Batgirl Volume 2: Knightfall Descends
$24.99, color, 192 pages
Writer: Gail Simone
Artists: Adrian Syaf, Ed Benes
Reprinting Batgirl #0, 7-13 (May-Dec 12)
I liked The New 52 Batgirl to start with, and it's getting better.
In the first Batgirl collection, I liked Barbara Gordon a lot, but wasn't too crazy about anything else in the series. Simone gave Barbara an engaging and self-deprecating "voice" (presumably her own), and it's impossible not to like this girl. But Gordon moving into an apartment without a visible means of support didn't make any sense -- yes, I understand her urge to move out, but in the real world you have to get a job first. Commissioner Gordon is a good supporting character, but we see enough of him elsewhere, and besides, either he doesn't know Babs is Batgirl, which isn't consistent with his depiction as a smart detective, or he does know and doesn't stop her, which isn't consistent with his over-protective father schtick. And the lefty, artsy roommate/best friend set-up was virtually a cliche in the '70s, and while it may be fresh to today's audience, I was bored with the new girl immediately. Finally, there was a cop with a grudge against Batgirl and ZZZzzzz. Yeah, we've seen that done to death, too.
But Volume 2 not only improves in most of these areas, it ups the ante. We not only get less of Commissioner Gordon, we get Barbara's estranged -- and strange -- mother, plus her crazy, and crazy-smart, serial-killer brother James Jr. The cop-with-a-grudge thing is actually taken to the next level, where she will likely lose her job, and is already more interesting than before. And the roommate? Well, unbeknownst to Barbara, she's dating James Jr., who is setting up something terrible. Yeah, this is shaping up pretty good.
Simone is also setting up something of a rogues gallery for Batgirl, but I have to say I'm less impressed with her creations here than I was in Suicide Squad. But, like the supporting cast, maybe this gaggle of bad guys just needs time to grow on me. I'll be here for Volume 3 to find out!
I read and liked Batgirl vol 1 recently. Lots of New 52 comics followed the same template and were off-putting for the same reasons. The violence, the mass-murderers, the darkness and despair. Its like the 'video-nasty' world of late 70s/early 80s vigliante movies. Society is helpless and under seige from 'the evil ones', who seem able to move about with impunity until someone is prepared to get as dirty as they are.
It looks like Simone looked at the parameters of the type of stories that the New52 were interested in telling and sat down and wrote a good story within those parameters. So the New 52 storytelling mode is capable of being used to tell good stories, if the creators are prepared to put in the work.
The human and humane point that Simone starts with is that Barbara is recovering from trauma. Which gives her a different kind of disability than she'd had before.
The other reason why it's off to a good start is the key question Barbara asks early on: 'Can you fight monsters without becoming one?'
That is the question other 'badass' and 'awesome' New52 'heroes' blithely ignore, but it is one Barbara wrestles with constantly. It's really the only question worth asking when we are supposed to cheer on 'heroes' whose behaviour is so problematic.
I'm looking forward to reading more of Simone's Batgirl.
Great analysis, Figs.
I'd like to claim credit for the angle above, but I was persuaded to read Batgirl by a series of posts by Colin Smith. No shame in being taught how to read something...
...SPOILER question...What is the " amputation of a ne'r-do-well's leg " Smith refers to ???