I love saccharin Christmas comic book stories–you know, those one-and-done tales of peace on earth and good will featuring superheroes doing good deeds for the less-fortunate, helping to restore a sense of hope in a dark world? Unfortunately, while this issue of Batgirl technically should qualify under those parameters, you’ll have to look elsewhere for something to truly warm the cockles of your heart.

“White Elephant” is a bizarre mix of rank privilege and obnoxious preachiness that, if Hope Larson isn’t careful, is going to destroy any credibility this book has ever had. I’ve never minded using this book as a platform for certain social justice issues, but Larson drags down any potential gravitas with more obnoxious “clubbing” antics and selfies, the likes of which I really thought we had left behind with the previous team. I also begin to suspect that someone higher up is calling the shots and demanding that Babs Gordon connect to this younger crowd even at the risk of turning her into a frivolous idiot.

The villain here is the only one saying anything sensible

There’s so much wrong with this book I don’t even know where to begin: from the ludicrous premise of a mix-up booking for a White Elephant Party in which Gordon Clean Energy is paired up with Smellicule (who manufactures homescents and hates LGTB causes?), to Harley Quinn’s random appearance to poison everybody (unrelated to Smellicule being evil, I guess).  Honestly, it’s so nonsensical, I’m pained to try to explain it.

In order to get the antidote, Batgirl and her friends (along with the owner of Smellicule) have to find the “Spirit of Christmas”. They go looking in all the usual places:  family, charity, and religion, which involves a tour through Smellicule’s pathetic worthless life. None of this adventure, of course, sparks any kind of change or revelation for our Scrooge stand-in, and seriously, his caricature is drawn so broadly, it’s hard to even care. It’s clear that’s not even the point of the story, which begs the question why they’re dragging this guys around with them in the first place.

The point at which they find themselves in a church that appears to be doing a time-travel play about ancient Jerusalem with an actual live camel was the point at which I really wanted to know why I should have to finish reading this dopey mess.

And then the camel gets bit by a mosquito the size of a hen’s egg (in the dead of winter), and starts a rampage (because that’s what camels do).  Thank goodness Batgirl is there with some camel narcotics to save the day!


I lost IQ points reading this comic

Props to Sami Basri who fully commits to rendering some of the most inane things I’ve seen in a Batgirl comic. The characters look great and some of the action sequences are plenty nice to look at (camel sequence notwithstanding)–especially all of the stuff with Harley Quinn. I would really like to see more work from this artist on a story that actually goes somewhere. Jessica Kholinne also does her part on colors to give the panels depth and the characters’ faces nice delicate details in their eyes and cheeks. It’s a shame that a book executed this well has so little to offer in terms of story.

In the end, no great lesson is gleaned: the antidote is secured, the bad guy gets his lazy comeuppance, and Batgirl and her friends get to be smug about it. The party for the over-privileged can carry on, I suppose, and Harley Quinn goes back to Belle Reve without even a fight.

Do yourself a favor: admire the nice cover by Dan Mora and imagine your own Batgirl vs. Harley Quinn adventure. This is one White Elephant gift you’ll want to give back and find no takers.

Recommended If…

  • You can’t stand to have gaps in your continuity.
  • It doesn’t have to make sense, it just needs to look pretty.

Overall

In a comic that feels too much like a throwback to the previous team for my comfort levels, Batgirl is off to a White Elephant gift party where she’ll meet terrifying challenges like avoiding the cute bartender and keeping her false eyelashes on. Later there will be poison gas that’s hard to take seriously, and some kind of exploration of the meaning of Christmas that feels like empty lip service. I honestly have pretty low expectations for fun goofy holiday stories, but other than the great art from Sami Basri, this book doesn’t even begin to try to meet them.

SCORE: 4/10