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Tuesday, 1 November 2011

Batgirl # 1 and 2 from the New 52

Okay, so I decided to branch out, a little, in my usual comic-reading endeavours. With that being said, this is my opinion of Batgirl issues 1 and 2, from DC's new 52 release.

To anyone unfamiliar with Batgirl's story who doesn't want to read a lengthy Wikipedia article, let me sum it up:

Barbara Gordon, daughter of Commissioner James Gordon, became Batgirl and was one of the more popular side characters in Gotham, protecting the city regularly between 1966-1988. In The Killing Joke, a one-shot issue, the Joker shot Barbara Gordon in the spine, paralyzing her. Since then, she has still been fighting the good fight as Oracle, techno-sage, basically overseeing Batman and Robin's work, updating them, and keeping them technologically informed as they pursue their crusade. Oracle even played a key role in the applauded Batman: Arkham Asylum video game, giving Batman some much useful information through the course of the game.

Now, with DC's new 52 release, Barbara finds that she has regained the use of her legs. The story starts off as any good Batman-related tale, with a murder mystery.

***********Warning, below, there be spoilers*****************

Someone is crossing the names off a list, and Barbara Gordon is next. Meanwhile, we see her swinging over Gotham, glad to be back once more. What is really nice about this series, so far, is that we feel closer to Barbara as she's learning how to get back in the game. While the audiences of other superheroes suffer due to the inevitability of their hero's success, Barbara, Batgirl, is unsure of herself. She's getting back into the game, and she makes mistakes. She gets tackled through windows, and she's unsure of what she's doing sometimes.

But, she fights, and her struggle is inspiring.

Tracking down the mysterious killer, Batgirl runs into all sorts of trouble. Not without consequence either. While Batman usually takes a beating, he's usually purely impressive with how much he can take and keep on going. Barbara makes us feel the pain, the failures, as she critiques every move she makes and can barely stand at the end of a fight.

The first issue concludes with a daring chase through a hospital until Batgirl comes face to (almost) face with the Mirror murderer. Just as she's about to save the day, the killer points his gun at her. She freezes, unable to move, only too reminded of the shot that paralyzed her three canonical years ago. The moment stretches on, it raises the tension of the scene. It's really important here because too often have I seen heroes fully confident, fully able to handle most situations. I mean, I love that. I love when a hero gets through a situation either through brute determination, training/planning, luck, or some amazing combination of all of those factors. But, it's refreshing having a hero struggle, within herself, and while it isn't too inspiring, it's real, and it makes her efforts that much more courageous.

Finally, the Mirror commits another murder, and Batgirl does nothing to stop it. It's terrible, and as the cops swoop in, they blame her as well. They see her hesitation as corroboration and the hook leading into the next issue is Batgirl being charged with murder.

Issue two continues right where we left off: the Mirror escaping, and one of Gotham's finest accusing Batgirl of murder. This time, she doesn't hesitate, swinging into the night, tracking the Mirror, refusing to let him get away.

The next few pages really exemplifies the difficulty Barbara has in getting back into the hero business. She takes as many hits as she dishes out, and it's not easy. Thinking about it now, I wonder about the feminist perspective on this. I realize that while I find the struggle inspiring and gripping, I wonder if there are people out there who dislike this portrayal, if they think Barbara's vulnerability is somehow symbolic or supposed to be symbolic of gender? I don't personally think so. I think that all heroes, whether male, female, or whatever, have doubts, they have trouble choosing what is right or wrong, and they have trouble standing up after taking a few too many hits, and I like how this series depicts those struggles.

Anyway, Batgirl makes it through, but just barely. The rest of the issue shows the aftermath; shows Barbara's struggles to get through her social life, and finally, she tracks down the identity of the Mirror. Closing in on his location, she finds out the motive for his bloodlust and learns that he has more in store.

And that's it. Hopefully, that gave you enough to be interested, but not enough to spoil things. I really like this series as it bridges the gap between the real world and the world of heroes. As much as I feel like no comic book review is complete without a comment or two concerning the artwork, I don't feel confident in comparing it to anything else. I'll just say, it's classic Batman art, nothing too extreme like Miller's work, but not '50s era simplicity. It's good.

So, please, check it out, get back to me, if you like comics, I hope you enjoy these two. Thanks for reading, see you around the internet.

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