I have to admit up front that any book in which Jim Gordon makes an appearance almost always gets at least a .5 boost in the score from me. So I’ll give you a second to mentally adjust for that before I launch into my review of Shawn Aldridge’s “Choices”, a one-shot pitting Batgirl against Harvey Two Face Dent (kind of).
Are you adjusted?
Okay, so maybe then add another .5 for Harvey Dent. Because he’s been sort of lacking in the DC Universe lately and I’ve always had a soft spot for him, even though he’s hard to take seriously as a villain sometimes because his shtick is really old-fashioned at this point.
Another couple of points for Scott Godlewski’s art. Not so much for his figure-work precisely. Particularly where it concerns Two Face, who isn’t particularly menacing, nor costumed in any interesting or clever way, and strangely looks like Billy Drago in a couple of panels (is that another +.5 right there? Could be). But more for the beauty of his paneling; this is a wonderfully laid-out book with plenty of visual interest in the action sequences, and excellent use of the suggestion of movement throughout.
There’s one great panel where Batgirl takes out a bunch of thugs and we see her progression down a hallway, with her present-tense self dusting her gloves, and the ghosts of the past action playing out toward the vanishing point behind her. Just a wonderful, clever new way of framing a fight economically.
And no lack of fisticuffs throughout!
How does Aldridge do on the story? Well, let me put it this way: if this book is geared for the tween to twenty audience (and I feel like it most emphatically is), then I think this is just a fun quick tale worthy of Batman: The Animated Series. Nothing earth-shattering happens here. Batgirl fights crimes, susses out a friend in trouble, encounters a big baddie, there’s a bit of a twist, and then all work out well in the end.
It’s the perfect kind of morning train feel-good read (plus .5 for that!).
Aldridge does Babs a solid, keeping her focused, honing her detective skills, but maintaining her optimistic heart-of-gold. She uses some tech and bat gadgetry to save the bacon–some of which may feel a little god of the machine to some people, but I’ll just remind everyone that Babs’ coding/hacking skills are a well-established part of her character and therefore, her resolution is not merely pulled from thin air.
Melissa and Jacob are random new characters and the fact of Jacob’s dad having worked with Babs’ father as a cop feels like a bit of a convenience, but I’d be nitpicking if I said Aldridge just threw these characters in there to make up a story (isn’t that what all writers do?).
More problematic for others is probably Two Face himself. Even though he’s the instigator, he doesn’t really get to do much in this comic, and is frankly neutered completely by the end. This is really more a story about Batgirl and Jacob in which Two Face makes an appearance than one about Batgirl and Two Face directly facing off.
That said, I like the way Aldridge up-ended expectations in this regard. I like that the villainy of this story is more complex than just a goon with a coin making crazy two-puns. I like that Aldridge gave us a story about choices that is about actually choosing rather than leaving fate to the toss of a coin.
This is thoughtful book, it’s a fun book, and it’s a beautiful book. It’s not especially deep and it doesn’t have consequences for the ongoing narrative in this series (unless you count the somewhat throwaway line in which Babs says she’s rethinking her library degree). If you want something light and almost old-fashioned in its ability to present a one-and-done bit of entertainment, this book may delight you.
If you’re the other half of Harvey’s face: the craggy crusty overdone half that’s likely to be a glass-half-empty personality, then probably you could use this, but it may not be to your liking.
- You want a concisely plotted one-shot with a great Batgirl!
- You’re a fan of Harvey and won’t have a problem with him being used rather lightly here.
- Your day’s lineup lacks fun. Here it is!
This is really what I want from a Batgirl comic: smart Babs who loves her dad, villains with plots suited to her particular strengths, lots of action, lots of heart, and strong visuals throughout. While this book doesn’t break any new ground nor does it have particularly high stakes, it’s just a solid story and a nice palette cleansing read if you have heavier books on your pull-list. We need more comics like this! And check out the variant cover from Joshua Middleton: worth the price alone!