I can't believe I'm writing another Batgirl #1 review. It seems only like 24 months that I wrote my last one.
Anyway here I go, but first a couple of caveats. I am coming to this book with a huge attitude. I don't like Babs being Batgirl again, and I really don't like dislodging Steph Brown from that job. The previous Batgirl under Bryan Miller rocked, rolled and ruled. It was a great book that had a passionate but, alas, too small fanbase. Nonetheless, many reviewers who picked up the book declared that they were surprised at how much they liked Steph as Batgirl. They heard good things from reviewers like me, and picked up the book and to their surprise liked it - a lot.
Anyway it's a brand new world so we get a brand old Batgirl. The book starts off with two pages of some guy with spiked black gloves stuffing a hose down the mouth of a guy who survived a shipwreck. He turns on the hose and drowns the guy. The villain's name is Mirror.
Cut to Barb standing on an eagle jutting out from the side of a building. She's looking through binoculars and talking to herself saying things like, "There you are, you rotten monsters. Found you, didn't I? Oh, yes I did, babies. How SAD for you."
She launches her bat grapple and this one makes a poom noise instead of Steph's Poot. Babs also said tonight she poured over the documents from her dad's desk and recognized the vintage costumes worn by the villains we haven't seen yet. Cut to full page shot of Babs saying tonight I'm Batgirl.
Cut to house where EVIL, EVIL I tells ya, home invaders have a family in their grasp. These guys are so twisted they even bring press clippings of their EVIL, EVIL I tells ya previous home invasions. They are the Brisby killers, Brisby being a suburb of Gotham. One masked man blames the media, stating they're not geographically limited. We get a couple of pages of them being EVIL, EVIL, I tells ya, before Babs shoots through a window, knocking out goon one. She then knees a girl who is goon two, and then socky said girl in the jaw just to be safe. Another, bigger goon punches at her, but Babs ducks and goon hits wall. The goon then keeps his fist against the wall, while Babs then grabs a lamp that was in front of the good, moves behind the good and hits him in back of the head with the lamp.
Babs sees that that the fourth guy, who did all the EVIL monalogging has the wife hostage by her neck and is pointing a gun at the head of husband who is on his knees. The the third goon grabs Babs' arms. He is much taller than her and he is in frong of her. She then somehow kicks up both legs and hits goon in the face. Considering the fact that for that to happen Babs would have to kick up her legs, tuck them in while moving her body to a position where when her legs were extended they would hit the goon in the face. This would require her to use the goon's arms as a sort of gymist's bars and the good would have to keep the arms in the same position and not, you know drop his arms or bend his back as the weight of a 120 pound woman fights gravity.
Babs then throws a batarang at the arm holding the gun on the male hostage. Lucky for this guy, the gunman's finger didn't contract in pain as the gunman's arm is pierced by a batarang. Lucky again that the guy with the gun just watches Babs take out three of his goons, turn toward him, pull out a batarang, throw it at him, all the while not pulling the trigger. I guess the gun drops out of his hand, hard to see from what's drawn.
Fourth goon then screams he'll kill Babs, charges at her and drives both of them onto the balcony of the apartment, and they go over the rail. Babs grabs rail and hold onto goon. She mentioned earlier that during the three years she was in a wheel chair and before an undescribed miracle restored her legs, that her arms got really strong. They must have because the kinetic energy in stopping the fall of a 200 pound man and not having her arm ripped out of her socket or having the sudden stop be so severe that he pops out of her hand is huge. I know I couldn't do it, and I'm in decent shape.
The couple thank Batwoman, and Babs corrects her and says she's Batgirl, because I guess calling a grown woman who is a college graduate a woman is insulting. NO she's a girl.
Cut to Babs in bed having a flashback to the Joker shooting her. She mentions undescribed miracle. She's moving out of her dad's home because it's time. She goes to her new apartment in a sketchy neighborhood. The place is affordable with a roommate. Said roommate is unnamed and "quirky". She paints by day and bar tends by night. She painted "fight the power" on an interior wall. I vote that she is a vampire, but anyway I predict "hilarious" near misses of roommate finding out identity before we learn that she's secretly a villain or dating a villain or the daughter of a villain. Anyway, I think the unnamed roommate who we and Babs know nothing about (and isn't that the best way to pick a roommate, on the basis of total ignorance on both parties' part) is asian. Roomie notes Bab's van is wheel chair accessible and says that she's a hugger. Babs doesn't strangle her on the spot, showing a significant difference between Babs and myself.
Cut to hospital. Two cops, one male and one female, talk over the unconscious body of Goon Four. He's out and we cut to the lobby where the Mirror, punches out the receptionist. The security guard/uniformed police officer on the floor witnesses the act but doesn't bother to drop the cup of coffee he's holding. Nor does he draw his weapon on a man who just violently assautled an innocent woman. So Mirror does what any smart villain does when confronted by a man holding a cup of coffee and has his hand on his weapon, but hasn't pulled it, Mirror pulles his gun and shoots the idiot guard.
The cops in the room debate what to do. The woman wants to do the cop thing, you know actually check out the gunshot. The man calls for back up and says they aren't walking into a possible terrorist attack, they stay put as perscribed by the book. No wonder Gotham needs all the bats, their cops are idiots. Babs has arranged to be able to receive all her father's texts. I hope she just gets CCed and not have them rerouted. Babs still has a batgirl cycle, which she uses to drive through police lines and into an elevator and asks someone to press the button to get her to the right floor. The Gotham PD are in "hostage" mode, which I guess means not evacuating the building, not sending a swat team to separate and trap the villain. Mirror shoots through the door and wall of Goon four's hospital room, killing the by the book ineffectual male cop, but only wounding the fresh, sassy wild card female cop. Babs drifts her bike (turns it sideways so that it comes through the door sideways, which means it punches through the door and the wall.
Babs gets off the bike and freezes when Mirror points a gun at her abdomen. Mirror takes advantage of this and instead of shooting Babs and then pushing the hospital bed holding Good Four out the window only using one hand. The edgy female cop who actually pulled her gun while her by the book male partner urged said edgy dirty harriet to shoot through the hospital door accuses Babs of being a murderer because she froze and watched a villain use one hand to push a hospital bed out a window. Same battime next month.
So what did Quinn think of the issue? Not a lot. I had several problems with the book beyond my being mad at losing Steph, though that means I am cutting the book absolutely no slack. I had good will with Miller's batgirl, so when I saw weaknesses, I did cut slack. Sorry Gail, no slack from me.
First the structure. It wasn't good. We start off with the villain. Compare that to the first Batgirl book of two years ago. (See my actual review of that book below for plot details). That book starts off with batgirl. Then we see Babs in action fighting villains that should have been shown habitually twirling their mustaches. Nothing subtle or interesting about them. They're just bad to show how badass Babs is. I like Steph's going after drag racers. A little more in batgirl league. Teenaged crimes for a teenage heroine.
The whole point of rebooting Batgirl is to get new readers. But the structure of the story fails in that respect. New readers will be confused by Babs being crippled. Old readers want to know how Babs got out of the wheelchair. That's massive and should not be teased. Miller introduced Steph as Batgirl, told us how she got the mantle from Cass, showed us Steph's world - college, batgirl stuff and showed us the supporting cast - Steph's mom, Wendy, babs, Damien, Dick, etc. He gives us to set pieces, the drag race and the intro of the drug dealers. So after one issue with Miller we know who batgirl is, how she got there, her world and we get to see the main villain begin to make his appearance.
With Gail, we don't know a lot. How did Babs get out of the chair and reclaim the title of Batgirl? Don't know. What's bab's world? She has a roommate whose name is unknown. What does Babs do for a living? Don't know. Where does her money come from? Where does she get her battoys? Don't know. What's the set up of this book? Don't know. The world isn't established in the first issue. Not good in my book.
Tone: I don't like it. I loved Steph as Batgirl because the book was fun, it was charming. There was danger, but it wasn't gruesome.
Steph was a teenager learning her way. That justified the girl part. Babs is an adult going by the name Batgirl. Seeing Babs pull a Peter Parker and go backwards just doesn't work. She's not a "girl". Babs has spend the last 23 years showing us she's an adult, a woman, and seeing her "cute" young adult problems doesn't work for me. Just ask Bruce Wayne for a grant, open up a computer security business to create income and fight crime by night. See I just solved all of Babs' problems without suggesting anything that's unreasonable, out of character and such.
The art. Not bad, but in many cases it was hard to follow the action, never good in a comic book. A lot of full page splashes. Took up time that could have been better used telling about the new status quo.
The writing - Weak. The dialogue was horrible. The quotes I mentioned above about monsters and such are just terrible. The villains are EVIL for the sake of being evil. The tone of the book is gruesome and not charming or fun. We don't need another dour batbook. Fun isn't a crime. As a way of introducing new people to the book, it fails. Remember this book isn't supposed to be for us old fogeys. It's supposed to attract new readers. Batgirl is a gateway character and I've read many blogs about how as little girls current readers latched onto to batgirl from either the Adam West Show or the Timmverse. This book starts off with a man having a hose shoved down his throat and being forcibly drowned. Would I buy this book for a seven year old girl who wanted a batgirl comic? Heck no. As a fan of the previous book, does this make me sit up and go, it's worth losing Steph? No. The villains are cardboard, the cops are STUPID. Mirror walks to a desk, punches a receptionist, shoots a dumb cop who doesn't draw a gun or drop coffee, walks to a hospital room, shoots through a door, walks in. This will take 30 seconds, tops. Yet between the time the woman is punched, Babs has time to dress as Batgirl and drive to the scene of the crime past a police barricade? What did Mirror do between the reception desk and the hospital room? Pick up his dry-cleaning?
How does Babs recognizing the MO of the Brisby killers lead her to an apartment outside of Brisby? We get A and then we get C without the intervening B. It's the Brisby gang so babs know they'll be at x at y time. How? Gail didn't show the work and that's bad writing.
Mirror is a killer, cruel and evil. He's not "fun". By that I mean dangerous, but not Hannibal Lector.
Bab's interior dialogue was lacking in joy and humor. I understand the PTSD. It makes sense, but it isn't fun or charming. Babs just watching a man be thrown out a window? Good thing he was evil, because it's OK in DC land when criminals are killed. They don't count as human beings. Good thing Mirror didn't take the extra .02 seconds to pull the trigger on Batgirl and then throw the villain out the window. Too bad the Gotham cops are so stupid as to not actually investigate gunshots or send in swat teams to go after villains.
Sorry but the story was weak, the female/male cops were stereotypes and the villains' actions were two dimensional.
So didn't like this issue.
Or I could be wrong.
For fun see my first Batgirl #1 issue from two years ago posted below.
"Batgirl #1, a review. (There are spoilers in the review. This is the first line, if you don't want to be spoiled, why are you reading this, go get the book for heaven's sake).
Overall I liked this issue. It actually presents the New Batgirl (tm) (toys to follow) as a real person. She's now in college, but is still attracted to the vigilante lifestyle. She has a mother who worries, and a real home. No Titans Tower for her.
She actually seems like a teenager. That's something that is often sorely missing from books featuring teenagers. Also shown is Barbara Gordon. She's at Leslie's clinic watching a wheelchair basketball game with newly-handicapped Wendy playing. Leslie warns Barbara about the dangers of anger. We later see Commissioner Gordon in a cop diner eating with Barbara. He's trying to set her up with a new transfer to the GPD.
She gets a call from Dick, who saw the first action of the New Batgirl (tm) (she'll get the female readers says the marketing department).
Dick and Damien (the boy who shouldn't have lived) see Steph in the Old Batgirl Costume (tm) (it should of have worked, she had awesome powers, was Asian, she didn't talk, Batman didn't teach her to read, why didn't the girls go for a character like that, the marketing department wonders).
Damien (a terrible idea that makes Bruce a total tool for ignoring his "son") comments this can't be the girl who led the League of Assassins (Editorial: lets make this plucky girl evil, that's an original idea that will get us female readers). Dick says no, hence the call later to Barbara.
As to the New Batgirl's (tm) (this time we'll get it right, we won't need to reboot in five or 10 years) action was to break up some sort of illegal street race.
This is where I have a problem. For one thing the art was, to put it mildly, confusing. It starts of with two drag racers taking off. The New Batgirl (tm) (maybe we can get a mention in the New York Times) darts after the two cars using a bat grapple hook-gun. She catches up with one, and I'm not kidding about this, seems to crash through the front windshield, cartwheels over the roof and, I think, lands on the side a car.
From my days of illegal street racing, cars take off fast and get faster. Within seconds they're going 40, 50, 60, 70 mph. To catch up using a grapple gun would have just about ripped off her arm. Then there's the actual art. It's hard to tell what happened. There's a shot where Stehp's back is turned to a guy who's aiming a gun at her. The next shot is showing a batarang in his hand. We don't see her throw it, thus, to my old school mind that's cheating. You have to show how great the hero is.
Also it appears the drag racers were racing to a brick wall. And the race was fixed, how? I looked hard and it seems wire was tied to the rear axles. I could be wrong on that. But the fact that I can't tell is a problem with the art. Also Mythbusters showed that doesn't work. The wire will snap before the axle is torn from the car.
Steph goes to college, where the prof in philosphy is talking about free will She's taking notes on pen and paper and doodles Bat Insignias (tm) (stickers sold in the lobby). Everyone else uses laptops to take notes. Question, is that how it's done these days. People use laptops to take notes? I'm not trying to be funny, but I'm pre everyone has a laptop in college and don't know.
Steph talks to herself about how she misses the power of the bat insignia. We see a flashback where Spoiler (tm) (Editor: I can't believe killing here didn't bring more readers)and Old Batgirl (Really making her a psychokiller doesn't make her hot?) fight some smugglers. and Cass takes off her suit and says he's gone (I assume Bruce) and she's not fighting anymore and throws her Batgirl costume (tm) (for sale over the Internet, but with a more Hooker look see http://www.zoogstercostumes.com/products/ru56070.html
) to Spoiler (never see anyone cosplaying her).
Steph sees the Batsignal and like a drunk who's trying to convince herself of something, she says one more time, puts on the Batgirl outfit and goes to rescue a cop captured by hoods who shot paramedics who were trying to help someone they shot earlier.
She start off well, but seems to stop and pose before she knows everyone is down, thus ignoring the guy with the rocket launcher. The cop she rescues hits the guy, but the launcher is dropped, the round explodes, (see earlier post about how this wouldn't happen). The mouth cover is blasted off the Batgirl suit (huh?) and the cop also survives and says he knew he was going to meet a Bat Squad (tm) (toy packets sold at Toys R Us) eventually. Apparently no one was killed because it would really suck if her writer mandated stupidity had a body count. Because if that were the case she belongs in prison for depraved indifference to life. (See every Sam Waterston Law & Order). I got the sense that this was the new cop Gordon wanted Barbara to meet.
Steph goes home, says to herself she didn't do her homework (Something many college students do, but alcohol is usually involved), and wakes up to find Barbara in her kitchen, saying that have to talk. Waffles are involved.
This is more of synopsis, Now the good and bad. Good: Steph seems more real than most comic characters. We see he doing real things like go to college. Superhero comics lost a lot when they stopped writing heros doing normal things.
Two: Steph is also shown to be full of doubt. She says she's the girl who does nothing right. If I can remember my teen years right, it seems that teens are filled with doubt. It's a place for her character to start. It would be a bad place for her to stay. Growth is good, I hope the writers remember that.
Three: College. I like that. It gives the writers places to go, with people she meets. She's a student, but college students have a degree of independence that high school students don't. So I don't have to go, why don't school authorities do anything about a truant student?
Four: Show Dick Grayson Batman (tm) (a limited time offer) and Damien (Where are the falling safes when you need them) spot New Batgirl (tm) (how large can we make her breast before people who have healthy attitudes toward women get mad?) see Steph right away. So there's no "how long can we keep something stunninly obvious a secret as part of a writer's mandate?"
Bad: The art. It's not that the individual frames or panels were badly drawn, they weren't. But there is an art to comic book art. The action has to flow from panel to panel. You have to be able to see how actions take place. Say what you will about old school journeymen artists like Sal Buscema and Jim Aparo, but their work had a dynamic flow that made the books a pleasure to read. You could follow what was going on. Plus when they drew Captain America or Batman hitting someone, I could feel the impact.
Two: Steph is inexperienced relative to the other Bat folks, but she still has Batman (tm) (guaranteed to make anyone an emotionally cutoff hard-ass who can dodge bullets and punch out muscled men who outweigh you by 100 pounds thus defying the laws of physics and the reasons for weight classifications in professional fighting) training. I don't like the idea that she stops to pose before making sure all thugs are incapacitated. That's hero 101 stuff, she's not that inexperienced. It's the first they teach cops as well. Even a rookie like Steph wouldn't miss it.
Three: Cass quits. Why? I actually like the friendship between Cass and Steph and I hope it's a part of the book. It has a charm that's been lost in today's comics.
I can't say that I care at all about Wendy. Maybe they're going to make her New Batgirl's (hey, she's a blonde, now Wonder Girl, Supergirl and Batgirl are blondes, they can form the Blonde Squad) Oracle. That might be interesting, I don't know. Barbara would have two protoges, one for each of her hero identities. Something worth considering, I guess. It's not something I would have thought of, but it could work.
Overall, I liked the issue. The art needs to be more clear in terms of action. And jumping on a moving car going 70 mph that's heading for a concrete wall. Too much, whether we're talking about Batman (tm) (new and improved with 70 percent more psychosis), Old Batgirl (at least we got to make an Asian girl's breast huge, that should please the frustrated fanboys) or any normal hero. I like the Nolan Batman. He wears a suit and cape to protect his body from the wear and tear of herodom. The fashion element is only secondary.
I hope Cass visits regularly because friendships are important and I like reading about them when they're well done. (No threesome talk, and I mean you Robinson, honestly, they're grown men, not characters from a Judd Apatow movie, who talks like that in real life, really)
Or I could be wrong."