I have mixed feelings about Batgirl #22 but overall I think readers will enjoy it and it’s a step in the right direction so I want to lean more on the positive.
For one, it’s got a funny opening that picks up where last month’s issue left off. There’s a knock at the door and it turns out to be Ricky, Barbara’s date for the evening…only she forgot all about their plans! Seeing Barbara stumble as she rushes to make herself more presentable is a really great change of pace from the usual blood, guts, and tears we’ve been seeing so frequently in this title. In fact, cute moments like this with a good dose of humor are exactly what I’ve been asking for in my reviews for quite a few months now.
Another thing that I’ve been asking for is more Jim Gordon. He plays a major role in this issue and he’ll be a driving force in the Batgirl: Wanted arc. Even better, the interaction we have between father and daughter gives the concept of Barbara ditching the cape and cowl a more understandable motivation. It’s now not so much about the guilt over her homicidal brother’s demise (really, why should anyone be upset about this? The guy never had a non-creepy moment in his life) as it is that she wants to save her father any further pain. Love for her dad is something I firmly believe in, but remorse for a brother she feared ever since he was six years old I do not.
Batgirl #22 gives us an absolutely gorgeous cover by Alex Garner, a fun-filled date with a pinch of action, and there’s even some quality time with Gordon. This is more like what I want. However, there were elements sprinkled throughout that put me off slightly and I’ll list the major ones in spoiler tags.
Something that I can’t quite put my finger on is the art by Fernando Pasarin, which most of the time looks terrific and is highly expressive but also feels like it isn’t blending all too well with the inks and colors. Also, there was a moment in which Barbara’s roommate describes Ricky like this: “Your date looks like he’s about twelve” — but Pasarin draws Ricky huge and with a manly square jaw. I pointed out in the last review that Ricky has progressively been drawn more grown-up looking and more handsome in every issue.
And then the one shot that I really didn’t care for: cross-eyed Gordon:
As for things in the story that I found odd? That has a lot to do with the way some of the characters behaved and I’ll need to place all of that in spoiler tags I’m afraid. I’ll also mention some more things I did enjoy but don’t want to spoil for anyone. Just keep in mind that while there was plenty for me to pick apart, the book was overall a breath of fresh air.
- I wish Barbara could’ve had a night out that was totally magical rather than shoehorning in that action scene. Luckily though, with Ricky’s dark past already set up the event didn’t feel completely like action for action’s sake.
- I laughed when the henchman said that they had “a bingo.” It reminded me of Inglorious Basterds.
- The thing that really threw me for a loop was the idea of Ricky suggesting that they go back to his place to meet his parents ON THE FIRST DATE. I sincerely hope no young man reading this issue of Batgirl takes any notes from Ricky because that is a TERRIBLE idea. If you bring a girl back to your parent’s house to have dinner with your mom on the first date you will NOT be getting a second date. I mean, unless you two are in middle school or something but Barbara is in her twenties. Going from “Let’s go to the opera” to “Let’s just have my mom cook us something.” is ridiculous.
- Even though I hated the things they did on their date (1. Guys who know the dude you’re with hold a knife to your throat, 2. Get dinner with dude’s mom, 3. Go dancing?) I was very pleased to see Barbara actually look happy. She’s been the most depressing member of the bat-family to read about for far too long. It was also sweet to see her go for the kiss.
- Gordon taking Barbara to the pistol range was…strange. I see the point that he wants her to be able to protect herself and being in the profession he’s in a gun might seem like the best course of action but he surely must also know how traumatized Barbara is by the thought of a gun. He would have to know how uncomfortable all of this would make her.
- Barbara is getting a job! This is yet another thing I’ve brought up in several reviews and it’s great to hear.
- In no way should Barbara be considered for this job. As much as I want to see Barbara employed, the idea that her therapist would suggest she start counseling children is ludicrous. Just look back at previous issues in which Barbara was in the shrink’s office. Look at how manic she is. I recall Barbara being a complete mess in those sessions and the doctor’s suggestion is that she counsel children?
- Just when I thought we were going to get 1 issue in which Barbara Gordon doesn’t cry…
- This hunt for Batgirl ruins one of the great mysteries of the Batman mythology: Does Gordon know that his daughter is Batgirl? It was heavily implied in earlier issues of the series that he just might, but now that he’s pursuing Batgirl as the suspect in a murder it definitely seems that Gordon is oblivious to the fact. However, this is contradicted in a following scene.
- There’s no way Gordon could punch Batman even if Batman had his guard down.
- The rooftop meeting between Gordon and Batman definitely feels like Gordon knows that Barbara is Batgirl. The emphasis on “It’s not just my SON in this story” goes along with this idea.
- Gordon is aware that Batman has been responsible for the death of not one but two Boy Wonders. Now that a random girl has killed his psychotic son he’s angry? I don’t think so. He would have to know it’s Barbara to be this upset. BUT then why isn’t he just arresting Barbara or at least sitting down with her to talk about any of this without dragging in the rest of the GCPD? Why is he hunting Batgirl only?
- Gordon is either oblivious to Barbara being Batgirl (as seen in the pistol range) or he knows but he only wants to arrest her while she’s dressed up as Batgirl (rooftop meeting scene) and that’s a little crazy. I’m not a fan of either of those options, but hopefully Gordon’s approach to all of this will be more clear in the next issue.
While there are quite a few hiccups and the Gordon vs. Batgirl plot is kind of clunky, there’s more good than bad in this issue of Batgirl and I’d prefer to look on the sunny side. Yes, Barbara will cry at some point in this issue, but it’s not as overwhelmingly gloomy as previous installments nor is it a gory episode either. We actually get some tender and humorous moments here and if there’s more of that to come, well that is an encouraging thought.