By Drew Baumgartner
This article contains SPOILERS. If you haven’t read the issue yet, proceed at your own risk!
Batgirl’s eidetic memory has long been one of her most valuable assets as a crime fighter. Remembering crime scenes in intricate detail or the face of every suspect she encounters makes detective work almost a natural extension of her being. Indeed, her eidetic memory has proven so essential to her detective work, it’s easy to forget that it has dramatic possibilities beyond that. Or, at least, other creative teams have made it easy to forget — not so with Hope Larson’s run, which has found countless inventive ways to use Batgirl’s eidetic memory. With issue 20, Larson finds yet another great use for it, as Batgirl takes a drive down some literal memory lanes.
Actually, even before we get there, Larson is finding new uses for Batgirls eidetic memory. Older readers may scoff at the notion that navigating around ones own hometown requires a remarkable memory, but as someone who has moved to three different cities since the advent of smartphones, I can confirm that smartphones can and do replace that kind of working knowledge in the hands of young(-ish) people. Of course, our over-reliance on — and especially our trust in — technology is one of the issue’s big points.
…which points back to some of the political allegories that are also this issue’s hallmark. Blacksun was using his misinformation campaign to elect his corrupt father to political office in a story that I fear will be relevant for the foreseeable future. We simply are too reliant on technology to inform us about what is going on in the world.
Which brings me back to that technology-free navigation through Burnside. Without a GPS to flatten those streets to data points, Babs is reminded of her emotional connections to them.
It’s an elegantly proustian case for getting our eyes off our phones — an emotional appeal in a world full of coldly logical (and largely ineffectual) arguments on the dangers of over-reliance on technology. The result is remarkably effective, hitting us in ways we’re not expecting and skipping over the beats that other takes on the same material usually treat so heavy-handedly. It’s thought-provoking stuff, but still wrapped up in that fun, digestible package Batgirl does so well.
The conversation doesn’t stop there. What do you wanna talk about from this issue?