“Deadline Part One: The Razors Under the Floorboards”

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Batgirl has been a bit all over the place lately. And I’m not referring to Barbara’s ongoing conflict over her relationship with the crime-fighting Bat Family, her love-life, or the trauma of her incarcerated father.  I’m talking about the book itself, which appears to be suffering from the vagaries of genre-splicing, crossover hell, and maybe even some editorial growing pains.

If you’re reading other Bat titles (Batman Eternal in particular comes to mind), references to Batgirl’s “current” location will  have you feeling a bit of continuity reconciliation whiplash. But here’s Barbara, still in Gotham, fretting over her father, her sorta-boyfriend’s lawsuit against him, and her increasing need to fight her impulses to knock the snot out of every villain she encounters single-handed. To say that she’s behaving wildly out of character might not be fair: she has a lot on her plate. But this issue really feels like it’s pushing it. She’s a hero (a Bat Family hero who isn’t named Jason) after all, and while we may even like our heroes flawed, we don’t necessarily want to see them stuck in a kvetch cycle about it.

The Good

The cover, the cover, the cover! Alex Garner’s cover work for Batgirl is just outstanding! Interiorly, Pasarin’s work is generally more consistent than I’ve noticed it in the past, even if it isn’t my favorite. And I found none of the perspective wonkiness that I’ve noticed in previous issues Though everything looks heavily photo-referenced (and not as a matter of deliberate style), the action scenes have passion. The book also features a final page splash featuring a maybe not-so-surprising guest star who might nevertheless make things interesting going forward.

The Bad

I’m sorry, but everyone looks like Reneé Zellweger. I mean everyone. Tiny eyes, flat round faces, fat kissy lips. It would be fine if it was just one character, but it’s all of them. Anatomy also suffers a bit from sausage-body syndrome; the women often have impossibly long torsos. I really feel Pasarin’s work shows improvement, so I don’t mean to be harsh, but comic book art standards have really gone through the roof in the last decade and Pasarin strikes me as a journeyman still learning the craft even though he’s been working in comics for quite a number of years. He clearly loves drawing the character of Batgirl and, as I said before, the action sequences are ably done; now maybe he just needs to love the rest of it because there are a lot of talking heads and generic environments with which he doesn’t do anything especially interesting.

The Ugly

I am a fan of Gail Simone so it pains me to say that the writing throughout is kind of a mess in many ways. Despite an exciting opening in which Batgirl foils some bank robbers with Knightfall connections, the book sprawls in every direction afterwards.

In one particularly awkward scene, Barbara enters her apartment and interrupts her roommate engaged in some off-scene hanky-panky with her new girlfriend Jo. Embarrassed, Jo grabs her clothing and bustles out the door. I don’t know whether the breakdown here is Simone’s for actually writing the scene, Pasarin’s for interpreting it strangely, or editor Katie Kubert’s for allowing it to go to print. I mean, does Alysia not have a bedroom? And even if she was making out in the front room, can they not move to the bedroom? Why does Jo rush out wearing her panties into the street clutching her clothes rather than go into another room and get dressed? And why did the colorist give her long red hair (as if the scene isn’t confusing enough)?

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The heck?

Later Barbara comes face to face with Munira Khairuddin (codename Obscura) who we are to understand was her bestie when they were both fifteen years old at college. More than any other book, it seems, Batgirl really suffers from the New 52 reboot in terms of all the stuff that she’s supposedly been through and yet she’s still so young! So she had this über-meaningful relationship with Munira and then they parted ways due to conflicting interests with Munira ending up faking her death to “disappear” into the world of espionage. Now she’s back and abducts Barbara to try to recruit her (because abduction and threats on your family are always the best way to break the ice after a long absence). Her mysterious spy organization wants her to help them catch Knightfall. Everything just happens too fast and none of it feels especially organic or motivated by anything other than a need to get some drama rolling.

Lastly, Ricky calls to tell Babs the lawsuit is off (he’s been motivated by Knightfall, who inexplicably doesn’t want this complication). Not only does the phone call scream authorial-intrusion anti-climax, but the “shocking” reveal as to why Ricky’s calling unfortunately had me rolling my eyes. Now, I will admit I dislike Ricky intensely and have from the start, but objectively it just feels illogical for Knightfall to be meddling, illogical for him to be making the phone call under those conditions, and illogical for Babs to then react the way she does.

What do you think? Did it work for you? And are you excited about the return of one of the Bat family also-rans?

Recommended If…

  • You want to make a great diptych of Alex Garner’s last couple of awesome covers for a display.
  • You’re ready for Batgirl to ditch the pseudo-horror genre and circle back to her early New 52 roots by taking on Knightfall again.
  • You’re willing to give this a chance at the start of a new arc (fingers crossed in hopes of good things to come!)
  • A somewhat convoluted espionage plot won’t bother you.

Overall

This new arc finds Batgirl really struggling to find her footing (both in the comic book and as a comic book, alas). When most of this score comes from the fabulous cover, a nice splash page reveal ending (sausage bodies notwithstanding), and artwork that is “generally more consistent”, I’d have to say this isn’t a must-buy book except for by completionists and die-hard Batgirl fans.

SCORE: 3/10