Today, Peter and Drew are discussing Batgirl 8, originally released June 13th 2012.
Peter: We are now out of the Night of the Owls. Babs is back in action fighting crime in Gotham. We get a new storyline and tons of new possibilities from here on out. Babara is an incredibly dynamic character so far. Gail Simone has been writing this character for a long time, from Oracle to Batgirl, and has done an incredible job getting Barbara back on her feet. The amount of time and detail that is going into this story is continuously setting it apart from many of the other books in DC’s current line-up.
Batgirl 10 opens with Babs beating up some car thieves. One gets away, and runs through a door. Babs follows him to find that his leg is caught in a FUCKING BEAR TRAP. Babs rushes to his side to comfort him and get him medical attention. Three mysterious people who are the security for the big swanky event in the building arrive. They send Babs on her way.
Meanwhile, inside the swanky event, a woman named Charise Carnes is making a pitch to get the Cherry Hill District back on it’s feet. She is promoting a program of volunteers that patrol the area and clean up the streets. A reporter, who looks suspiciously like Lois Lane (they could be the same person, it’s a good possibility, but one would have to ask why she is in Gotham for this event) pulls her aside for an interview and brings up that she was once accused of murdering her whole family. She refutes these claims. Later when she and her mysterious security team are alone, it is discovered that she is keeping a heavily scarred and disheveled gentlemen in a cage who wants her to kill him, but she’s not going to….right now.
Babs is having second thoughts about leaving Bear Trap Ricky behind. He really got into her head. She gets a phone call from her roommate Alysia, who hasn’t been heard from in a few days. (Since she met James!!) Turns out, Babs needs to bail her out of jail. They go to a diner and talk about if the city is really getting any better.
The next night Babs returns to Cherry Hill and the Three Towers. She finds mysterious security team dangling Ricky off the roof. They offer Babs membership in their group called the Disgraced. They drop Ricky off the roof as a test, which Babs fails by diving after him to save him. Barbara is blindsided by one of the security team, a Hawkgirl look-alike calling herself Katharsis. Babs gets surrounded by the other two, plus a shadowy newcomer, Knightfall.
This is definitely a good jump in point for new readers. This is a beginning of a new story arc, following the Night of the Owls. There are only a few carry overs from the Grotesque storyline. Which, in my opinion kinda sucks. The big reveal in issue 8 was James Jr.’s return. However, in issue 10, we only get one tiny, tiny, mention of him. I was definitely bummed out by this. I was definitely thinking that more would come from the James Jr reveal. Hopefully it picks up more in subsequent issues.
The James Jr story was really the biggest let down. We continue with Gail Simone’s continuously awesome character development for Babs. The extreme amount of empathy that we see carries over from the end of issue 8. We have seen a lot of Babs being incredibly sympathetic to recent goons.
Between Alitha and Vincente’s pencils and inks in this shot, we get a huge amount of empathy from from Barbara’s facial expression. Her eyes tell the whole story. For Gail and the team to have Babs spend so much time brooding reminds me of classic Bruce, but also it starts to define herself in this more brood-ier state.
Another sequence that I found really interesting was Barb and Alysia’s talk. I like that it is connecting back to Bruce’s gentrification project. Also, the mention of an Occupy Gotham fighting against this is very interesting. We’ve only really seen this project in two lights so far; Bruce’s plan, and Mayor Hady’s anti-project. This is another anti project, but from a different stand point. It’s now involving all the people of Gotham. I love that this project is transcending both books and income levels. It really lets Gotham shine as a character in itself. Also, some friction we may see between Babs and Alysia on their opinions on Carnes could be very interesting.
This shot of the outside of the dinner is quite interesting as well. We commonly see different parts of Gotham, and this one is run down and slummy.
However, the graffiti is really the best part. With things like “Abandon all hope ye who enter here” or “Aut vincere aut mori”, which translates to essentially Victory or Death, (my Latin hasn’t been used since college) and several other things on the wall, this really adds character this this scene. These sayings aren’t just some poet writing on the street; they are talking about Gotham. It continues to lend character to the city. With all the interesting things happening these days (OwlsOwlsOwls) these fit really well.
The introduction of a new villain is fine, but honestly….eh. There are tons of villains in the mythos that could be used for Babs to fight. While I can understand that we are seeing a lot of new ones so that Babs can really be tested. She could easily be tested against some of the classic Batman and Batgirl villains that haven’t been seen in the New 52 yet. That’s not so much a complaint as it is an observation. I like the new villains Gail is throwing at Babs, that’s for sure. But we could get some of the same from old villains reimaged.
This issue of Batgirl is really great. It supplies others with a good jumping in point for new readers. Also, it gives us more of the same, and in this case, the same is good. This is continuing to be an incredibly solid book. The sooner we can get more of James Jr, though, the better. That could possibly make for an incredibly interesting storyline.
Drew: I’m definitely with you on the “where’s James?” front. I was assuming James was picking up a random victim at the end of issue 8, and that the fact that Alysia was Barbara’s roommate was a total coincidence. The fact that he didn’t immediately slice her up suggests something more interesting — either that James has somehow reformed, or that he’s just using Alysia to get close to Barbara. Either way, it looks like Simone is building a bigger story than just a showdown between Babs and James over a tied-up Alysia.
I think that sense of a bigger story is also why I’m inclined to agree with you about the villains — not that I’m disliking the new ones that Simone has come up with so far, but because I think we’re cycling through them at too rapid a clip. We spend a lot of time this issue establishing the villain, who we still don’t fully understand. There’s nothing inherently wrong with that, either, but that means time spent away from Babs, which is the whole reason I pick up this title in the first place.
That I simply can’t get enough of the hero is a good problem to have, and one I keep citing on this title. It’s a credit to the voice Simone has established for her that I have such a positive reaction to just seeing her on the page. It makes me long for some longer story arcs, where information about the villains can be doled out more slowly, allowing us more space to luxuriate in Barbara’s acerbic wit. The past few villains have been over and done in two issues, which means a relatively high percentage of our time with them must be devoted to expository explanations of who they are and how they came to be. This arc seems to be going that route as well, which just feels like a missed opportunity.
Maybe I just like Barbara too much, but I’d honestly read this book if she never fought any villains. To me, things are a bit out of balance; with so much focus on plotting, Babs just isn’t getting enough face-time. I’d love to see these stories spread out over an issue or two, where there’s more space to devote to Barbara’s reaction to what’s going on around her, as well as to give the plot room to unfold naturally.
That said, this issue is far from overly expository. For all the time we spend with Charise, we still have no idea what her deal is. She seems to be behind the hard-lined vigilante team “the Disgraced” (which makes sense, given that she witnessed the murder of her family), but then what’s the deal with that prisoner she’s keeping? Her apparently super-powered bodyguards seem to have a visceral emotional connection to her, but what makes them “disgraced”? I look forward to seeing Babs piece this together.
I must say, this is one of the most seamless artist baton passings I’ve ever seen. It helps that Inker Vincente Cifuentes and colorist Ulises Arreola have stuck around to make Martinez’s guest spot so smooth. My favorite moment has to be Charise’s bizarre flashback to the day of her family’s murder.
Martinez exaggerates our perspective, enlarging young Charise’s head and stretching her body, creating a strange dream-like effect. Combined with her inscrutable expression — is that guilt? Ambivalence? Shock? — and the blood red tile, it’s hard to say what this image means. I’m inclined to say that whats represented here actually happened (though I think a case could be made for Charise just remembering or choosing to remember it that way), but I don’t know what to make of that reality.
These emotionally scarred villains Simone has come up with are excellent foils for Babs, who is still working through her own emotional issues. That compassion Peter pointed out turns out to be tempered with a good deal of empathy, cultivated when she too had lost her legs. That these moments keep coming to haunt her suggests that Simone might just be building to a larger emotional arc than is even on our radar just yet. It’s an exciting idea, and one I’m looking forward to see play out over the long-haul.
For a complete list of what we’re reading, head on over to our Pull List page. Whenever possible, buy your comics from your local mom and pop comic bookstore. If you want to rock digital copies, head on over to DC’s website and download issues there. There’s no need to pirate, right?