It’s “Batgirl vs. Burnside” and we get to see our red-haired Girl Wonder chased by an angry mob that includes a baker and a man with a bat full of nails; she mopes around about her PPs while Frankie and company sit around hacking at their Hooq hack; officer–er, I mean professor–Krupke dresses her down on her thesis problem; Qadir, Nadimah, Jeremy, and Liam all wander about on the fringes variously giving advice or getting the cold shoulder,  and thank God for Dinah Lance because everybody else in this book is either too peripheral or too self-absorbed to take this plot anywhere otherwise.

So with some support from Canary, Batgirl finally confronts her nemesis. If you recall, she’s been hounded since last October by someone claiming to know her and her secrets. Unfortunately it seems like many readers were well-ahead of Babs on the detective work (by at least two issues) as to the identity of the stalker.

Batgirl_39_01

Everything but the pitchfork!

The Good

This is an action-filled story with a richly developing cast (of too many, I still contend, but they are juggled in well this go-round). Artist Babs Tarr’s work still sells the narrative and continues to be the best thing about the book (Cameron Stewart is still contributing breakdowns as well).

Other thumbs-up points:

  • Dinah Lance: she continues to save this book’s bacon for me. So long as there’s a voice of reason calling Barbara out on her behavior, I am willing to believe there is a plan for growth here.
  • Qadir tells Batgirl he’s no longer going to be an accomplice (she completely ignores him in a fugue of “mememe”, but at least he said it).

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Give ‘er ‘ell, Dinah!

The Bad

I really liked last month’s issue (with some caveats) and thought the series was starting to go in a positive direction, but this issue feels like a step back in terms of pacing, whining, and childish behavior that Batman would never tolerate by someone donning a cowl in his likeness. Babs continues to be generally unlikable for me and even putting my own feelings aside, I don’t see her appeal at this point.

I’m not sure if the obviousness of the evil plotter who was stalking Babs was deliberate so that we might anticipate Barbara’s own reaction, or whether writers Cameron Stewart and Brenden Fletcher thought it really would be a big reveal, but I think the decision to make it so readily obvious was a bit of a letdown. Knowing this information ahead of Batgirl seems like a direction we shouldn’t hope for in a comic: if we have the jump on the hero, it just makes them look weak, distracted, or incapable. It’s one thing if we have more information than they do (a scene of a secret meeting in which the villains are scheming, for example). But in this case, Babs had every scrap of data that we did. It wasn’t immediately obvious to her two issues ago that Dagger Type was a cog in the wheel, and it wasn’t immediately obvious for Babs to question the runaway program or to make the connection between the Hooq virus and the runaway program (knowing that cloud sharing/cyberspace is the root of the evil she’s been fighting since the beginning). I feel like that makes Babs pretty dumb personally, but I want to hear your thoughts: we keep being told that Babs is brilliant, but so far where is the evidence?

Also: that woe-is-me deleting Dinah’s number was more self-pity than I could stomach. And she’s now ignoring Liam as well. It’s all just very childish. Come on Barbara Gordon, you’re better than this. You are the girl to aspire to, not the schmuck who behaves like an irrational flibberty-gibbet (and yes, that’s a real thing). Or at least you used to be. I’ve begun to seriously agree with all the readers who have said this book should be about Spoiler, not Batgirl.

The Ugly

In a world in which we desperately need strong women superheroes, we don’t need ones who are this insecure. And yes, insecurity is part of life and it’s part of the experience of being a woman, but you know what? I consider myself pretty strong in spite of my own insecurities and I didn’t get that way by reading books full of characters for which the authors thought it critical to normalize their neuroses. This is a generational thing and one on which I have strong feelings, so I will leave it there: feel free to kick it around; I certainly welcome some solid discussion and opposing viewpoints on this issue.

We’ve got an Endgame tie-in right around the corner, so we may yet to see Batgirl in action with her former verve firmly in place.

Recommended If…

  • Babs Tarr is still a hero for you even if Batgirl is less so.
  • You want some Dinah Lance: she gets lots of page time, which is nice.

Overall

The problems with this book are manifold, but it still manages to entertain, the artwork continues to be lively and sometimes even surprising, and there is still hope of Batgirl growing into the person that her readers deserve. She’s not there yet and I know a lot of you have dropped this book, but for those intrepid few hanging on and hanging in, I haven’t given up yet and I think the book still deserves consideration–even if only as a conversation-starter about the interesting issues of diversity this book is trying to undertake.

SCORE: 6.5/10