It’s time to head back into the miserable world of Barbara Gordon again. There should really be a tagline on every issue that just says “Abandon Hope, All Ye Who Enter Here.”

This issue concludes the 2-part Ventriloquist arc and it’s really good to see that someone out there is doing short arcs. I would love to see more 2-3 part stories, honestly. This storyline in particular could’ve used a third part just so we could’ve had more (any) explanation of the new Ventriloquist’s powers, but I guess they’re saving all that up for September’s Villains month. We open up with Barbara crying (par for the course, really) as she has a phone call with Nightwing. They talk about the apparent death of James Gordon Jr. for a moment and then when the call is over we leap head-first into the face-off with Ventriloquist. It’s very creepy and it has some of the most memorable action and some dark humor as well to lighten the mood of yet another gruesome episode in Barbara’s life.

I must say again that seeing Barbara crying over the death of her brother just seems ridiculous. Had there been one, just one instance– a flashback of any kind that showed a tender moment between these two characters I might be able to suspend my disbelief, but there were none! He was always a creep who always gave Barbara goosebumps. Their time watching horror movies together is an attempt at this, but it doesn’t really hold up when the frightening little brother complains about how the killer is doing it all wrong. As Barbara cries over the phone to Nightwing I couldn’t help but shake my head, “James was…all kinds of messed up. But he was my brother.” — He strapped your mother to a nail bomb, Barbara.

All that being said, I did enjoy this conversation between Dick and Barbara. It’s good to see those two talking again and knowing how much Dick still cares even though he left everyone behind when he moved to Chicago. The action we see on Nightwing’s end of the phone call is also really well illustrated and colored. It makes me laugh to think of how confused the baddies he’s fighting must be to hear this masked vigilante apparently talking to an invisible woman named “Babs” as he continues to beat the living hell out of everyone on the street. That’s actually the sort of humerus spin on a scene like that I would expect Simone to utilize, but unfortunately, besides the action the scene is overwhelmingly gloomy. I sure hope the Hangman gangsters Nightwing struck down didn’t catch Babs’ name… or Damian’s… or Bruce’s… come to think of it, Dick really should’ve waited and continued this conversation after all the evil people were unconscious. Speaking of name-dropping, I wish Barbara would stop calling Dick “Richard” it feels so impersonal given their history together.

Before going full-horror movie on us, we get a single page devoted to the departure of Barbara Gordon Sr. And even though I think the new series artist did a really great job with this issue, one big problem still remains: Barbara and her mom look exactly alike! When I flipped the page I took all the imagery in rather quickly and what I saw was Babs kissing her father on the mouth! What? My eyes darted up to the panel before it and sure enough it looked exactly like the face I saw earlier in the comic. I went to the top of the page and the slim body looked exactly like his daughter’s as well! Of course, when I actually read the speech bubble it was evident who it really was. In fact, the dialogue makes damn sure emphasize all of this by having Gordon mention their daughter in big bold letters.

As I said earlier in the review, the big climax between Ventriloquist and Batgirl is quite thrilling. I still don’t like this Ventriloquist character but if you accept her characterization and abilities then this fight scene really couldn’t have gone any better and the ashy colors by Blond and heavy shadows by Glapion used in this scene really made for an eerie atmosphere that worked beautifully. Yes it is very, very gruesome but there’s some funny lines dropped in, great insight into Barbara’s head, and the puppeted corpses made for a really freaky battle and some bad-ass moves from Batgirl.

Spoiler
Before wrapping up, one of the main themes of this 2-parter is resurrected when the damsel in distress, having been saved, asks “Who do I say saved me?” –Seriously? It’s Batgirl. She still looks like Batgirl has always looked, how do you not know who Batgirl is? I know she pulled the yellow emblem off her chest, but there’s still an outline of a Bat there in its place that’s clearly visible and clearly a bat.

Saying you’re going to give up being Batgirl is profound, but this isn’t a Spider-Man No More thing. Instead she’s just not going to represent Batman’s message anymore and that would be pretty meaningful too but even though she took the symbol off her chest she’s still wearing the iconic cowl, a winged cape, and tossing batarangs. She calls it a razor-rang, but we know what it is and we know damn well that Batman would’ve made that for her too. She just doesn’t have the funds to make the weaponry or a suit herself. Not anything of equal quality anyway. I’m not even sure what Babs does for money. Long ago she was a librarian, but there’s been no mention of her holding a job at all in the New 52. Both she and Nightwing are going to need to scrounge up some dough soon. Those batarangs or going to run out quick if they don’t make-up with Bruce.

The story ends on a cliffhanger as Barbara’s forgotten date shows up on her doorstep. This guy, Ricky, is getting more handsome in every issue. If he can keep changing his look with every artist, why can’t at least one of them make Barbara Sr. look unique? I remember Ricky being a pretty scrawny little guy back in issue #10 or so but now he’s got broad shoulders and a perfectly square jaw.

Overall

It’s still ridiculously mopey in the beginning, ridiculously dark in the end, and I dislike the new Ventriloquist, but there was a bit more fun to it near the end with a few humorous lines and a nice, lighthearted surprise on the final page. It also almost felt like there was some commentary on the frequent sadness and gore of the series:

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So, yeah, it was a huge improvement over the last issue! I’m liking the new artist and the cover by Alex Garner is fantastic. Overall the Ventriloquist didn’t make for a very good 2-part story, but at least it had an entertaining finale even if we still know almost nothing about the villain.

SCORE: 6/10