Wednesday, 11 January 2012

Batgirl #5 review

I love a mystery and there's a fine one here - how can the number 338 cause a mobster to murder his three loyal sons and try to kill himself? How is knife-happy strongwoman Gretel connected? And why does her hair switch from green to pink?

Batgirl is less keen on the intrigue, she just wants to keep Gotham citizens safe - including billionaire Bruce Wayne when his chauffeur proves part of the apparent mind control conspiracy.

And away from the costumed action, is Barbara Gordon's mother - not seen since she walked out on Babs and husband Jim years previously - on the level when she says she just wants to be friends? Given that Babs getting paralysed years previously didn't bring her running, why now? And what was her reason for leaving?

Plus, where will Detective Melody McKenna's obsession with Batgirl lead now she's been tasked with investigating the vigilante by none other than Commissioner James Gordon?

Writer Gail Simone is on top form here, mixing action and intrigue and putting a likeable, relatable character at the centre of it. For the first time since she reclaimed her title of Batgirl in DC's New 52 revamp, Babs is just getting on with it. The post-traumatic reaction to guns is no more, we're told Babs walks again due to neural implant surgery and the comic finally seems to be looking forward. The narration is particularly sharp this time, my favourite line being: ''Crazy lives here on a longterm lease'', and roommate Alysia looks to have dropped the annoying habit of referring to her new friend as 'Gordon. Barbara Gordon.'
The fight sequences written by Simone are beautifully laid out by penciller Ardian Syaf and inked by Vicente Sifuentes - who also handles some pencils this time, clever lad - and take place in one of the most-realistic looking comic book cities around ... perfect for their spitfire Batgirl. They could happily tweak Babs mom - she's a little heavier of frame, but otherwise identical to her daughter, right down to the hairdo - but otherwise, it's all good. New character Gretel has a simple look, but a striking one that suits her MO. It's a shame, mind, that her first full on-panel appearance is undersold.

The cover is another lovely effort from Adam Hughes, a real asset to this series.

As the beginning of a new storyline, this is an excellent place to jump on board. Then maybe you could explain the title to me ... 'A candy full of spiders'. Say what? Has Gretel come straight from the witch's house? Is there a Hansel yet to show up? That's another fine mystery.

7 comments:

  1. Some things I like about 'Batgirl', which has improved as its gone along; her professionalism as a crime-fighter, interesting villains and deliciously moody artwork. I could do without Bab's 'wacky' roommate though. And I thought Bab's mother died some years ago, hence her being adopted by Commish Gordon.
    But overall, not a bad issue at all.

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    1. As I understand it, Barbara is back to being the genetic daughter of Commissioner Gordon and his former wife. And as for her, GORDON'S ALIIIIVE!

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  2. This is a really weird book for me. Because it's essentially everything I'd want or expect a Batgirl book to be. It's done well, the art's decent (although yeah, some distinction between Babs and her mom would have been nice) -- a good show all around. And very, very respectful of the character and what she's been through, and taking no shortcuts in that regard. Plus, interesting new villains!

    But... as much as I like it, I just don't *love* it. It interests me, but it doesn't move me. I think it's a terrific Batgirl book... but I'm starting to realize that I'm not the audience for Batgirl -- any Batgirl -- well-done or not. (Same with Robin, by the way. And Nightwing, too.)

    It could be an age bias. I like reading about grown-ups; Oracle always seemed like a grown-up. Batgirl -- aside from her pre-crisis incarnation) never has. I've read some Nightwing, but never really followed Robin on his own for very long.

    Street-level heroes have a tough row to hoe with me. Batwoman is succeeding on sheer visual inventiveness and great mood. Batwing, on the other hand, comes with a unique setting & history. Batgirl is very well done, and brings the PTSD psychological element, but still seems too familiar.

    I haven't made my hardest decisions about which New 52 books I'm cutting, but this book is constantly on the bubble with me, even though I really do like it.

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    1. I know what you mean. While this is recognisably a Barbara Gordon as Batgirl, it's not MY Barbara, the woman I've watched grow for decades. And that isn't the comic's fault, so I'm trying to adjust my expectations.

      I'm also not the biggest street level fan - I like my heroes to have powers. And there are a ridiculous amount of Bat-heroes, meaning they've got to have a very distinct personality, and their series a distinct tone, to engage me. So I'm reading Batman, Batgirl and Batwoman. Detective is being dropped, it's too much incident and not enough closure. Batwing's first two issues were good, but a bit too gory in hindsight.

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    2. (continued - Blogger is acting up). Not one current Bat-title is as good as Steph's Batgirl book was.

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  3. Great review as always. I really enjoy Batgirl. It's the kind of book I hope my young daughter will read one day: Batgirl is presented as resourceful and strong without being some Sin City-esque "kick-tail" ninja-demoness, while still being able to exhibit human emotions like doubt and fear. She's cute but not the usual objectified female form found in comics today. I really enjoyed the first bad guy on Simone's run and this new one looks interesting too. Good show.

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  4. Thanks Anon - you've a real talent for phrase-making, there!

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