Batgirl #8 is pretty much my last dance with Barbara Gordon. I might buy #9 just because it ties in with Scott Snyder’s brilliant "Court Of Owls" run from Batman, but overall, the interest has waned. I love Gail Simone, I have always found her work to be above reproach and consistently high quality. I don’t know what’s happening with Batgirl in Simone’s mind, but it has become a real example of squandered potential.
The first three issues of Batgirl were amazing and each part of what made them so amazing has now become annoying. First is the constant inner monologue from Barbara Gordon about what it means to be Batgirl and does she think she’s worthy. At first, this was a nice way to ease Barbara back into the role and humanize her return after the reboot. Now, it has turned from introspection to whining. Enough with the self-doubt and self-deprecating comments, you’re Batgirl. Go be Batgirl.
Issue #8 is a good example of two other glaring problems with Batgirl. Simone has yet to give our heroine a villain worth the paper they’re printed on. So far, everybody that Batgirl has faced has been a cliché. The latest, Grotesque, is some mask wearing clown who robs people. Really? This is the best a writer of Gail Simone’s stature can muster in 8 issues? The villains have been inconsequential other than giving Batgirl somebody to punch while she puts herself down and doubts what she can do. It’s enough already. Time for Batgirl to actually get a foe we can be proud of!
The other problem is how the series has dealt with Barbara’s rewritten history. Pre-New-52-reboot Barbara was paralyzed by the Joker in the classic Alan Moore story The Killing Joke. For years, she stood toe to toe with any superhero as Oracle, the plugged-in, all-seeing, all-knowing computer whiz. In the New 52, Barbara was still shot and paralyzed by the Joker, but she “somehow” regained the use of her legs and became Batgirl again. The series has totally dropped the ball on handling this transition and issue #8 is the worst yet. There have been no answers to how Barbara got her legs back. Instead, we get little hints, coy drops in a bucket we all want to see filled. Again, it’s enough; shed a little light on the subject.
Worse yet is that issue #8 tries to expand on the history of The Killing Joke and fails. One of Grotesque’s henchmen is the same guy who stood with the Joker when he shot Barbara. It turns out, in this world, the guy felt bad and called the police after he and the Joker left, which saved Barbara’s life. I get what Gail Simone was trying to do here, but it doesn’t work. It feels forced, a plot device that is beneath both writer and subject. Nobody cares about this guy, so trying to make him sympathetic has no meaning to it. It’s a hollow attempt to inject emotional impact into a series that is losing steam fast.
Some will say that issue #8 sets up a coming conflict between Batgirl and her brother James, the serial killer. While that might seem like a dark and interesting idea, to me it’s a cop out. Scott Snyder already gave us a brilliant story featuring James Gordon in Detective Comics before the big reboot. This feels like somebody taking table scraps and trying to make dinner out of it. The art for Batgirl is cool, but apparently it took three artists to put it together. It just feels like Batgirl is becoming a mess, one that I just don’t care about anymore.
(3 Art, 2 Story)