Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Batgirl #22 Review and **SPOILERS**

Mind Over Doesn’t Matter

Writer: Hope Larson
Pencils: Minkyu Jung 
Inks: Jose Marzan Jr. 
Colors: Mat Lopes 
Letters: Deron Bennett 
Main Cover: Dan Mora
Cover Price: $3.99
On Sale Date: April 25, 2018


I have to admit, I’ve come to anticipate new issues of Batgirl every month. Not because I am sincerely enjoying the book, but because I know Jim, Eric and I will be laughing ourselves silly at its antics that week. You can find out what causes all the chortles in my review of Batgirl #22, right now!

Explain It!

Now that there’s an end in sight, I can say with trepidation that this series can be described as “kooky.” It seemed promising initially: Barbara Gordon leaving the familiar hipster environs of Burnside for a jaunt around Asia, presumably to learn some kick-ass Kung-Fu and probably eat her share of dumplings. Well, she ate the dumplings, learned a meditation technique that was at once inexplicable and dubious, and then returned to Burnside somehow a little dimmer than when she left. And Batgirl’s smarts and eidetic memory, these are kind of her hallmarks, you know? I mean, if she’s just an average, capricious lady in a funny Bat-costume, then she’s really not much more than a first-rate Spoiler. Which says little for Spoiler, that an also-ran could usurp her position. But that’s just how much Spoiler sucks since the advent of the New 52.
Over time, however, I have likened to this book a bit—in a somewhat detached, ironic way, but the enjoyment has been real nonetheless. Much of it comes from discussing it on the podcast with Jim and Eric, but I’ve also come to understand this version of Batgirl, and indeed the entire world she inhabits, to be inspired by the Bill Dozier-produced Batman television show of the late 1960s. She makes bizarre conclusions based on disparate pieces of data, is more likely to stumble onto a crime in progress than solve one before it happens, and Batgirl fights more hordes of enemies than I can remember. Now, I love the Batman television show, so I can appreciate the homage. But there was already a more literal comics homage in the long-running Batman ’66 series (mostly written by Jeff Parker). And it’s just not what I want to see in a Batgirl comic book today. The character already took a knock, getting demoted from Oracle in 2011; then she was saddled with a cosplay uniform and suffered some kind of minor brain damage. It’s difficult to imagine that Barbara Gordon was once considered one of the smartest in and most integral to the DCU.
In this issue, we have Barbara Gordon swinging into an apartment to stop some slimy dude in Mod sunglasses from killing his wife and children with a space gun, and though Babs absorbs the blast from this gun, she seems to suffer no ill effects and the perp is handed over to the police with minimal resulting fuss. Then things get weird: she runs into her old almost-boyfriend Kai from her Asian trip, and later sees her buddy May Hao, who has conveniently moved to Burnside to manage an MMA fighting gym. All these callbacks to the beginning of this series…might make one think it’s about to head out on that old dusty trail. But no! It turns out that much of this issue took place in Barbara’s head: that blast from the space gun put her in some kind of Black Mercy-type stasis, and she’s been living the last day or so as a dream while still in the apartment from beginning, recoiling from the weird gun blast. That’s a nice enough Twilight Zone-esque twist, but if it means that much of this issue is meaningless, then that’s going to sting.
I’ve lamented in the past about this Batgirl not being a version I recognize, but twenty-two issues into it, that no longer holds water. This may not be “my” Batgirl, but on her own merits, this issue was…still unnaturally dull. I get that this is sort of a “throwaway” story, what occurred in Babs’ mind while under the influence of some alien-looking weapon, but this speaks poorly for Barbara’s dream state. Like, she bumped into an ex-boyfriend and had dinner? I have wilder fantasies about the woman that drives my bus in the morning. In all, a nice-looking, but ultimately forgettable book that is in dire need of a creative change. Happily, that change seems to be forthcoming.

Bits and Pieces:

Here's a little trip down memory lane for those that have been reading Batgirl since the Rebirth issue(s). We should probably set up some kind of support group. A common, yet unforeseen twist at the end of this issue piques my interest to give #23 a look. I mean, I review the title, so I was going to read it anyway. But the end of this issue genuinely intrigued me.


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