Batgirl 13

Today, Shelby and Drew are discussing Batgirl 13 originally released October 10th, 2012. This issue is part of the Death of the Family crossover event. Click here for complete DotF coverage.

Shelby: What was the last really difficult thing you had to do? It could be something physical, mental, whatever. About  a year ago, I ran a 10K, the longest race I’ve run yet, and it was hard. I had trained for it, but not enough that it was a walk in the park. Not only was it hard on my body, it was also hard on my brain. I had to spend a lot of time reminding myself that I could in fact do it, that the little voice telling me I couldn’t was wrong. After it was over, you know what I did? I immediately went home and ran a half marathon. No, no, I’m totally kidding; I had brunch and took a nap. I rested, I rewarded myself for accomplishing this difficult task. Batgirl is concluding her fight with Knightfall just as Death of the Family is ramping up; instead of resting her broken body, things are just going to get much, much harder for Barbara.

Back in issue 12, Knightfall had just stabbed Batgirl in the ribs. Despite fighting to stay conscious, Babs gets in a few good hits, prompting Cherise to remove her mask and monologue for a bit. Turns out, she WASN’T the one who horribly murdered her parents; it was her boyfriend, who made her tie them up and watch him work. During that horrible ordeal, something broke in her brain, and she realized there was no way the judicial system could punish him the way she needed him punished. So, she let herself get declared guilty and sentenced to Arkham to learn how to be a sadistic psychopath. She then used regular ol’ mobster tricks to get out: bribes, threats, blackmail, etc. So now, Cherise was free to roam the streets dispensing her own crimson brand of justice, with a whole cadre of judges and cops in her pocket. Batgirl decides it’s time to get the guys out of the cage, which leads to more punching from Cherise. Luckily, Ricky (remember the car thief in the bear trap?) grabs onto her arm so Babs can kick the shit out of her. The good guys win, hooray! Except that when Babs is at home with Alysia, she gets a call from her mom: an armed man in a Hawaiian shirt and clown mask has just kicked down her door, and is looking to make some “new memories.”

Let’s start with that last little bit.

Of all the titles involved in Death of the Family, Batgirl is the one I’ve been most looking forward to. The Joker has hurt Batman through the people around him, and Babs is one of those people. Her first-hand experience with the Joker’s madness is horrifying, and it fundamentally altered her character. This whole year we have been witness to Barbara’s recovery from the physical and mental wounds the Joker inflicted upon her. Hell, it’s because of her personal growth that we have grown to love this title so much; in Gail Simone’s hands, Babs’ recovery has been heartbreakingly real, and we can’t get enough. Now the Joker’s back, and one of the first things he does is hire some thugs to recreate what he did to Barbara with her mother. If this is merely the prelude to things to come, the Joker’s effect on Batgirl and her world is going to be worse than I ever imagined. I think there’s an actual chance Barbara won’t make it out of this. A year ago, she froze completely just from an encounter with a man with a gun. She’s gotten a lot tougher since then, but tough enough to face the man who put her in the chair? At this point, I honestly can’t say.

There’s a little epilogue as well, of Cherise’s goons freeing Mirror, Gretel, and Grotesque from their various penal facilities because they are the victims of an unjust system, and also to kill Batgirl. The question I’m asking is how is Cherise connected to the Joker? She mentions to Batgirl that she has cameras all over the city, and we’ve seen promo art of the Joker just hanging out and watching the Bat-family. Has the Joker convinced Cherise he’s working with her to clean up the city? Or are the two working totally separately, giving our gal Babs two horrifying foes for the price of one? Wait, THREE horrifying foes, since James Jr. is still floating around. I hope we don’t have to wait much longer for that shoe to drop, I am DYING for that confrontation, especially after this little panel.

Just a quick little reminder from Simone that she’s got a psychotic ace up her sleeve, that’s all. What about you, Drew? Were you able to come down off your Batman high long enough to see what Babs is up to? Drew: I have to admit, after the high-pitched fervor of Batman, it was tough to readjust to a world where the world isn’t revolving around the Joker’s return. I was inclined to see this as an unfortunate step down in tension, but then I realized how much this issue brings the Joker’s master plan into focus. We talked a lot about the Joker’s identity issues in our write-up of Batman 13, and while the Joker’s plans clearly revolved around returning to his past, it wasn’t until I considered the meaning of the die-cut cover that it really began to make sense: the Joker is attempting to remake the entire Bat-family in his image.

Batman sees Bruce cast into a vat at ACE Chemicals, while this issue plays as an attempt to recreate his “a bad day is all it takes to make me” theory from The Killing Joke. We knew we’d be going back there with Joker’s return, but I was pleasantly surprised to see Babs wasn’t the target of his attack. At least, not the physical attack. I suspect she is the target of the mental attack, but I want to dissect that a little.

First off, this reading requires that the Joker knows that Babs is Batgirl. It could be that this attack is intended for Gordon, but given that Joker also knows to attack Alfred, it doesn’t seem out of the question that he knows Batgirl’s identity, too. Still, Barbara Sr. is a strange target. The Joker’s plan in The Killing Joke revolved around recreating the loss of his wife — the only person in the world he cared about — and their unborn child. I’m not sure “estranged mother” really has the same impact, especially given Babs’ recent interactions with her. I can’t begin to assume I what the Joker is thinking, but there’s clearly a reason he picked Barbara’s mother instead of her father (who clearly has the emotional edge). ALTHOUGH, while Jim most assuredly will survive this event, Barbara Sr’s fate is a little more up in the air. It would be pretty cruel to take her away when she so recently returned, but then again, the Joker is pretty cruel.

The rest of the issue lacked that emotional resonance. I don’t know if it’s just my excitement for the Death of the Family event, but I got a little impatient with the other material. That is, until Cherise made her closing threat:

BUT WHAT IF I GET REALLY BIG AND BUY GUNS? WHAT THEN?

That moment where Babs pauses totally sells this moment, and Ed Benes nails it perfectly. With that single sideways glance, we know that Barbara and Cherise will be doing this dance for a long time to come. Because I found this moment so effective, I almost didn’t need the epilogue, which advances this plot EVEN THOUGH THE JOKER IS HERE. I say “almost,” because the notion that Cherise would enlist ALL of the villains we’ve seen Babs face since the relaunch is a brilliant move on Simone’s part, to the point that it may actually justify deviating from the DotF story line. It cements those villains as an actual rogues gallery, rather than a disposable parade of walk-ons (which it was kind of starting to feel like). Cherise’s resources make her a formidable opponent, but bringing in everyone that has given Babs trouble since she returned to the cape is something else altogether.

All that is to say, I’m excited to see this storyline with Cherise play out AFTER DotF. I think it has all the makings for a great Batgirl story, but I really want Simone to put all of her focus on Barbara facing the Joker. It’s a face-off that has been 24 years in the making, and, as Shelby pointed out, one that Babs might not be ready for.  I have every bit of faith that Simone is going to make the material sing — I just want time to luxuriate in the song.

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?

43 comments on “Batgirl 13

  1. Two comments. First, I loved that side glance panel because you just know the wheels are spinning so fast in Babs head, and just like that she has set her mind to beating Charise at every turn. To me that has always been Barbara’s strength: her intelligence and determination more so than physical skills.

    What do you think that statement about the servers and databases implies regarding her history as Oracle? Was it just a nod to past continuity or maybe a hint that that side of Barbara might be coming back in a way?

    • I hadn’t considered that moment as anything besides Babs hardening her resolve to do whatever it takes. Y’know, it’s not like she mentions the databases, etc. – it’s Charise. Maybe those Oracle elements will start to come out in the character going forward, but the last year has been pretty cape-n-tights heavy. Which is fine – getting used to Barbara on the streets again was going to take some adjusting. Now that she’s got a good set of nemeses, she may have to utilize her full skillset. What I’m saying is, maybe we get BatOracle.

      • I’d love that blend of character! A tech savvy Barbara who can do flips while getting her hands dirty is fine with me. Batman’s tech keeps getting more and more sophisticated, and yet only he and Alfred really have been seen at the hub. I think Barbara should definitely get in on that techno action.

        BatOraGirl, I’m trying this out, all the way.

  2. Second, Gail Simone took part in a lot of debate last night on her Tumblr with some not so graceful fanboys and girls regarding Knightfall. A lot of people were mad at her for the similarities to Steph Brown (blonde and purple), which Gale absolutely rejected and said she would never treat Steph like that. I don’t have thoughts on that, but she did also say that Knightfall’s design (and name I assume) was more or less a direct take on Azrael. It seemed to also imply that Knightfall’s plan moving forward would have more similarities.

    Frankly, when Knightfall first came to, I thought it was a poor choice to name a character after one of the biggest Batman arcs and to have the character be a somewhat religious zealot. It seemed like bad form, but now that it seems it was all intentional, I’m not sure how I feel about it. I love Azrael and my only concern is that having this Azrael Jr will mean that he won’t be around or never existed. But still I am excited and trust Gail.

    • That’s really interesting. I’m not very familiar with the Knightfall arc, so I hadn’t even considered the implications.

      I trust Gail 100%, I can’t believe people thought she was making Steph Brown a villain.

      • Why do we do that – call her “Gail” like that? We call Scott Snyder “Snyder” and we call Brian Azzarello “Azz,” but we call Gail Simone “Gail.” The only other creator whose first time we use that regularly is Judd Winick. But that’s mostly because we like to say “Judd” derisively.

    • I’ve been reading through the Knightfall arc, and thinking a lot about Azrael. He was featured very prominently in Gotham titles for a while, but he’s been off of my radar for years. Granted, I only started reading monthlies a year ago, but I have read all of Morrison’s epic in trades, and Jean Paul isn’t mentioned once, even when there’s a question of who should replace Bruce as Batman. I’ve personally never been a big fan of Azrael, but it seems like he’d pretty much gone out of style long before the relaunch. In that way, I’m actually kind of excited by that reading of this character. Making Cherise a villain rather than a fell ally actually strikes me as a stronger choice, since Jason is already holding that spot pretty solidly. Still, there’s not much here to distinguish Cherise’s philosophies from Jason’s, which I think is the source of my impatience with the character. I think that’s also why I perked up when Cherise brought up her resources — she can bring a very different kind of fight to Barbara than Jason could to Bruce.

      • I forget exactly what happened to Jean Paul, but by the era of Batman RIP he was no longer Azrael. There was a new Azrael during that era (I forget his civilian ID but he was African American) but he didn’t interact with the Batfamily or the DCU at large very much at all (I think he MAY have been in a crowd shot in Final Crisis). He had either a mini series or a ongoing for a while, but regardless, that book flew so far under the radar it might as well not have existed.

        It’s possible that Azrael might still have existed in the past since I doubt DC is throwing out the Knightfall story–it’s too well known–but I doubt he’ll have any bearings on anything from now on, and I’m fine with that.

    • I absolutely love Stephanie Brown, but even I have to admit that a lot of Steph fans are getting pretty rabid. It’s crazy. Blonde and wearing purple are not the defining characteristics of Stephanie Brown, they have absolutely nothing else in common, and to jump down the throat of one of the few creators who reguarily talks about how much she loved Steph and how much she would love to see her back over such a superficial resemblance is kinda pathetic.

      I read some of that exchange on Tumblr and had to stop, it was making me too angry.

  3. Cherise’s brand of villainy seems pretty well in line with the Joker’s, she just has a slightly more logical reason for it. The two stories would work well with each other, I’m beyond excited for the next few months with this title.

  4. I read those last two pages as just Charise collecting soldiers against Batgirl, but Drew’s read is WAY more compelling. A proper rouges gallery would be a great addition to Babs’ world. We’ve talked before about how Simone seems to litter these issues with short term characters (even going so far as to compare her to Judd Winick), but if she plans to keep all these cogs in the machine going forward, that retroactively validates their brief runs. Also, I love seeing that they decided to shave Gretal’s head – the hair was the source of her power?

  5. I was a big fan of the issue, too, and felt that it went a long way to validating storylines from this past year that I basically sleepwalked (sleptwalk?) through; I was more interested in the James Jr. plot building in the background than literally any main plot since (excluding the pleasant and brief Nightwing issue). However, I much prefer Syaf to Benes and (though I am quite the fan of the female form) found the ‘Babs-hanging-out-in-front-of-the-mirror-in-her-underwear’ sequence to have been delivered only slightly less creepily than the ‘Babs-in-ridiculous-college-party-girl-dorm-clothes’ sequence from #0. Where’s Syaf?

    • Oh, I haven’t minded Benes at all — honestly, his work here is so similar to Syaf’s, I barely even noticed. That mirror shot was definitely cheesecakey, but not enough to raise my latent feminist ire.

      • It’s not so much that I’m offended by the sex politics – I’m a huge White Queen or Harley Quinn fan – it just seems like having *Barbara* do these things is blatant fan service and totally out of character. I also feel her body type has slightly shifted from adorably fit girl-next-door to possible-centerfold

        • Totally agree with you about the body type changes. I think she went up at least two cup sizes from Syaf to Benes. I don’t mind her being curvacious but Barbara Gordon hasn’t traditionally been pin-up material.

    • I felt the same, though I did like the panel layout on the spread after Babs said she was talking whats-his-face with her. You know, the guy with his eyes sewn shut.

      • Is that the big double-pager with that huge splash sliced into slanted panels? I meant to include/talk about that one, but I totally forgot. It was a great way to represent Babs’ “seeing rainbows.”

      • He does grotesque well (lower-case ‘g’), but his depiction of women to me seems very 90’s Image (Witchblade-esque or something); I just feel like he’s the right guy for Red Lanterns but the wrong guy for Barbara – its hard for me to reconcile his depiction of her with her character

        • Exactly. There’s something about the angles and quality of the line that just doesn’t do it for me. It’s not so bad that I’m distracted from the story, but I do miss Syaf. Also, when I was looking back last night, I only just now realized Adam Hughes was doing the covers for those first few issues. Remember how awesome they were?

  6. Ugh, according to DC January solicits that Talon the cover of Batgirl Annual #1 is most likely “Strix, a former Talon from the Court of Owls!” as described to be joining Birds Of Prey in the Birds Of Prey #16 solicit. Way to make Talon not special anymore

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