I can’t say I cared much for this one and now that this short 2-part story is over it definitely looks like it was all little more than filler. It’s as if we were supposed to get a Barbara vs. James Jr. arc but that simply wasn’t possible so instead that concept was merely teased and we were instead treated to a brief fight with a C-list villain and a shoehorned-in mourning Damian scene. Did these two issues get the ball rolling for Gail Simone to tell the story as it needs to be told when she returns for upcoming issues? Yes. Would it have been better to have left James Jr. out of issues #17 and #18 and let Simone handle that conflict herself when she could give it full attention? Also yes.
I’ve been reading Black Mirror lately so I have James Jr’s voice fresh in my mind. The narrator of this story does not sound like James Jr. Not only that but it’s rather annoying and unnecessary narration for the most part that really drags the book down. What is this? Is trust in the artist to tell the story a commodity and Batman & Robin used it all up today? That comic relied wholly on the illustrators and it worked out brilliantly. Batman #18 and Batgirl #18 on the other hand spell everything out for the reader in painful detail even when what’s happening is quite obvious. Comics are a visual medium and there were numerous occasions in both books where the old writing rule of “show don’t tell” was needlessly broken. Not only was the narration not written in the proper voice of its character, bloated, and unnecessary, but it also phased in and out from being omniscient. The insights James gives about Barbara in some scenes from issue #17 had the same feel but I sort of blew that off because let’s face it, James is creepy and he could easily be spying on Barbara. But here he’s describing what’s going on inside Barbara’s van (no sign of spy cameras or anything) and inside her head.
As for the actual story being narrated… there’s not a whole lot to it. Things went boom at the end of the last issue, we get a really cheesy Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man type scene where citizens pull together to save Batgirl, and from then on we see Batgirl pull herself together and track down Firebug. It’s not that compelling. Figuring out where Firebug is was as simple as putting a little evidence in a computer and clicking enter. And as for Firebug’s motivation? You don’t really care. I read the comic like an hour ago and I already don’t remember. The only thing in this story that’s really worth reading– the moment that actually has value for what’s to come occurs in the comic’s final three pages. If you ask me, those three pages are honestly all a Batgirl fan needs to see before Gail Simone returns next month. It perfectly sets up what’s to come and nothing that came before mattered. Even the REQUIEM scene is forgettable. Batgirl never really shared any time with Damian in the pages of any comic pre or post New 52 so it’s not like the characters were that close but she really doesn’t seem to be affected that much by it. Sure, she sheds a tear and makes a phone call but we’re back to business as usual in under two pages. And although it’s probably too soon to call before we see what’s to come in Batman Inc. I found it odd that Gordon wasn’t aware of Damian’s demise. He was on the street in Batman Inc. #8 when all of this went down. I would have thought he would make it into the lobby of that building soon enough to find Batman clutching his son’s body. If anything I would want to see a scene like that. Gordon consoling Batman at his most broken? At his most human? That’s potentially a very powerful scene.
As for Daniel Sampere’s art, you’ll get no complaint from me. I thought the book at least looked good. He did a hell of a job showing a Batgirl that’s been beaten and it was great to see the inside of her Bat-Van. The colors by BiOND were also quite good. Very vibrant, but more importantly they were distinctive from scene to scene, locale to locale, and fit the emotional charge of the moment.
I don’t recommend picking it up. The art by Sampere, Hunter, and BiOND is good and the final three pages are important for what’s to come, but overall this felt like filler to me. The narration was a chore to read, the villain Firebug was very uninteresting, and if you’re picking it up for some sentimentality due to “REQUIEM” being written on the cover you’re going to be very disappointed.