Surprise Morals in Batgirl 18

By Drew Baumgartner

Batgirl 18

This article contains SPOILERS. If you haven’t read the issue yet, proceed at your own risk!

There’s a certain type of pat morality we expect of a Christmas special. Even the most cynical characters and series might find comfort and joy in the season. Indeed, the insistence on moral lessons at the end of Christmas stories seems to supersede the typical tone and characterization of the series as a whole, giving “Christmas specials” more in common with one another than they have with their own series. It’s a common enough phenomenon that we both expect and accept it right from the jump, but that’s exactly the expectation Hope Larson and Sami Basri thwart in Batgirl 18. Continue reading

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Laying the Evidence in Batgirl 12

by Drew Baumgartner

Batgirl 12

This article contains SPOILERS. If you haven’t read the issue yet, proceed at your own risk!

There are no incidental details in prose. Or rather, there are no specific incidental details in prose. You might get a sketchy description of someone’s home or office, with the understanding that you can more or less fill in the blanks on what kind of furniture might be there, but if a specific item of furniture matters, it has to be mentioned explicitly. This makes it very difficult to introduce elements casually; if a specific item of furniture is mentioned, we can’t help but assume it will have some significance to the story. For most stories, that’s not a problem — indeed, faith that the details matter to the narrative might be fundamental to our enjoyment of them — but that gets complicated when there’s a mystery to be solved. That is, prose has a hard time giving us clues that don’t immediately broadcast themselves as clues; the very fact that it’s being mentioned betrays its significance. Continue reading

Batgirl 6

batgirl-6

Today, Michael and Drew are discussing Batgirl 6, originally released December 28th, 2016. As always, this article contains SPOILERS!

Michael: Everyone loves a good ol’ fashioned superhero team-up, but what’s rarer is the superhero/supervillain team-up. Are they permanently at odds and butting heads or can they find a common ground? Do they even really need to fight at all, or can they just kind of…agree to hang out?

Batgirl 6 subtitles itself as a “Beyond Burnside Epilogue,” but outside having Barbara Gordon flying back from China and one brief mention of her adventures there this is very much a standalone issue. What Hope Larson and Rafael Albuquerque actually give us is a Gotham version of Snakes on a Plane: sans snakes, with plants. Babs just so happens to be on the same flight back to the states as Poison Ivy, who has a prehistoric, rotted flesh-smelling plant in tow. Ivy didn’t expect her plant pal — Aristolochia pugnaculi – to wake up so she teams up with Batgirl to stop the beastly plant from crashing plane. Continue reading

Batgirl 5

batgirl-5

Today, Mark and Drew are discussing Batgirl 5, originally released November 23rd, 2016. As always, this article contains SPOILERS.

Mark: The human face communicates so much information that can’t be conveyed as effectively with words. We’re trained from an early age to pay attention in a conversation to not just what’s being said, but also to the subtle clues the face of our conversation partner provides. The same is true in art. When working on Snow White and the Seven Dwarves, one of the challenges for the artists of the Walt Disney Studios was learning to convey realistic emotions in their heroine’s face, since they couldn’t rely on the cartoony stretch and squish they were used to. Nowadays, when striving to create photorealistic humans for movies and video games, artists struggle with the Uncanny Valley — so well trained are we at studying our fellow humans’ faces that we become uneasy when something is just a tiny bit off. Continue reading

Batgirl 50

batgirl 50

Today, Mark and Spencer are discussing Batgirl 50, originally released April 6th, 2016.

Mark: Batgirl 50 is the culmination of the Fugue storyline, and Brenden Fletcher and Cameron Stewart successfully check the box on every superhero trope a reader could want. Mind control? Check. A bank robbery? Check. Previously unmentioned deus ex machina device? A big, fat pneumatic tube-shaped check! The Fugue has released all of Batgirl’s previous foes and is using them to set up mind control devices to lure Burnside’s citizens to Burnside Bridge. Then he’s going to blow up the bridge, killing the citizens, and then convince the rest of Gotham that Batgirl is responsible. This is not a good plan! Continue reading

Batgirl 49

batgirl 49

Today, Michael and Drew are discussing Batgirl 49, originally released March 2nd, 2016.

Michael: DC Comics has (sort of) clarified what its upcoming “Rebirth” is, and it has been changing my reading of every comic I’ve read from them in the meantime. It’s still anyone’s guess as to what kinds of changes “Rebirth” brings to the DC line, but we are definitely at the climax/resolution threshold of each title’s story. Case in point: the semi-continuity-resolving, Inception-ish issue that is Batgirl 49. Continue reading

Batgirl 47

Today, Ryan M. and Michael are discussing Batgirl 47, originally released January 20th, 2016.

Ryan: Dramatic irony can be frustrating as hell. Having context that a character doesn’t can make them seem inconsiderate or obtuse. You read along, hoping that everyone can figure things out so that we’re all on the same page. However, when done well, it’s an effective way to raise tension in the reader without artificial conflict. Continue reading

Batgirl 46

batgirl 46

Today, Mark and Spencer are discussing Batgirl 46, originally released Dec 16th, 2015.

Mark: Has anyone been reading DC’s (relatively) new Doctor Fate ongoing? The pitch for it was probably a lot like Cameron Stewart and Brenden Fletcher’s pitch for Batgirl: take a character struggling to find a compelling place in the post-Flashpoint universe (apologies to Gail Simone), and make them balance the typical problems of 20-somethings with the life of a superhero. There are countless problems with Doctor Fate, but one of the major failings is its inability to balance the various threats complicating Khalid Nassour’s life. Everything is treated with equal weight (which in this case is usually none at all), which makes the confrontations and resolutions ultimately unsatisfying. Continue reading

Batgirl 44

Today, Ryan M. and Spencer are discussing Batgirl 44, originally released September 23rd, 2015.

Ryan: When we’re children, it is clear to whom we owe obedience. We must do what our parents, teachers, coaches, pastors tell us. Part of growing up is learning to choose who deserves that kind of subservience. Certainly, in adult relationships a certain amount of respect is shown by listening and acting in accordance with someone else’s wants. But what about those in our adult lives who request blind and total acquiescence? Should we bend to their whims and deny our own? Also, what kind of person would expect us to? The Velvet Tiger and Batgirl don’t have much in common, but they both have an expectation of obedience. They are each in a leadership position and expect their employees to curb their own ambitions and curtail their own desires. The Velvet Tiger is looking for fealty and unwavering loyalty, while Batgirl’s exerts her authority in a paternalistic effort of protection. Continue reading

Batgirl 41

batgirl 41

Today, Spencer and Drew are discussing Batgirl 41, originally released June 24th, 2015.

Spencer: One of the defining moments of my childhood was watching the Batman: The Animated Series episode “Over the Edge” in its initial broadcast. For any of you who aren’t familiar with the episode, it the one that ends its first act with Batgirl falling from a building to her death, proceeds to Jim Gordon, who feels betrayed that Batman never told him that Batgirl was his daughter Barbara, raiding the Batcave and capturing Alfred, and only gets more insane (and more violent — I never saw the episode reran) from there. The sheer spectacle of the episode captured my young heart, but it also garnered its fair share of detractors for its ending: the whole story was a nightmare of Barbara’s after being gassed by the Scarecrow.

The “it’s all a dream” ending never bothered me because, as exhilarating as the action was, the true heart of the story was Barbara’s fear of what would happen if she never told her father she was Batgirl. The conflict over Babs’ identity and Jim’s reaction to it is one I’ve seen rehashed in the comics numerous times since, but with diminishing returns. With Jim Gordon now taking the mantle of Batman, it seems inevitable that Batgirl 41 would again focus on this aspect of Jim and Barbara’s relationship, but I feel like I’ve seen this story a few too many times at this point. Continue reading