If you've read the majority of what the 52 Review has posted and are familiar with which ones I'VE posted then chances are you've picked up I have a bit of a soft spot for Batgirl. In fact, in the four articles I've written, two of them had spots where I could specifically use it to say goodbye to her. So, with all the considered, I really wanted to see the new Batgirl book.
For those unaware of what happened to the Batgirl whilst the DC shuffle occurred, Stephanie Brown is no longer Batgirl, Barbara Gordon is no longer Oracle and Batgirl is once again Barbara Gordon. While I was a huge fan of Stephaine as Batgirl I was still willing to give this a shot. So I did. Pros and cons abound in this review.
First, let's talk about the writing. And to talk about the writing, we gotta talk about Gail Simone. Luckily for this book I take to her writing like a hungry dog to whatever fell in it's food dish. I will read anything of hers because it almost always works. In Batgirl #1, it works. The monologues are well paced, and thought out. The dialogue is superb. There's a bit where a group of thugs are about to do some ridiculously horrible things to a family and while one thug is describing what's going to happen to them, another is over by the window talking about how it's raining, he forgot his jacket and he's going to catch a cold when they leave. It's a completely silly thing to add to a potentially violent scenario and yet, Simone pulls it off with a Tarantino like flair. One of the things I absolutely respect the hell out of Gail Simone for is her ability to realize that people don't always talk in turns about one subject. This little flair makes almost every conversation she pens rewarding.
Now, a few words about the art. It's pretty. It's really pretty. The art team on this book has some fantastic detailing. Rock looks like rock, clothing looks like clothing and the snozberries taste like snozberries. After reviewing Rob Liefeld's Hawk & Dove #1 the other day (read the review) this was a welcome treat. My only complaint about the visual direction may, in fact, have nothing to actually do with the art team. And that's Batgirl's new costume.
The costume is pretty cool. It works in the little underside paneling of Stephanie's Batgirl costume while still making it unique. But I do, however, have two complaints. One, the arm pieces look to boney and organic. They don't entirely make sense and the points near the shoulder seem to change position where convenient. I know all the new costumes are supposed to be overly detailed and what not but the gauntlets seem out of place. And secondly, Barbara Gordon is a girl just moving out of her dad's place with rent to pay and bills to endure. How did she afford this costume? Unless there's a plot device we have not witnessed yet, she is on her own and doesn't even have a place completely to herself, let alone a lab or workshop where she could have made both her outfit and her completely decked out bike she rides later on.
But beyond these complaints about her costume, the art is gorgeous.
Story wise the book left me conflicted. I love how Barbara was written. She's a girl with a lot of passion and the need to do what's right. She's also very naive and new to crime fighting so she's prone to mistakes. I love that in a hero. There is nothing that pulls me in more and makes me relate to a hero than when the hero just drops the ball. Her story about her life, her spinal injury (read it for yourself) is very well put together. The villains are also extremely interesting with Batgirl dealing with one group of villains while a completely unrelated foe makes a name for himself. It all fits together well.
But my complaint with the story is this: There are Batman books. There's a Batwoman book. There's an entire line of DC books dedicated to darker material. Batgirl has never really been about that (which is wacky for something where the main character ended up paralyzed for so long) as opposed to being a very accessible and fun book for all-ages, set in the DCU. This is not an all ages book. People are killed violently. Stabbed. Shot in the face. It's almost at the point where every page has a scene of intense violence whether it's needed or not. Case in point:
Pow, right in the kisser.
As someone who is slowly working towards being a parent, I often think about the books I'd get my non-existent boy or girl into. Batgirl was always one of those books. But I honestly would not give this to a kid under 14.
Again, the book is good, don't get me wrong. I still recommend the average reader pick it up and enjoy it. But I think that, with DC's effort to bring in all ages of readers, they really missed out on the opportunity to have a solid youth entry into the Batman universe.
All in all and long story short, for those of you old enough, I think the book is still a fantastic read. It takes a while to get used to, but like a new pair of jeans, you're get more comfortable with it the more time you spend with it.