Saturday, April 5, 2014

Batgirl, Volume 4: Wanted


I've been fairly critical of Gail Simone's "New 52" BATGIRL reboot.....Is the fourth time the charm...?

 Mmmm...kinda.

 I remain underwhelmed by the "New 52" in general, and Simone's lackluster BATGIRL rogue's gallery hasn't helped this title one bit. I am still confused by the fact that DC chose to jettison years worth of continuity for a fresh start, and that fresh start has been pretty much non-stop crossovers that the mythical "New reader" will not understand how to collect, read, or follow. I've been reading comics for over 40 years, and I'M confused by how to read these crossovers. But I'm ranting again......

 (This will have minor SPOILERS for those that haven't read the previous volumes, so be warned.)

 BATGIRL, VOLUME 4: WANTED finds Batgirl wanted by the police for the murder of her crazy brother in Volume 3. Considering that the Gotham Police Department is run by Batgirl's father, that sets up all kinds of interesting dynamics, and that's where writer Gail Simone really shines in this volume: The interplay between the main character and her supporting cast. I've long bemoaned the fact that supporting casts are in short supply these days, thanks to dwindling page counts and short attention spans. It seems that, in most books, everyone has a power, has had a power, or is about to GET a power. Batgirl's supporting cast is refreshingly normal, and exceptionally well-written. There's a huge chunk of the book that is spent exploring the relationship between Barbara Gordon and her father, culminating in a massive showdown, with Batgirl and Commissioner Gordon on one side, and virtually all of the previous three volume's lame villains on the other. Said lame villains seem to work slightly better in this volume, perhaps thanks to there being such a large quantity of them. Simone also does a wonderful job of laying out the budding romance between Barbara and a young man who she helped steer away from a life of crime as Batgirl.

 On the bad side, this volume is still plagued by crossovers. The review copy that I received did absolutely nothing to place these crossovers into any kind of context, so it was very jarring to go from the main narrative to a totally separate one, taking place at a totally different time, on TWO different occasions in one book. A text page or a "Story so far..." box, or SOMETHING would be helpful. Who knows, DC might do just that in the finished book.....Just be aware that the book is derailed by an out-of-place "Villain month" story, and it ends with what I assume to be a crossover with BATMAN: YEAR ZERO, which is wildly out-of-place and confusing. DC really needs to give some thought to how and when they collect these things.

 Also bad, REALLY bad, is Simone's "New 52-izing" of The Ventriloquist, one of my favorite Batman villains. Formerly a fat, middle-aged ventriloquist with a puppet of a gangster named "Scarface" (Who could not pronounce words that started with a "B", resulting in words like "Gatman"....), Simone has reinvented the character as a troubled teen-aged girl who can mentally control others and animate objects and corpses with her mind. This is just bad beyond belief, and is so different that it could have been a whole different character...there's no need to use The Ventriloquist's name. I'm not happy....

 The art is great, but DC's review copy had no credits, so I can't say who did it. (I'm not even sure that Simone wrote every issue here, due to that same lack of credits...)

 BATGIRL, VOLUME 4: WANTED is a big step in the right direction, and made me feel slightly more hopeful about Barbara Gordon's future in "The New 52". Which I'm still hoping will someday go back to the old continuity.....

 DC Comics provided a review copy.