11 Sept 2011

Cover To Cover: BATGIRL #1

Writer: Gail Simone
Art: Ardian Syaf, Vicente Cifuentes & Ulises Arreola
DC $2.99

Stewart R: Of all of the changes that DC are bringing about with their New 52 the reversion to Barbara Gordon as Batgirl is one of the most prominent. For best part of 23 years Barbara has been confined to a wheelchair having been shot and paralysed from the waist down at the hands of the Joker in Alan Moore’s Batman: The Killing Joke. From that point on she established herself as Oracle, the super-heroine proving that information and technology could be used to bring the bad guys to justice rather than brute force.

Well now, with the reset button well and truly pushed, Barbara gets to don the black, purple and gold of old and let her auburn locks flow in the Gotham air as she swings and leaps from rooftop to rooftop on the hunt for criminal scum. The canny move made by writer Gail Simone - and the DC high command I would assume - has been to not erase the events of The Killing Joke but instead alter the outcome so that Barbara’s greatest fight has been to deal with and attempt to recover from her tortured past. It’s a smart move as it looks likely to form the emotional foundation on which this debut arc is to be based.

This incarnation of Barbara is a mixture of confidence and self-doubt; one moment she’s seemingly in control of the situation with a play-by-play narration of just how the action will shake down and then the next the uncertainty starts to work its way in and we, the readers, are left wondering if it all might fall apart at any second. This is certainly not a side to the character I have seen before, having only really been exposed to her Oracle persona where she seemed far more sure and determined about the course her life was taking, but she’s instantly likeable here as a protagonist trying to shake off the cobwebs and get her life back on track. And Simone makes sure that all of the important elements of that life are addressed within the 20 page limit of this debut and that’s quite an impressive feat.

Also impressive is that Adam Hughes cover which I’ll stick my neck out and say is one of the best covers of the New 52 and perfect for a debut issue. The interior work by Syaf and Cifuentes isn’t bad either, managing to capture that darker and grittier mood that Simone seems to be going for although sometimes it does feel that Syaf is cramming his panels slightly to make everything fit. That might be down to the packed script as I mentioned before and we’ll just have to see if his style loosens slightly as the arc proceeds.

So far, so good you might think but I’m afraid ladies and gentlemen there is a big old fly in the ointment when it comes to this first issue and it’s a plot point that prevents this comic from getting a generous score.

In this new DC Universe it appears that the superheroes living in it are still an unknown quantity to the public and the authorities and that’s fair enough. Gail Simone actually expands upon this throughout the issue, drumming it home that the greater population is not familiar with Batgirl and for all intents and purposes she’s operating 'under the radar'. If this is the case, then I seriously doubt that an injured police officer - who even states, out loud, that she doesn’t know who this costumed, female vigilante is - would encourage an unarmed individual, regardless of their garb, to attempt to take down an assailant pointing a loaded weapon directly at them! I understand what the writer is trying to accomplish by showing a parallel with the event that has sown the fear and doubt within Barbara’s psyche but the way it is scripted forces the point too far and unfortunately leaves it feeling a little ridiculous. The officer’s further reaction at the conclusion is also utterly farcical considering where her attention and disgust is directed and the nature of the situation that is still unfolding.

There’s certainly promise to be found and having been a big fan of Stephanie Brown wearing the cape and cowl I have to say that it is good to see Miss Gordon back in the role. It is just a terrible shame then that in the short space of a couple of pages a lot of the good work is tarnished by sloppy writing. 7/10


ian walker said...

Well this weekend I've managed to read all 13 of the new DC comics out this week and can say with a big old smile on my face that I enjoyed all of them,not one of them made me feel what's the point in coming back for issue 2 and by far the best read for me was Animal Man which gets 10/10,as for the rest they go from 07/10 too 10/10 which in my wacky world makes them all good enough to stay on my standing order as ongoings,so roll on next weeks batch and if all the 50 I'm down for are as good as this weeks I may have to sell the kids to fund my hobby, al thou I think the wife may have something to say about that.

Matt Clark said...

Stew, Batgirl is set 'now' as opposed to last week's Justice League, and superheroes (from what I've seen in the other #1s so far) are firmly established presence at this stage, no longer an unknown quantity. I don't think someone dressed in a Bat costume would be that much of a surprise for the GCPD.