within those boxes sound as if he was trying too hard .
Other things I have to say about Batgirl #17 but am too tired to put into pretty paragraphs:
- You need to read Batgirl #16 first.
- Should probably be read after Batman #17, but not absolutely necessary (not like you didn’t read Batman #17 already anyway)
- References events from Young Romance #1 — we find out that Ricky is 19 years old! If you want to know what happened in that comic I suggest you check out my review of it.
- Eidetic memory is mentioned. I hate this concept but it’s pretty widely accepted for Barbara now. I much prefer the idea of little girls having a hero to look up to who worked and studied hard to gain a keen insight, not one who naturally had total recall. It’s essentially a super power.
- On one page she has perfect memory then on the following page she almost blows her secret identity by walking up to Ricky on the street and calling him by name. So her memory is immaculate except for the fact she can’t remember when she is or isn’t wearing her Batgirl costume? At least there was a nice recovery after that with Barbara saying she spotted his name on the ID badge Ricky is wearing.
- I don’t really care about the budding Ricky/Barbara romance
- I thought that James was going back to the Roller Rink to pick up Babs Sr. at the end of the last issue. Now she’s in the hospital? Either way, she actually has a spine here. When Simone wrote for Babs Sr. the character was submissive to a kid who was only like 8 years old.
- I really don’t see how the citizens of Gotham put up with Gordon as their Commissioner. He’s always turning to a vigilante for help, it’s probably public knowledge that he cheated on his first wife while she was pregnant (probably not canon anymore), and the son he raised grew up to be a serial killer (I believe Black Mirror had Jr. raised by his mom but that was changed in the New 52).
- Jim Gordon has some strange seed when you think about it. One kid became a super hero with perfect memory and the other became a serial killer.
- Midway through the comic the 3rd person omniscient narration starts to take on more natural qualities and it’s actually 2nd person narration by another character within the story. It was an odd shift but a welcome one. By having big blocks of prose in a story it starts to feel less like a comic and more like a picture-book.
- A villain shows up near the end named Firebug. Firebug? Seriously? Why? In case you’re thinking that Fawkes must have forgotten that Gotham already had a fire and insect themed villain named Firefly then think again! That’s not the case. Firebug has been around for quite some time– 1979 to be exact. And he’s always been a poor man’s Firefly much like how The Clue Master is a poor man’s Riddler. You know what would be a fun idea now that I think about it? Having Firebug and Clue Master and whatever other off-brand versions of other villains team together for an issue or two.
In the end I was kind of let down by this comic but not because the quality of the writing or artwork were bad. The cover shows Batgirl fighting with a crazed Jim Jr. with the tagline “Her brother strikes!” but he really doesn’t. The story here is mostly about Barbara trying to track down the remaining Joker thugs that are still on the streets. Junior has more of a presence here than ever before but it’s still the same ol’ lurking in the shadows business as it’s been for the past 9 months with still no sign as to what his plan is. Get on with it already!
The things that occur in this issue are executed well enough but they aren’t very interesting. I thought I was getting a confrontation between Batgirl and Jim Jr. but it appears as if this 2-part story will be more about a fight between Batgirl and Firebug. To quote a meme, “Ain’t nobody got time for that.” (I wrote a 6,700 word Dark Knight Returns Review plus some other Batman stuff in the past 2 days. The tank’s empty. Give me a break.)