Oh my. Let’s just get straight to the point. Here are some things I really love in a comic:
- A superhero who is conflicted by her feelings for the son of a bona fide supercreep who she is investigating, and whose business ventures have been directly tied to human trafficking (and worse). Extra points if she kisses this guy and entertains his offers of a toothbrush in spite of the fact that he appears to be using her for publicity. Yeah. Barbara Gordon is a genius, right? So this totally makes sense. I mean, she was a genius last I remember. But what do I know?
- A cover that basically gives away the cliffhanger to this book, allowing you to efficiently skip this comic altogether since the big encounter is clearly going to happen in the next issue.
- Barbara Gordon sweating a paper on the subject of diverse populations in the libraries. Seriously? This isn’t rocket science, it’s social science. The research is not that complicated.
- But perhaps most especially this:
Who are these people and why do we care?
Sarcasm aside, unless Ethan is running some kind of fertility clinic scam and these two characters are going to be swept up in some startled web of insemination intrigue, I have no idea what any of this has to do with anything. It’s not the least bit interesting to Barbara’s arc except as an intrusive annoyance perhaps. And though she doesn’t treat it that way, I just love how she’s all: oh, I’m so sorry, well, if you need anything, I’ll be in my room writing my paper. Because that’s how you comfort friends in distress.
Which brings us to the main complaint here: why is Barbara Gordon’s social life so stupidly complicated and why is that supposed to make for an interesting comic book?
I still think Hope Larson is a good writer generally, and I still think this book has a whiff of a chance, but some of these choices are just perplexing beyond the pale. I like that Barbara Gordon’s bent is more toward a social justice angle lately (and less toward a social media one), but she’s just not there yet, really. She’s still spending her time mooning over this stupid guy and entangled in friendships that make no sense given her dual identity and larger mission.
There are some enjoyable moments in this and some good character development. The scene with the kids and the idea of social media stalking is really interesting (and terrifying–I love the little girl’s reaction). I’m also totally on board with Batgirl fighting basic street crime, though the theft that opens the book isn’t all that dramatic when she catches the thief. But she uses her smarts in a clever way and that makes it cool.
Later we get to see her take out some droogie penguin thugs, but the action overall in this book is pretty low-key.
Convenient windows are convenient
Chris Wildgoose (with Jon Lam on inks) is still a great choice for this title, despite my kvetching about Barbara Gordon’s portrayal. She may be doing some dumb things, but she does look great out of costume. In costume, she’s okay. With her ears sticking out and the mask barely covering anything, she still just looks like Barbara in a cowl, but I’ve made my peace with that.
There’s a particularly nice double-page spread progression with Babs and Ethan on the portico of the Burnside Museum of Art, but I gotta wonder what in the world Babs is wearing to an otherwise vaguely formal event. I’m not demanding she put on a dress, but she looks like she’s just in street clothes and everyone else is all gussied up.
Finally, the deep contrast of the heavy inks at the end of the book when Batgirl is infiltrating lend a bit of needed gravity. I like the aesthetic of this book. I like that it’s a bit lighthearted at times, and I don’t object to Batgirl having friends. But the toothbrush thing crosses the line in so many ways (it’s disgusting, frankly–if a man said that to me, I’d punch him in the crotch).
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: superheroes don’t need to be “just like us” so that we can identify with them. They need to be superheroes. So we can aspire to be like them.
- You like those day-in-the-life sort of alter-ego issues.
We continue to slip back into old bad habits in this title and that’s disappointing. There’s good stuff here: the story presses forward, the art is delightful and engaging, the hope of a battle with the Penguin looms, the cover is lovely. but Babs Gordon is right back to being a walking social disaster. I really hope Larson has a plan for Alysia and Jo because I right now I dislike both of them for taking up space in this comic. And if we’re supposed to be charmed by Ethan Cobblepot and relate to Babs’ moony conflict, all I can say is ick.