Last month Barbara and Bard found themselves pulled into the world of Unearth. There they were pitted against an unbeatable dragon and told to save the day, all while dealing with feelings of unrequited love and confusion. So, will they beat the dragon? And more importantly what will Babs decide regarding Jason?
The story picks up in the same place it left off last time, with Babs going head to head with a dragon and Bard clueless as to what to do. The general plot of the issue is centered around trying to defeat this dragon so a magic healing potion can be made for The Maker’s girlfriend. The dragon is unbeatable and feeds off unrequited love, fear of rejection, love itself, and courage, making it a pretty tough foe and the driving force for Babs and Bard to start working out their own confusing emotions about the other.
The first half of the issue is focused on Babs trying to take the dragon out herself, and has some nice moments of self reflection in it. I enjoyed seeing her working through ways of winning the fight, and exploring her own emotions through it: love, courage, and fear. There’s a couple splash pages that feature important moments in her life that are wonderfully rendered by Cian Tormey that make the self reflection have even more of an impact as we get to see the same things Babs is thinking about. I would have really liked this section to have a little more time devoted to it, but the story moves on quickly to deal with the real point of this issue: working out the relationship between Babs and Bard.
Before I hop into that, I do want to point out how much I enjoyed Tormey’s art this issue. I talked a bit about a few of their splash pages earlier, but in general Tormey has really captured the feeling of this epic fight taking place. So much of the issue is the battle between Batgirl, Bard, and the dragon, and it’s a lot of fun to read visually. Babs gets to wield a number of different swords, the dragon spits fire, and between it all there are some really great facial expressions from Bard, displaying the full range of how he feels for Babs.
When she realizes she can’t beat the dragon alone, Babs turns to Bard to try and snap him out of the funk he’s been in. She needs to help him out of it since his fear is the main thing feeding the creature. To do this, Babs makes him talk about the person he loves, and we get pages of them actually attempting to work things out between them. The conversation is actually not bad, but my problem with it is that Babs is Batgirl, so while she’s learning how Jason really feels about her, he’s still got no clue he’s talking to the person he cares about. I’m generally not a fan of the trope where one person pours out their soul about someone else and doesn’t realize they’re talking to that very person. It usually causes problems in the relationship when the truth is revealed. Plus, the key to defeating this dragon is them being in unity, and souls becoming one. Sure they’re working together, and both are channeling deep feelings, but I’m not sure they’re unified in their love, Jason has no clue he’s with Babs, so how can they be together in this?
I also want to talk about the relationship between Babs and Bard that Castellucci is attempting to build over this arc. This issue is really focused on both their feelings for the other, and on making Babs decide how she feels about Jason, so it makes sense to examine the relationship as it stands.
I’ll start with Jason, because his treatment feeds into how Babs sees him. I do honestly believe he cares about Babs, and not just from these two issues. I finally got myself caught up on this series, and it’s easy to see Jason’s feelings for Babs develop over the course of the past few arcs. What really bothers me about him is how inconsistent everything else about him seems to be, especially over the last five or so issues. Instead of giving us a gradual change in his opinion of Batgirl, like we got to see with his opinion of Babs it feels like Castellucci has spent the last couple arcs forcing Jason into situations where he is saved by Batgirl and has to change his opinion of her with little look into Jason’s head about all this. That’s especially prevalent in this issue, by the end he even says “After that we’re definitely not enemies.”
I can see the work being put into making this relationship work, I just feel like it’s all too fast, and a little too forced. Especially when just a few issues ago Bard teamed up with Oracle to kill Batgirl. That move itself doesn’t even feel consistent with how he was being written during the election arc, at least there he was trying to change while butting heads with Batgirl. These two just have a lot of negative history behind them, and when you have characters who start out so opposed to one another it’s going to take time and consistent writing to get them to the point where readers are going to accept the relationship, and I feel like Batgirl is missing that with Jason and Babs.
It’s this same butting of heads and Jason’s hatred of Batgirl that makes it so hard to see Babs actually falling for him. She’s the person fully clued in on every secret here, and so she knows how he’ll react to finding out who she is, she even recognizes in this issue that he’ll hate finding out she’s Batgirl. Even ending things with Batgirl and Bard as friends doesn’t fully absolve the idea that he’s going to feel betrayed when she tells him the truth. Relationships are built on trust, and I don’t see how Babs could consider telling Jason who she is when he was so recently willing to partner up with a super villain to take her down. Again, I’ll repeat, this relationship needs more time to happen if it’s going to happen.
Babs does ultimately decide to go forward giving Jason a chance. Though her feelings feel very inconsistent towards the end of the book. On one hand she’s devastated when she thinks she’s lost him, then later she’s back to trying to take all this slowly. It’s quite the leap of emotions, though they did just come through a battle with a dragon. Maybe over the next few issues we will see the two of them taking things a little slower, and building trust, but I’m just not sure.
- Epic fights with dragons are your thing
- You’re interested in the relationship between Babs and Bard
- You don’t mind the theme of a book being a little obvious
This whole relationship between Babs and Bard feels like it’s moving too fast. Even with this and the last issue dedicated to attempting to work things out between them, I’m not totally sold on Barbara falling for Jason just yet. It does work to move them into a place where they may be able to become a couple, by helping bring Batgirl and Bard together despite their differences, and getting Babs to start looking at Jason more for who he is now instead of the past, but I think they have a ways to go before starting a real relationship.
DISCLAIMER: DC Comics provided Batman News with a copy of this comic for the purpose of this review.