Graphic Novel Reviews: Batgirl 014-017

The Story
Barbara tries her very best to end the Joker, after he kidnaps her mother and mutilates her hand. Joker proposes to Batgirl, but reveals that he intends to saw off her arms and legs and keep her in a basement. James, Barbara’s brother, tricks her into believing he’s freed their mother, while in fact he has made a deal with the Joker and sold Barbara out to him.

After the events of Death of the Family, Barbara works to take down the thugs that worked for the Joker. She sends their profiles to the police, but has to intervene when the supervillain Firebug gets involved.

The Review
Out of all the tie ins (With the exception of Red Hood) Batgirl has the most personal stakes in the game.  While pretty much all the members of the Bat Family, with the exception of Batman himself, vow to themselves to kill Joker, with Batgirl it makes the most sense (again, with the exception of Red Hood). For characters such as Dick and Tim it feels out of place to have them suddenly vowing to kill the Joker. Granted I can understand how this traumatic event is meant to shake up Dick’s life enough to take him in a new direction, but it still feels ultimately out of character.

But we aren’t here to talk about Dick, we’re here to talk about Barbara. And even with her understandable motivation for wanting to kill the Joker, the conflict, or lack of conflict, inside of Barbara is well handled. Intellectually she knows she shouldn’t murder Joker. But after everything he put her through, in the past and recently, her growing rage makes nothing but sense.

After the events of Death of the Family, Barbara moving on to take down the goons that signed on with Joker makes perfect sense. She continues to do the right thing, what a hero should do. But there is a sense of personal vendetta that gives her character a bit of a darker edge at the moment. Which might not work for those that are invested in her as being one of the more light hearted characters in the Bat Family.

I quite enjoy Ray Fawkes’ issue, and while I am glad that Gail Simone will be coming back to the book, I feel that Fawkes would have been a perfectly suitable replacement.

I have to wonder though, where exactly are we going with Ricky? I can read the signs for possible romantic interest, but not only is that a bit creepy considering the established age difference, but once again we come into my biggest problem with trying to use established characters such as the Bat Family and not have them act as each other’s supporting cast. No matter what is done, supporting characters that do not have more than a year’s worth of history just won’t work.

I am ready to accept this opinion is most likely because of my investment with the main character. When reading other books in the DC lineup I don’t mind supporting characters in series where I care less about the protagonist. So I suppose a part of my reaction against characters like Ricky and Sonia Zuko lies in the fact that I just don’t consider them good enough to be supporting characters for my heroes.

Nonetheless, these past four issues have been great. The Death of the Family crossover was appropriately gruesome, with Simone showing she knows how to follow through on her punches. In particular I was horrified with Joker’s method of proposal to Batgirl. James continues to be an interesting part of the story, one of the rare cases where a character that I did not grow up with has been leaving his mark on me.

Firebug’s introduction to the New 52 works pretty well, I particularly enjoy his design, thought he looks more like a S.W.A.T. trooper gone wrong than a super villain. It’s a functional costume, and looks really good, but it just doesn’t scream super villain to me.

The Grade

4/5

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