The third volume of Batgirl features the crossover “Death of the Family” in its title, but unlike another New 52 graphic novel that was released this month (Catwoman, Vol. 3: Death of the Family, which only touched on the subject for a single issue) the material collected in this hardback is impacted greatly by the event and it’s focused on so deeply that even the finale from Scott Snyder & Greg Capullo’s Batman #17 is included in the collection.
Batgirl, Volume 3: Death of the Family includes issues #14-19 of the New 52 series as well as Batgirl Annual #1, Batman #17, and a short segment from Young Romance #1, which was a Valentine’s Day short story collection.
NOTE: If you have not read Batman, Vol. 3: Death of the Family yet then I recommend catching that first before reading the latest volume of Batgirl. Also, if you haven’t read the 2nd volume of the New 52 Batman Incorporated I also suggest not reading Batgirl #18 quite so soon.
Late 2012 and early 2013 saw the Batgirl series get pelted with various crossover events and even a controversial creative change. Volume 3 is comprised of those hectic tie-in issues, creative fill-in issues, specials, and an entire chapter that’s not even from the Batgirl line. In fact, it’s not until the final couple of issues that we see Gail Simone, the writer, in full control of where the series is going without any interference by Owls, Joker, Robin, or anything else. That’s not to say that the creative teams didn’t make the most of those tie-in days. Quite the contrary! Batgirl had some of the best tie-ins to Death of the Family out of all the books that participated (which were many) and it should! After all, few others in the batfamily have the same rich history with the Joker that Barbara does. Here’s a brief rundown of what’s collected here and my thoughts.
Batgirl Annual #1 — Out of all the bat-titles, this is the only one still feeling the effects of The Night of the Owls in its 3rd graphic novel release. The annual served as more of a showcase for Catwoman and a means of setting up the next cast member of the Birds of Prey title than it did a decent Batgirl tale. The real highlight of all this was the artwork by Admira Wijayadi, but even that’s not enough to pull this one out of the realm of mediocrity. The annual makes an odd way to start the graphic novel since it’s such a dated story that has no bearing on anything to follow. It truly belonged in volume 2 more than it did here.
Death of the Family — I’ve long complained about the Batgirl series having too dark and depressing of a tone and the visuals being too grotesque and gory, but given the faceless Joker subject matter of this 3-part tie-in it really works. Simone’s writing and Ed Benes’ visuals will keep you on the edge of your seat the entire time (even through a rather silly sandwich scene), but the ending is unfortunately very anti-climactic. What did you expected though? No matter how great the emotional weight of this story is, at the end of the day it’s only a tie-in to Scott Snyder & Greg Capullo’s Batman so the only sense of an ending that can be found is in that other series, it was Batman’s story and we only get to pretend it’s Barbara’s for a short spell before being snapped back to reality. That’s why issue #17 of Batman was included as well, for a sense of closure. While it’s a shame to see things peter out in the 3rd act for Simone’s Batgirl vs. Joker story, it’s a fun ride while it lasts.
Young Romance — What we actually got from Ray Fawkes’ take on Batgirl was nothing special, but we can all be thankful it wasn’t as bad as this. Nothing in Young Romance #1 was good (the Batman/Catwoman story is still one of the worst things I’ve seen), but Batgirl’s short story about her sharing a kiss with Ricky (he got his leg caught in a bear trap in the last volume, remember?) was truly awful. Why they wouldn’t run with a Batgirl/Nightwing romance is beyond me, but instead we get Ricky wanting another kiss. There’s no romance to be found here, no charm to speak of. Worst of all is the artwork by Julius Gopez that features the ugliest Batgirl you’ll see. Be sure to look at her first close-up and how her eyes are gazing in two completely different directions. Quite the looker, that Barbara!
Firebug/Ray Fawkes Takes Over — The comic book corner of the internet was ablaze with controversy at this point in time. Gail Simone had apparently been fired via email and replaced with Ray Fawkes. However, given the backlash, Simone was hired back but not soon enough to prevent further disruption in the form of a brief 2-part story involving Firebug that is completely unmemorable. During this short span we are also hit with the Requiem event spinning out of Grant Morrison’s Batman Inc. series. I can’t stress enough how important it is to read Batman Inc. #8 FIRST, folks. But even with that major event and all the emotional bag coming with it, nothing hits home.
The Return of James Gordon Jr. — Fawkes and Simone tag-team this 2-part story that sees Jim Gordon Jr. finally take the spotlight, an act that’s been long overdue considering how the character has been lurking around this title for far too long. It’s all very dark and like Death of the Family, it really cuts to the emotional core of Barbara so you’ll once again get more blood and tears. Most importantly, it sets up the latest big Batgirl story “Batgirl: Wanted.” Junior’s return has some moments of real suspense, but I found myself distracted by some very questionable characterization (especially when you compare it to Black Mirror). The artwork by Daniel Sampere (the book is constantly changing artists it seems) does fine in the dramatic moments but can’t quite seem to get Barbara’s face to look right or figure out a way to draw her and her mother differently.
For more a more detailed look at these stories issue-by-issue, click the links to the reviews below:
3 pages of Firebug sketches by Daniel Sampere. That’s it.
Value: Sale Price
You’re getting a whole lot of content here, but not much of it has a high re-read value. The Death of the Family and James Gordon Jr. stuff has some quality moments, but Firebug, the Annual, and Young Romance can all be skipped without hesitation. While you’re saving a few bucks compared to what you would’ve spent on the floppies, I’d still look to see if Amazon is offering this for around $15 or so because I don’t think that it’s worth the full cover price of $24.99.
This volume is totally overrun by specials and crossover events leaving Batgirl unable to tell her own story from start to finish, but Gail Simone and the frequently changing artistic team make the most of it.