Batgirl 10

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?


28 comments on “Batgirl 10

  1. The guy in the cage reminds me a little of Zsasz because he has scars that look similar. I don’t think it’s him though because it looks like he has a lot fewer scars.

  2. I’m really interested in the class-struggle being woven throughout Batgirl. Peter, you point out that Bruce’s Gotham City Restoration project spans a couple of books, but it’s really cool to see the socio-economic implications of it play out here. I’m noticing that Babs has an awful lot in common with Bruce, but one thing they do not have in common in money. In this very issue, Babs bemoans her lack of cash-flow twice (“gotta invest in more bat-line” and “I have to find a way to monetize butt kicking”), and it makes her a lot more similar to the baddies she’s beating up than the people she defends. There’s a crisis-of-purpose on the horizon for Batgirl – all of these one-adventure-and-done villains are just adding up to one compelling exploration of her character.

    • The socio-economic implications of the Restoration project will probably come up again. It may even divide the Bat-Family a little bit. But after Bruce’s reality check with the Court, will he want to go through with the project himself?

      • I think Bruce’s development plan was well-conceived. It’s weird that this idea pits my class warfare allegiances against my utter faith in Batman to do the right thing. I imagine the Court won’t change the plan, but I guess you never know.

        • But with Bruce reexamining how well he knows the city, and it’s needs, I could seem him scraping the plan for something more grass-roots/the from the streets up. I think that Charise is almost doing that, thus showing a potential alternative to the big spending/large buildings. This provides dueling opinions on what is best for Gotham and how to go about it.

    • Oh, I really like the idea that Barbara’s perspective is different simply because she’s closer to the criminals she fights than she is to Batman as far as wealth goes. It gives her an empathy we pretty much never see with Bruce, who kind of actively hates criminals. It’s rare to see him defend them as victims of circumstance…in which case, yeah, maybe he will realize his development plan was kind of ill-conceived.

      • Yeah, only maybe though – we’ve mentioned that Batgirl seems to be operating pretty much on her own. I wonder if she’d ever scrape together the wherewithall to confront Bruce about his plans for the city or Batman’s methodology. I love that there’s a possible war of ideas brewing between these characters, however far below the surface it is.

        • It’s also interesting to consider that Damian has even LESS empathy for criminals, so Batman’s just pulled further and further into that way of thinking.

        • I think it also has to do with the levels of crime they’re dealing with. Batman is engaged almost exclusively supervillains and up (so city- or world-wide crime organizations). Batgirl is more focused on supervillains and down (so muggers and car thieves). That difference in what crimes they’re exposed to will also have an impact on how they view crime. Bruce is fighting massively rich people choosing to be evil so they can have even more money. Babs, on the other hand, is fighting very poor people who are pushed to crime. Not that they had to choose crime, but it’s definitely a different moral beast.

  3. Despite being in Gotham, it’s a little surprising, but nice that she doesn’t seem to run into Bruce/Dick/Damian a whole lot. She has some interaction with the Birds, and once or twice the guys, but she is very much apart from their lives. She seems to have staked out a specific area, Cherry Hill, that is obviously fairly downtrodden. This almost mirrors her empathetic nature. She wants to help those who are in need most. She spends less time with supervillains and more time with the common thug, like the thieves.

    • You know, when you said that the dinner in Cherry Hill was clearly in a dilapidated part of town, I was like “really?” But then I remembered that not only do I live in LA, I like in Hollywood, so my standard of crumminess might not be the same as yours. I’m with Alysia on this one: Cherry Hill’s got some pretty cool character going on – KEEP GOTHAM GOTHAM!

  4. loved this issue a lot (this was a great week for comics alltogether).

    Just wanted to address your point about wanting Babs to take on some more established Gotham villains. I don’t necessarily disagree, but I thought I’d mention this: Gail Simone has mentioned several times on her Twitter/Tumblr that DC is really pushing for new villains over established ones, and that she has several times put in to use some more established characters (not specified whether villains or heroes) and has been turned down.

    I just thought it was worth mentioning that her hands might be a little tied in that area.

    • You’re totally right. I have read that too. I’m not saying that there needs to be a complete changeover, I just think it would be a nice change of pace, even it is just one story arc.

      • I think it’d just be nice to really establish a villain. Like 4 issues on Mirror was pretty good, but 2 each on Gretel and Grotesque means we don’t get to dig too deep. Basically, it’s the point that Drew was making about slowing down a little. I’m okay with it, actually. The pool is being filled with some interesting characters and if it means she can deploy them at a later date, then we’ve already got good base for them. I like that.

        • I do really hope we get the chance for some longer story lines and closer looks at villains too. What made you guys get the impression this would be a short story line again? I mean, it could be, but I also feel like there’s way too much on the table for this to be finished in another issue.

        • There also could be too much on the table for one story arc. Simone could make the Disgraced/Knightfall recurring. This could be a short arc that introduces them and they have some mischief and then disappear, only to return later.

        • You might be right about that, but I said the same thing about the Grotesque arc (how are they going to revisit ALL of The Killing Joke in juts ONE issue). For me, the sheer volume of exposition in this issue suggests that there isn’t a lot of time in this story to let it play out more naturally. It’s more of just a feeling, but it seems like this issue has primed us for answers, rather than more questions, if that makes any sense.

  5. So that’s got to be Lois Lane right? They wouldn’t name another raven-haired journalist Lane will-nilly, but her appearance at this charity event in Gotham is mysteriously unexplained.

    • Gail tweeted something about being able to write Lois Lane “all day long.” So I assume that is Lois. I am woefully ignorant of anything going on in Superman’s world, so I couldn’t tell you if it’s strange that she’d be in Metropolis. I do like that Gail gets to write another one of DC’s big lady-characters: she’s just so good with them.

  6. I really like the idea of this new group of hard vigillantes. I think Charise’s story is true: I think she witnessed something horrible as a child, and is trying to deal with it by fighting crime in a mask at night. Sound familiar to anyone?

    I hope this is true, and I hope Babs has to deal with this character who is in so many ways similar to Batman, to Bruce even. This could really turn into a “two sides of the same coin” situation.

    • I think it’s interesting, since, so far, the Disgraced are just a group of anti-heroes. But do they have actual villianous intent?

    • But then what’s with the dude she’s keeping in a cage? I guess that being part and parcel of her brand of punishment would explain a lot, but long-term torture is a very different animal from dropping dudes off of roofs.

  7. Pingback: The Movement 1 | Retcon Punch

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