Batgirl #50 is an oversized issue, that both finishes off Castelluci’s run, and features two extra one shots featuring Batgirl. Each story is written by Castlluci and has different artists on each story and since they’re all so different I’ll review each one (the last two briefly since they are short) and give an overall at the end.
In the main story the themes are those of inspiration, hope, and new beginnings. This is shown in a number of scenes where Barbara is trying to move forward in a world where her brother is gone, and Gotham is a city changed by Joker’s war. Through all of this, it also works to try and tie up any remaining loose ends the story might have.
The story doesn’t really follow a strict narrative, instead its a series of scenes that follow Babs through various moments as she pieces her life together, eventually it does come together but that’s more in theme than actual story. This makes it a little hard to talk about the book in general, because it’s a lot of feelings and final moments rather than a firm story to critique.
We see Babs deal with the loss of her brother, confront her dad, try to inspire others and do good as Batgirl and Barbara, connect with Bard, and inspire Congresswoman Alejo. Some of these moments feel natural, while others almost come out of nowhere or feel inconsistent with how they were previously written and since I’ve still got two short stories to comment on, I’m going to focus on those negatives.
First of all is Jason Bard. A lot of time is spent between Barbara and Bard here in an attempt to develop their relationship, and shows them downright domestic in a few scenes. It’s very obvious that she’s pushing for a “happy ending” with these two, and goes so far as to have Batgirl show up to have a conversation with Jason apologizing for what she did. It’s written to help them get past misunderstandings and be able to move forward together, but it doesn’t really work for me. There’s this rush to fix things between them. But none of it feels like it has any real staying power. Much of what they talk about has been said before, and even when Batgirl apologizes or Jason does things just feel rushed. Like all this had to happen to make things end on a good note.
Then there’s Babs’ reunion with Dick. I could write a whole article about why I’m not a fan of Barbara’s representation lately specifically in regards to her relationship with Dick and it would have nothing to do with the fact that I like them as a couple. There is nothing about their conversation that feels natural, or in line with how old friends should talk. She’s downright icy to him here, and actually blames Dick for being brainwashed and fighting her, then she tells him he needs to earn her friendship back. It makes zero sense. They have enough of a relationship that she should be more empathetic than this, and it’s just wrong to have her blaming someone in her life for being brainwashed again. First it was her dad, and now Nightwing, this is not a character trait I’m a fan of. The whole scene left a bad taste in my mouth.
Finally, there’s the way the story is wrapped up with the Alejo. All of a sudden Congresswoman Aljeo is tired. Tired of being pushed and prodded by constituents and tired of trying to make a difference and ready to just throw in the towel. This comes out of nowhere, and Barbara’s renewed loyalty to her is equally confusing. She was upset with Alejo just a few issues ago, what changed that? Why is Babs suddenly back on her side? The jump here just feels like the Castelluci ran out of time, but still really wanted to make this particular moment work, especially since it ties in so well with the other elements she plays with in this story.
Those elements are how highly reflective the issue is of current events. There are protests, statues being pulled down, and a subplot about a virus. It’s as if Castelluci attempted to bottle 2020 and have Babs single handedly comment on every aspect of it in one book. I’m a bit torn, because I do think comics should comment on current events and social issues, but at the same time having it so transparently presented feels less like a comment and more like being instructed on how to feel. I’d much rather stories present an idea and leave it to readers to mull over.
Out of everything in this part of the book, the art is my favorite. Lupacchino does the art and Bellaire does colors for this section and I think it’s really cute. The colors are soft and blend well with each other, and the art clean and enjoyable to look at. It’s deceptively simple, but in a good way. For everything the book is trying to do, the art is calmer and helps give you a break as you read the story.
Overall, I’d say this wraps up Castelluci’s story about as well as it can. I’m neither totally put off or really inspired, despite the book’s attempts at making me feel that way. If anything I’m a bit bored, and that’s certainly not the way you want a run to end.
I did not care for this short story. It’s chaotic and feels a bit like a fever dream. The narrative has a lot to do with this, but so does the art and colors done by Marguerite Sauvage. The art often feels claustrophobic, with the backgrounds almost intruding on the foregrounds. The colors blend into each other in a way that makes the backgrounds and foregrounds mix and makes things feel less clear. It’s not my favorite style of art but it does plays well within what the story is trying to do.
The story focuses on Barbara being pulled in a hundred different directions by everyone from Jason Bard, to Batman, and the Justice League all while trying to hunt down a mysterious virus infecting town. It paints Batgirl as someone everyone needs help from all the time, in a very chaotic kind of way that builds and builds and builds until the end of the story. Reading it feels a lot like being in a crowded room with too many people talking at once and being unable to really focus on anything.
I think that feeling is part of the point of this story. It seems to want to say that while Babs is important to everyone, that need for her help can be too much at times, especially when she needs to focus on herself and her own goals. This story also ties loosely into a scene from the first story, and works to act as a kind of answer to the question of what the heck was going on there. Unfortunately, because of the way it’s put together what happens still isn’t really clear and as a fill in for a random scene or even a story itself.
This short follows a much clearer narrative and plays directly to one of my favorite tropes, which is characters playing D&D. Barbara is the Dungeon Master/Oracle for a game of Dungeons and Dragons played by Spoiler, Huntress, Black Canary, and Orphan. It’s light, easy to follow, and has the flavor of something written simply for the fun of it.
The story is simple, but effective as it shows the team struggling to work together during the game, then figuring it out in a real fight, and coming back together to continue playing with newfound enthusiasm. Trish Mulvihill’s art fits the bright and light tone of the story, while also rendering the fantasy elements in nice detail and you can tell the creative team had fun with this one in the credits alone.
It’s fun, cute, and the best way to end this book.
- You’re interested in seeing how Barbara’s story wraps up
- The art throughout is really fantastic
- A giant-sized issue with a couple stories is your cup of tea
The main story works to end on a high note for Barbara Gordon’s latest adventures, but I’m not sure it really succeeds in doing that. Beyond some moments that sparked irritation, I wasn’t really moved by the main story. While it does wrap up loose ends it also doesn’t feel like there’s any real resolution. It is quite simply an end. The bonus stories are hit and miss for me. Even though I really enjoyed the last one, I’m not sure how much either really add to the package. Generally, Batgirl #50 is just not the book for me.
Overall Score: 5/10
DISCLAIMER: DC Comics provided Batman News with a copy of this comic for the purpose of this review.