Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Focus On Batgirl: Batgirl #1--Must There Be A Batgirl?

This is not going to be a review so much as a dismissal of this comic. I'm not going to spend a lot of time talking about the artistic merits of Batgirl #1.  It's basically a fairly good comic.  The art by Ardian Syaf is nice.  The foreshortening on Batgirl's leg on the splash page looks a little off to me, but otherwise it's a lovely looking book.  It's also well written, but then I'd expect no less from Gail Simone, although this really isn't her best work.  
The biggest flaw of this comic, as far as I'm concerned, is that it fails to make a compelling case for why there needs to be a Batgirl in the DC Universe and why it needs to be Barbara Gordon.  Given the controversy surrounding Barbara Gordon's return to action, I really think that this is something they needed to do.  This story, in fact, accomplishes just the opposite, pointing out why it was a mistake to bring back the Barbara Gordon version of Batgirl.
I can understand DC's reasoning for reinstating Barbara as Batgirl, though I can't say that I agree with it.  Much like they did a few years ago with Supergirl, following several not all that successful attempts to introduce a new version of the character, they finally decided to go back to the original.  Then there's the company's perhaps somewhat fanciful notion that the new 52 will bring in readers outside of their core demographic of middle aged fanboys.  To that larger public, due to the 60's Batman TV series and, to a lesser extent, recent animated outings Batman: The Animated Series and The Batman, Barbara Gordon is Batgirl and Batgirl is Barbara Gordon.  However, the fact remains that Barbara Gordon as Oracle was a unique and interesting character who filled a niche within the DC Universe at large, not just the Batman titles, while Barbara Gordon as Batgirl is just another chick in a batsuit, especially in the current DCU.
Simone even refers to this in the story when someone that Batgirl has just rescued says, "Bless you, Batwoman."  Maybe that was meant to be a joke, but to me it just serves to underscore the redundancy of Batgirl in a world where you've got not just Batwoman, but the Huntress, not to mention Batman himself as well as Robin, Red Robin and Nightwing.
Compounding the problem is that the characterization of Batgirl in this first issue seems to be picking up the doubt plagued and uncertain heroine from 1988's Batgirl Special.  She freezes, flashing back to the Joker's shooting her, when a gun is pointed at her right where the Clown Prince of Crime's bullet landed.  This is certainly understandable given what Barbara's gone through, but not the kind of behavior you want in a costumed crimefighter.
This review is a tad less than timely.  The second issue of this series is due to hit comic shops today.  I'll be heading over to the Laughing Ogre shortly after I post this.  I'm going to get the new issues of Action Comics and OMAC, but I'll be giving Batgirl #2 a pass.   As I said at the outset, overall the first issue is a decent enough comic, but one that ultimately fails to justify its own existence, at least to my satisfaction. 

1 comment:

  1. Well, in the 1960's, they brought back Alfred, because the character was on the TV show. Now, they reinstate Barbara Gordon because that is the version of Batgirl familiar to the general public. The more things change, the more they stay the same.