Batgirl #37 delivers a new creative team in Cecil Castellucci and Carmine Di Giandomenico. As much as I’d like to say I enjoyed this book, I didn’t. It’s not terrible, but I found it to be quite average. There are aspects I enjoy, but the overall execution leaves me unsatisfied.
The big question I had coming into this issue was whether Castellucci would continue Scott’s story, or if she would start fresh and embark on a new journey. Scott’s run ended in a way that provided a relatively satisfying conclusion with most arcs, while also leaving the door open to continue certain stories with specific characters… And I’m happy to say that Castellucci wisely chose – or was perhaps mandated – to keep this foundation. Unfortunately, whether or not she handles these threads well or not will definitely be up for debate.
This issue opens with the Terrible Trio. If you’re wondering how Shark is here after last month’s issue, then fear not, that question is answered relatively quickly – it’s a new person under the mask. I’ve stated before that I’ve never been a huge fan of the Terrible Trio, but Scott managed to make me a fan. She elevated the characters enough that they didn’t come off as hokey, but actually felt like a viable threat. Due to that, I welcomed their presence, and was excited to see they were sticking around… until I actually read the dialogue.
As I stated, I’m generally not a fan of the Terrible Trio. Scott changed that for the better, but after a single page of Castellucci’s Trio, I literally thought, “God, they’re insufferable.” They feel nothing like they did in the previous arc, and the only character that has a right to be different is Shark. Had we been introduced to them with this demeanor previously, it wouldn’t bother me as much. But we weren’t, and now I can’t help but feel the title is moving backward.
Now, I understand that hokey villains bring a certain level of camp, and some people respond well to that. I’m personally not the biggest fan of camp depending on the circumstances. The likes of Gotham Academy? Sure! Barbara Gordon’s Batgirl? No. I just can’t help but feel that the camp – as it’s presented here – degrades Barbara Gordon’s intelligence, resilience, and ability. Quite frankly, the fact that characters she’s opposing act this stupid and still one-up her time and time again, only makes her look equally as dumb and incompetent. This may not have been the intention, but it is the result, and Babs deserves better than that.
As the issue continues, I find myself growing more disappointed with the dialogue. The best way I can describe it is juvenile. In fact, the exchanges between the characters in this issue remind me of how a tween or teenager would write characters in these circumstances. And while I would praise a tween or teen for creating a script or story of this quality, I expect much more from a professional writer. There’s a problem with authenticity here, and I’m worried this is just the tip of the iceberg. It’s almost as if Castellucci is going out of her way to be “contemporary” or “hip,” as opposed to really thinking about the characters and how they would respond to the situations they’re in.
This, unfortunately, continues throughout the rest of the book. We see Batgirl going toe-to-toe with Killer Moth. While I initially enjoyed this encounter, that enjoyment faded quickly. Again, it isn’t necessarily bad, but most of their exchanges feel awkward. Batgirl isn’t taking Killer Moth seriously, and I don’t blame her. In the grand scheme of things, he’s a bit of a joke, so I responded to Babs’ arrogance. The twist here is that Killer Moth is more prepared and dangerous than ever before.
Babs learns this the hard way – at which point I’m still on board – but then she continues with the same attitude and tone, despite realizing that the circumstances are very different. The moment she realized Killer Moth’s suit stored kinetic energy, she should’ve changed her mindset to take him more seriously. Every attempt she takes to stop him, he overcomes it, and still, her tone doesn’t change. Her thoughts and physical presence remain nonchalant. It’s just weird. She’s getting bested on every account, but she just keeps thinking, “How much is this costing me.” Or “I need to pick up those batarangs when I’m done.” It simply doesn’t match the action, and it’s hard to take seriously.
The art doesn’t help much in this area either. There are moments where Babs acknowledges that Killer Moth might beat her, but a panel later she’s smiling. And I’m not talking about a, “Ok. I’ll give you that.” type of smile because he managed to one-up her. It’s more of a “what a wonderful day in the neighborhood” type of delusional smile. She’s throwing the kitchen sink at Killer Moth and nothing is working. Yet, she’s still smiling. Ultimately, the problem here is that the plot, the dialogue, and the art all feel disconnected from each other. In fact, it almost comes across as if each of the creators are trying to tell a different story.
The worst aspect of the book comes into play when we are reintroduced to Jason Bard and Izzy. Now, what takes place here isn’t much different in scope from what Scott was establishing with Bard, but the execution here is so heavy-handed. Again, the writing feels juvenile. The conversations between Bard and Izzy remind me of kids in middle school or high school… Not of grown adults. And then, surprisingly, things get worse when Castellucci introduces… wait for it… Bea! What? Why? I’m going to assume this is a mandate because no person in their right mind would actively choose to bring the tainted state of Nightwing into their current story – especially one they’re just starting. People are outright rejecting Ric Grayson! Bea might be cool, but she’ll always be seen as a product of Ric. It’s an odd inclusion that comes out of nowhere, as does Bea’s comment about her and Ric being complicated. All of it feels off, and yet again, juvenile.
There is a silver lining to all of this though! The highlight of the book, for me, is the introduction of Oracle. DC attempted a similar idea with Birds of Prey at the launch of Rebirth, but we all know that fizzled out quickly with the introduction of Gus. This feels like DC attempting the same concept again, but with a much better resolution to who Oracle actually is – in this case, A.I.
Despite the shortcomings in execution, I am excited to see where Castellucci takes Oracle. If handled correctly, this has the potential to be a great story. For that to happen though, she’s going to have to improve on her execution because the current quality isn’t cutting it.
Di Giandomenico’s delivers the art for the issue. Overall, his work is fine, but his pencils aren’t very crisp, and his panels often feel overcrowded. He’s cramming so much into each panel that it feels manic. I get that he’s going for detail, but rather than look detailed, it just looks messy. He’s also all over the place with shadows too. There are panels where Batgirl will be hunched with her cape over her for protection, and her suit is completely lit. Then there are other panels where she’s in the same light, standing, and her entire costume is covered in shadow. It’s inconsistent and doesn’t make much sense. Add this to the poor or confusing transitions, and you’re left with a product that needs quite a bit of refining.
- You want to get a taste of what Castellucci has planned for Batgirl.
- You thought Batgirl & the Birds of Prey: Who is Oracle could’ve been handled better.
- You’re interested to see this new Oracle.
Castellucci and Di Giandomenico step into Batgirl with some interesting ideas, but an overall poor execution. The plot is something I’m interested in, and I love the idea of Oracle becoming a sentient, artificial intelligence, but I can’t say I have confidence in this creative team to deliver. The dialogue comes off as juvenile, while the script and art both contain rough transitions. Castellucci and Di Giandomenico appear to be on different pages half of the time, and that’s never a good sign.