“Batgirl #14”

(w) Gail Simone
(a) Ed Benes
DC Comics
$2.99, 20 Pages

This issue of Batgirl is one that I’ve been waiting to read! Batgirl has not been a consistent title that I buy each month. Some months it is in my pull list, other times it has just been skipped. This issue took a huge step forward with the title character and if it continues this trend, then I could see myself buying Batgirl month in and month out.

I was a fan of the Stephanie Brown Batgirl and loved Barbara in her role as Oracle. When the relaunch hit, I picked up as much of Batgirl as I could but was disappointed as the months progressed. I had always heard that Gail Simone was a great writer, so I had some high hopes for the book initially. Then I saw some writing ticks of Simone’s in this book that were very hard to overlook.

Anytime I’ve picked up an issue of Batgirl since the relaunch, I’ve seen nothing but victims. Villains who are victims, a main protagonist who is a victim, and no character really evolving beyond that. Their victim-hood is what defined them and drove them as a character. It wasn’t until Batgirl came to the realization that her costumed enemy of the arc was also a victim that she then sympathized with them and was able to defeat them. It was a story pattern that was recycled from arc to arc.

However, the bad guy for this arc is the Joker. Joker is more in the business of making victims. Having once been a victim of the Joker, Barbara really comes out in this issue with a “I’m not going to take this anymore” attitude. And she kicked some serious butt. She was diving head first into the situation determined to no longer be taken advantage of. It was very nice contrast from previous issues that was welcomed by me.

And since the first half of the book featured art by Ed Benes, you got to see Barbara take this new attitude of her’s into a fight with some of Joker’s minions while she wore nothing but a dress shirt and underwear. Don’t worry, the dress shirt would fluctuate in length, depending on how much of the underwear was going to be shown. And in case it wasn’t obvious, I’m not a fan of this type of art, as it seems to serve nothing here but a cheesecake presentation.

In a fight scene, you have to have a sense of the space and how a character moves around in that space. As a reader, I don’t see how three muscle bound, gun shooting criminals can bust into an apartment and have a back and forth fight with Batgirl while she does flips, handstands, and miraculously somehow doesn’t come into contact with any furniture or other objects in the room. When we finally do get an establishing shot of the space that they fought in, we see it is a very big room with very little furniture, with all the furniture conveniently against the walls and not taking up any of the main space.

Compare that sequence with the one that comes in the second half of the book with art from Daniel Sampere. We open with an establishing shot showing the skating rink that the scene takes place in. Then we get close up of faces and a story progression with the art that isn’t focused on revealing bottoms and up-skirt shots. It is instead focused on showing and telling a story. Just flip through the pages of either half of the book and you can see how, even though both stories are about building tension, only the second part really does anything to show, in the art, how the story is getting intense.

As for the overall crossover event, I’m going with the assumption that Joker is lying about knowing the identities of the Bat-family as was revealed in Batman #14. Joker’s attack on Barbara is coincidental, and is more an act of repeating himself as he has been doing in the main Batman book. He is attacking the Gordon family in order to get to Gordon, it is just coincidence that Barbara is Batgirl.

Going into the story with this outlook, and knowing how public Joker is about his attacks, I knew right away that it wasn’t Joker on the other end of the phone line talking to Barbara. I could totally see why Barbara would assume it was Joker, and I’m sure with the stress of who she assumed it was would cause her to put the blinders on and not have thought things through carefully to try and grasp the bigger picture. The reveal of who the character actually was is semi-surprising if you are just picking up the book for the first time, which I am sure many people are for the Death of the Family tie in. The twist will make things interesting from here out, and it actually makes me want to pick this Batgirl title back up to give it another chance.