Breaking the Loop in Batgirl 23

By Drew Baumgartner

Batgirl 23

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

We all have patterns. We run through them again and again until, one day, we finally see ourselves clearly and choose a different path.

Barbara Gordon, Batgirl

Let’s hear it for the quarter-life crisis. We tend to hear more about the mid-life crisis as either a pitiful or destructive force (usually middle aged men blowing money on a sports car or torpedoing their family life for a young girlfriend), but I think the quarter-life crisis is almost the opposite. As society extends adolescence well beyond the teenage years, and careers now take longer to kickstart than they did in generations past, the “what am I doing with my life?” urgency that kicks in around 25 can add some guiding structure. Maybe I’m biased in that way — my own quarter-life crises forced me to identify concrete goals that eventually sent me back to school — but I think a lot of us fall into a rut in our early 20s that we only later get the perspective to shake us out of. Maybe it’s a dead-end job, or an unfulfilling relationship, or a crummy apartment, or bad eating habits. For Barbara Gordon, that rut is a literal mind loop, preventing her from moving forward with her life. Continue reading

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The Gordons Investigate Together in Batgirl 21

By Drew Baumgartner

Batgirl 21

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

One of my favorite anecdotes (not mine), involves some confusion at an Arby’s drive-thru — a woman orders orange juice and drives away with a cup full of au jus. Of course, the entire premise of that story requires us to accept that anyone would order orange juice at an Arby’s, but I like the punchline enough to justify that minor suspension of disbelief. And that really is how I think about suspension of disbelief: if it’s justified — even retroactively — I’ll happily go along for the ride; if not, then the very odd detail of the orange juice at the Arby’s drive-thru probably shouldn’t be there. Such is the case with Batgirl 21, which finds both Babs and Jim independently investigating the same supernatural phenomenon, but never quite justifies their choices. Continue reading

Memories Leave their Mark in Batgirl 20

By Drew Baumgartner

Batgirl 20

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. Continue reading

Camp, Parody, and Political Edge in Batgirl 19

By Mark Mitchell

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

Last July, I wrote at length about Batgirl 13’s full-armed embrace of the campy spirit emblematic of the Batman TV show of the 1960’s, and with Batgirl 19 Hope Larson, Chris Wildgoose, and Jose Marzan Jr. continue to lean into that care-free aesthetic. Continue reading

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

Teenage Regrets in Batgirl 17

By Drew Baumgartner

Batgirl 17

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

Teens are bad at perspective. It’s not their fault — adolescent brain development sticks them with overdeveloped emotional centers and underdeveloped reasoning centers — but it’s a big part of the reason they aren’t considered “adults.” Fortunately, the stakes for teens is often relatively low. Sure, who takes who to prom may feel like a big deal at the time, but maturity (and time and distance) reveal many teenage concerns to be the trivialities they always were. For that reason, it can be enlightening to revisit your biggest teenage regrets with a more worldly perspective — perhaps they’re not as regrettable as you remember. With Batgirl 17, Hope Larson and Chris Wildgoose seem to take that notion to heart, with a villain vainly asserting the opposite. Continue reading

Trust and Impetuousness in Batgirl 16

By Drew Baumgartner

Batgirl 16

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

Guys, I love American Vandal. It’s sendup of Netflix-style documentaries is spot-on, but the thing I love most about it is just how accurately it captures teen life. It renders the goofiness and triviality of high school life in intricate, loving detail, fixating on details that is both hilarious and instantly familiar. But at the center of all the dick jokes and awkwardness is the very real disconnect between the impulsive actions of teens and the logical analysis of adults. What’s more, it examines how the “seriousness” that adults adopt maybe leads them to dismiss important details (like the absence of “ball hairs” on graffiti dicks) that a teen — who actually takes those details seriously — wouldn’t. It makes a rather compelling case for teens as the best detectives for teen-related crimes, as they’re more sensitive to the heightened emotional states and subtle social cues of their fellow teens and more immune to the idea that those details are irrelevant. Hope Larson tilts at something similar in Batgirl 16, suggesting that Babs and Dick might have actually been better detectives when they were younger. Continue reading

Murder by Proxy in Batgirl 15

By Michael DeLaney

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

Villains tend to die by some one in ten chance coincidence of their own making – like Green Goblin getting impaled on his own glider. Similarly, storytellers jump through some creative hoops in order for our heroes to feel some respect of responsibility for their enemy’s end. Which is what Hope Larson does in Batgirl 15, as Nightwing vaporizes a woman’s body to dust via proxy. Continue reading

Unknown history sits at the heart of Batgirl 14

by Drew Baumgartner

Batgirl 14

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

I’ve never been a huge fan of dramatic irony — I can appreciate how giving us more information than the characters have can produce tension (or humor), but that information kind of gets in the way of relating to the characters. Still, I have a heck of a lot more patience for dramatic irony than I do its exact opposite, where characters are privy to information that is deliberately withheld from the audience. Not only does the tension it create feel cheaper (amounting to little more than a narrative chant of “I know something you don’t know”), it makes the characters even harder to relate to, as we’re necessarily left in the dark about what they might be thinking or feeling. All of which kept me from truly enjoying Batgirl 14. Continue reading

Embracing Camp in Batgirl 13

by Mark Mitchell

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

At what point does something become appreciated for its camp value? Tango and Cash is a terrible late-80’s buddy cop comedy starring Sylvester Stallone and Kurt Russell that was released to terrible reviews, but watching it now, one can’t help but appreciate just how surgically terrible it is — a concentrated dose of the cliches of the era, heightened to impossible extremes. A flop when it released in 1989, time has transformed it into an endlessly watchable cheesefest. Continue reading