New 52 – Batgirl #19 review

Gail Simone returns to Batgirl and delivers an issue with a lot of big revelations and gruesome action (seriously, why is the Batgirl series so damn violent?), but I wasn’t fond of the way James Jr. was portrayed.

Things are about to change for the Batgirl series. Anyone who has been a fan of the series from the start owes it to themselves to pick it up and see what these changes are because they will indeed resonate from this point on. Not only are secrets revealed by and to multiple characters, but you’ll witness the dramatic loss of one of Batgirl’s strongest allies.

So what did I not like about this rather important issue? Well, it’s something that I haven’t liked from the start: The New 52 James Jr. He’s far too formidable. I feel that James Jr. should be a psychopath and one that is very grounded in reality. One of those villains who you could easily see operating in the real world. He’s a Dahmer, a Gacy, a BTK Killer, etc. etc. He’s a scrawny, sociopath in glasses who manipulates his way to your throat. In the New 52, he’s whooping trained police officers, intimidating the Joker himself, and rather than looking like a scrawny nerd he struts around in a glasses that shimmer and a lengthy coat like he came from The Matrix. But perhaps worse than all of this is that his motivations are built upon even more in this issue and it’s unnecessary. James is a psychopath. That was the reason and it was one that I was certainly fine with but in issue #19 we see that he also has an inferiority complex and was always horribly jealous of Barbara. I just found this to be kind of lame.

My other big complaint about James Jr. is how his story ends. I put that all in spoilers and in that rant I also talk about the endings of other recent Batman arcs so if you’re not in the know about Born to Kill or Death of the Family you might not want to click the spoiler tag.

And I was annoyed that in the end James Jr. vanished. What’s the deal with the entire bat-family forgetting they have a grapple gun every time a villain falls toward water or a dark abyss. Shoot the f’n grapple and stop letting guys like Joker, Bane, Owl Man, and James Jr. slip away. Are there any other presumed dead villains whose bodies were never found that I’m forgetting? It’s like we can’t catch the bad guy anymore. Dollmaker escaped, White Rabbit escaped, Nobody was killed, Saiko died, The Court of Owls members either escaped or they were poisoned, Mr. Freeze was caught (twice), Clayface escaped, Man-Bat is out there, Poison Ivy is out there, Penguin was caught…the point is I’d like to see more guys get beat up and then TIED up. And if you’re going to have these baddies float away or fall into the shadows– at least LOOK FOR THEM. Joker fell in a pit in the batcave (yeah, THAT batcave) and nobody’s spelunking to try and find out where he went. Flash was even present when Bane was pulled away by the tide and even he was too lazy to strut out there and bring him back. Let’s finish what we start, superheroes.

Sampere’s artwork looked quite nice in all of the more dramatic scenes, but faces seem to have been a challenge. Everyone looked different from panel to panel and one shot of Babs Sr. standing under a carousel made her look like a square-jawed man with a wig. You’ll notice the colors in this issue are much darker than usual, which is appropriate because the events that happen here are extremely dark themselves. Batgirl’s been pretty angry lately and here you see her really lash out.

I’m glad to see the James Jr. thing finally come to an end (it’s been going on for far too long and I never got the sense he actually wanted to do anything. Too much talk, not enough action) and there are some pretty interesting new developments that should lead to more complicated Batgirl stories in the future. But I have a great distaste for this portrayal of James Jr. and how overly violent this and Batman: The Dark Knight have been. I’m happy to see Simone back on the title, but I wish the series would lighten up a bit. Judging by the cover of the upcoming blood-soaked Ventriloquist arc… I don’t see that happening.

SCORE: 7/10