Reviewer’s End: Batgirl

This month I’m reviewing all the DC titles with a “future’s end” banner. All their regular titles are jumping five years into the future this September, telling the story of how the book CURRENTLY stands to finish. Of course, the moment a new writer or event comes in, these’ll all be wiped from existence. Still, should be an interesting thing for the time being.

Week two brings us the future of Batgirl.

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Gail Simone concludes her run on Batgirl with this issue, which attempts to create a four-Batgirl teamup straight from the dreams of Batgirl fandom. The story sees Barbara Gordon give up on being Batgirl after her husband is (pretty quickly) persuaded to kill himself by James Gordon Jr. She starts infiltrating the plans of different villains – Riddler, Penguin, and so on – and bringing them down from the inside, before finally turning sights on her last opponent: Bane.

She’s aided in this by three Batgirls, being Stephanie Brown, Cassandra Cain, and a new character (I think) called Misty. This leads to the first of several mood whiplashes in the issue, with an opening sequence which ends with a tragic wedding segueing straight into a goofy Batgirl team up storyline. That then awkwardly drifts into the Bane storyline, before things attempt to wrap the Bane/Batgirls storylines together in a slightly mawkish fashion.

There are a few issues with this final storyline, then. The pacing is, as mentioned, rather off-kilter, which isn’t helped by the artwork from Javier Garron. He’s given a nice Stuart Immonen-sheen from the colours by Romulo Fajardo Jr, but too often his characters are overdone. They mug for the reader at every opportunity, and the lack of any subtlety in the facial expressions quickly leads to some very odd panels. At one point, for example, James Gordon reveals himself and sticks a gun up at Batgirl – trailing the other toward the reader for some reason – and provokes a startled reaction from the backing characters. One of the women, however, seems fanatically delighted by what she’s seeing – the expressions are ramped up to such an extent that it hurts the continuity of the story.

He gets across the point of each character well, because he’s so overt with the way he poses them – the three Batgirls are introduced with Stephanie smirking wildly, Cassandra growling manically, and Misty hiding timidly behind her nun-chucks. The storytelling’s not too bad, but every panel lives or dies on how ridiculously (or not) the characters are expressed. The costuming is mixed, too – the Batgirls looks pretty neat, but the reveal of Barbara Gordon’s Bane-inspired outfit is laugh out loud funny. It’s not intended to be.

The issue really stands as a narrative on the last panel, which is likely Gail Simone’s final statement on Batgirl as a whole. There are a lot of nice moments here, but a sense of grimness which never really lifts from the book. For every sweet-natured moment with the main characters, there’s a strange bit of artwork. For every time the storyline tries something light-hearted, a villain does something ridiculously nasty to someone. It’s possibly hacky to say this, but the issue does pretty fairly represent Simone’s run on Batgirl as a whole. It’s well-intentioned, but weighed down by several bad ideas which can’t find air amongst each other. The artwork is patchy (although, again – the colouring is bright, flashy, and superb throughout) and everybody cries an awful lot, at the strangest of time.

The issue wraps things up in a way, for the run. But I am glad that the next creative team are coming in to shake things up in a month.

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