Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Batgirl #7-9: A Review

Batgirl has surprised me more than any other title in recent memory.  I wasn't sure what to expect with the first issue and every issue since then has found little ways to astonish me.  By way of a for instance, Batgirl #7 made me realize how much I miss Gail Simone writing Black Canary.

Dinah Lance is strictly here in a supporting role but the brief interlude makes it clear how very important she is to Barbara Gordon as a friend and mentor, even if we're still unsure exactly what their relationship in the past may have been.  The second act of the book has Barbara going to Dinah, nominally to spar and test her combat skills but really to unload on someone about the recent craziness in her life (i.e. the mom who abandoned her wanting to make peace).

The art for this scene is handled by guest artist Alitha Martinez, who partners up with regular penciler Adrian Syaf.  For the next two issues, Martinez handles the more thoughtful, domestic scenes while Syaf handles the action.  This proves to be a bold choice that helps to subtly separate the scenes as the story progresses, with Martinez's softer, more cartoonish style offering a humorous contrast to the darker, dynamic scenes illustrated by Syaf.

The action of both #7 and #8 deals with Batgirl's attempts to track down a new masked robber - a connoisseur of sorts who calls himself Grotesque.  And it is Barbara's pursuit of the baddie and his henchmen into the sewers that leads to another surprising revelation.  Namel, that one of Grotesque's hired goons is one of the men who was backing-up The Joker on night Barbara was paralyzed!  

Much of Issue #8 focuses upon Barbara's attempts to sort out her feelings regarding this thug even as she struggles to bring Grotesque to heel.  As before, Martinez and Syaf take turns on the art duties, though this time Martinez seems to focus on a subplot that I will not discuss here.  Suffice it to say, it will probably take center stage in future issues and prove to be quite exciting.

Issue #9 is a tie in with the Batman: Night of Owls storyline but the story hardly breaks Simone's stride.  Much like the recent Nightwing title, this issue shows us the origin of the unfortunate soul who would become one of the Court of Owl's Talons - monstrous assassins brought back from the dead and rendered near invulnerable.  More, we discover another connection to the Court of Owls and the circus in which a young Dick Grayson grew up. 

While this is interesting stuff as far as the crossover goes and Simone gives us a cute yet disturbing introduction involving an aspect of the Pacific Theater in World War 2 that is rarely discussed, the real heart of the issue is centered upon James Gordon and his daughter as they fight two different battles in the same war.  Commissioner Gordon is ordered to sit idly while war wages across his city, lest his daughter and the people around him be hurt.  For a while, that threat is enough to stay his hand but - when push comes to shove - Jim Gordon is a good cop.  And as he races through a swiftly disintegrating police station to try and turn on the Bat-Signal, Batgirl fights her own battle to stop the assassin sent to kill her father.

I know several of you old-school Birds of Prey fans have been reluctant to give this title a chance.  I understand your reluctance, believe me.  I had my reservations early on, too.  You love Babs as Oracle.  So do I.  But the thing you have to realize is that Barbara Gordon is Barbara Gordon.  Whether she's in a wheelchair or not, whether she's cartwheeling across a rooftop or sitting on top of five mainframes... she is still Barbara Gordon.  She is still the same super-genius spitfire we all love, no matter what the costume, the name or the gimmick. 

Give this book a shot.  I think you'll be surprised.

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