Dad Gordon! Dick Grayson! Ridiculous new super-villain in a ridiculous new theme suit!
This week’s offering on the altar of Batgirl is an interesting example of a well-paced visually exciting comic with just a bunch of stuff I’m not especially happy about, but can appreciate anyway even through my objections.
I’ve always said Hope Larson is a good writer, an interesting writer, and can get Batgirl on a strong track if she can just break away from Burnside and the bad taste in our mouth from the pre-Rebirth storylines. We’re not there, but this comic feels like a decent balance between the old and the new. There’s still way too much focus on Babs’ social problems, but at least here they contribute to the narrative in an interesting way.
Frankie and Alysia don’t necessarily add anything more complicated than to pose as obstacles to Babs’ crime-fighting, but at least they’re almost not just overwhelmingly annoying. There is one moment where Babs apologizes to Alysia for complaining about her petty woes which drew me up short. Because yeah, I think they are all petty woes at this point; none of them has the market on legitimate high-stakes problems except Batgirl, but she’s not talking (not even to Frankie, who could, you know, maybe help here). But that’s okay since instead Babs seeks out her old pal Dick Grayson, and we get this wonderful brief interaction in which the two go for a ride and just chat a bit.
Ride, boldly ride!
I can’t tell you how long it’s been since the Batgirl comic has crossed over with the rest of the DCU. Because she’s been in Burnside (or otherwise globetrotting), it feels like she’s been detached from the action for forever. But Larson made a good choice with involving Penguin in this arc (silly non-romance subplot notwithstanding). The opening ping-pong moment somehow works when it really shouldn’t, and sets Babs up later for more trouble. And the fact that Penguin’s son is targeting his father is also a much more interesting dynamic than the two of them working in cahoots.
It also means we get to skirt the edges of Gotham and spend a little quality time between Gordon and his daughter. Now, I know what you’re thinking: this is the most ridiculous thing in the universe–far worse than Clark Kent’s glasses. But I’m going to chalk it up to Gordon knowing Batgirl is his daughter and is just playing along for the sake of their sanity.
Because let’s face it: if your appreciate of comic books hinges on realism or even the most slim facsimile thereof, there’s just no hope for you. Or this book.
+2 for 80s art reference
I know I’ve probably lowered my standards and expectations a little for this book, but the truth is that with the cameos this was just a fun read. Christopher Wildgoose keeps the art lively, the facial expressions feel generally pretty natural (rather than the animé hearts and stars we have gotten in the past), and even though there aren’t any stellar fight sequences here, there’s enough action to keep it from just being a blab-fest, which is always a challenge with a book in which a lot of information needs to get out and no one is cracking skulls.
While drawn exquisitely, there is, however, a bit of serious silliness in which Babs changes into costume between two panels (mid-sentence no less!). Part of me wanted the throw the book (but I couldn’t because I was reading it digitally), and part of me just shrugged and thought: well of course she can change in the blink of an eye to beat up some random mugger. Her punching out the masher wasn’t cool either, but at least she apologized.
Jon Lam is on inks again, and I really like his deep shadows in conjunction with Matt Lopes’ flat colors. I think the style works exceptionally well for the book because it can be bright and energetic, but with heavy blacks, they can also set a more somber tone. The contrast between the ping-pong game and the diner, for example is really nice.
Yes, I could nitpick this book to death over some of the girlie drama and some of the transitions, which feel a bit too convenient/expedient. But I think the over-arcing story in an interesting one, and if it’s any consolation to any of you, Penguin’s silly son Ethan and Babs have broken it off in a spectacularly 21st century fashion, so maybe we can move on with the crime-fighting in the next issue.
And did I mention a ridiculous super-villain outfit at the beginning of this review? Because there is one and it made me do a full-on face-palm. Yes, even in the privacy of my own home.
- You like campy fun. Let go, enjoy, this is pure goofy entertainment. If I were twelve, I would love this book and maybe that’s the target audience, after all.
- That said, gratuitous use of the “B” word. Kinda shocking. But it gets the point across.
- You smell a potential Penguin/Batgirl team-up in the wings? I doubt it will fly.
Haters are going to hate this book. I’m waffling somewhere in the middle. There’s some over-the-top silliness, but it’s so over-the-top I can only assume it’s deliberate. And part of me gives props to Larson for just going with it. Lightning fast costume change? Why not? Reconstructed autopilot car crash? It’s like Babs has the Force! Ethan goes CEO to Stylin’ Birdbrain without cause or warning? All the better to color things up. Put yourself in the mindset of a pre-teen and this is a pretty hip ride. For the adults, at least we get to see some fun cameos and Penguin’s frothy appearance just might keep it classy.