As you can tell by the score, I obviously don’t recommend Batgirl #20. In fact, I pretty much hated it. Gore, magic, eidetic memory… there’s a pretty long list of things I don’t enjoy seeing in a Batgirl comic and they all show up here.
- Creepy Children: I blame Black Mirror for starting this trend. Such a great book, but ever since then I’ve had to suffer through incessant appearances by an increasingly super villain-like Jim Jr. but every origin tale being told is now showcasing the villain as being a deeply disturbed child that commits their first murder at the age of 8 or so. Stop it. Just because it worked for Jim Jr. and everyone liked that book doesn’t mean we need to give every character the same treatment. Think back to all the great origin stories of Batman: The Aniamted Series, how many of those do you recall beginning their tale with the villain as a kid?
- Gore: It’s as if Batgirl and Batman: The Dark Knight are in constant competition to be the book I would least want my niece and nephew to see. The cover is slathered in blood and features dripping crimson blades. Within the very first page of this comic we have a mass poisoning thanks to an overly convenient bottle of weed killer just left out in the middle of the lawn on the day of children’s birthday party. On the next page there’s a blood splattered doll. Two pages later there’s a batarang hanging out of a man’s eye socket. From then on it only gets worse with snapped legs, electrocutions, and drills, drills everywhere.
- Magic: If you read my reviews often enough then you know my stance on magic and aliens. Batman characters can work with this stuff, sure, but you’re also never going to get the best Batman story with magic and aliens either. The stuff isn’t germane to the world of Gotham. And giving this new Ventriloquist a supernatural and more homicidal angle than Arnold Wesker doesn’t make her more threatening to me, it instead looks like we’re trying way too hard.
- Eidetic Memory: I hate this aspect of the Barbara Gordon character. It’s essentially a superpower. I want to see a Barbara who is naturally smart in a way that the average reader can read this book and aspire to be like her. You know that if you work hard and study, hell you could be as sharp as Barbara Gordon. With eidetic memory, well, you’re either born with it or you’re not. You can practice memorization skills, but it’s never going to be photographic.
Spider-ManBatgirl no more… but I kind of am: After the events of the last issue, Barbara feels that she is no longer worthy of wearing the bat symbol… but she’s taking that a bit literally. Instead of really exiling herself and giving up the mantle, she just cuts off the yellow emblem from her bosom and proceeds to go out on patrol only now she’s wearing a much uglier suit. It just seems kind of silly and childish.
- Goodbye Scar-face, hello Jigsaw: The new dummy is one that looks nothing like an early 20th century gangster, but is instead quite similar to the puppet from the SAW movies. He’s also able to be manipulated telepathically and he has drills in his hands that are used to drill things that really shouldn’t be drilled, he calls them “hot sacks of fleshy tissue.” but you would call them “people.”
- Creepy…but not so creepy it can’t be sexy: On the cover you’ll see the ventriloquist as an old hag and I thought that that was a rather interesting direction. But while the ventriloquist we see in the interior pages is rather anorexic looking, she’s still got quite the attractive face and she never looks so skinny as to be completely unsettling. It’s like the book couldn’t dare commit to the concept and instead decided to stick with sexy women and lots of violence. The Ventriloquist, Shauna, also lacks any subtlety. She even has glowing red eyes. Look, Arnold and Scar-Face were creepy enough and they did it without the demonic dressings that Shauna and Ferdie the puppet display every chance they get. A regular dummy is creepy enough as is and the idea that the soft spoken, little man can become a completely different person just by putting one of these ugly toys on his paw is horrifying. It’s what made Wesker one of the most legitimately crazy and disturbing characters in Batman comics.
- Jim Loves Jim: One of the last complaints I’ll get to here since I’m getting kinda winded is that Jim Gordon wants Batgirl arrested for the murder of his son. This A) Tosses out the idea that Gordon secretly knows Barbara is Batgirl, B) Shows that he has no faith in the bat family after time and time again of seeing their no-kill rule proven to be tried and true, C) Really doesn’t jive with how Gordon viewed his homicidal son. I mean, this is the kid who just strapped your ex wife to a nail bomb and you’re going to act this self righteous now? I understand it’s his son, but I think Jim wouldn’t be furious with Batgirl for having killed him, he’d be freaked the hell out that nobody has found James’ body yet and the lunatic is probably still out there. If ANYBODY in this town should know that no body = no death, it’s Jim Gordon. He’s seen this play out a thousand times… but maybe that’s just my pre-New 52 way of thinking. If this is the direction we are indeed going to take, it would be nice to at least see Gordon conflicted about all of this. No other bat-title has a better reason to use Jim Gordon than Batgirl and he’s always an afterthought.
When it comes to the artwork, there’s nothing spectacular to write home about. A couple pages near the end are really ugly with Batgirl made up of ultra thick lines and surrounded by characters with muddled faces fighting her in a world with no backgrounds. I don’t know why those two pages were so awful, but they really look like they were hastily thrown together at the last minute. The highlight of the book would easily have to be the full page shot of Barbara weeping in front of her bathroom mirror. There are lots of details on her gloves, the shower curtain in the background and toiletries on the vanity. It looks good. However, when I pick up a Batgirl comic I’d like the best page to be something more substantial than Batgirl crying before the sink.
If you’re in favor of this series getting even darker and have no problem with magic in your Bat-comics then you’re definitely, without a doubt, going to enjoy this book WAY more than I did. But for me, I was ready for it to be over at the half-way mark. I’m sick and tired of seeing Barbara cry. I want this series to take note from the recent changes in Nightwing and make the stories more fun. We never come out of these horrible situations feeling triumphant, there’s always more doom and gloom and crippling self doubt around the corner.