Saturday, 25 April 2015

Batgirl, Volume 3: Death of the Family Review (Gail Simone, Daniel Sampere)


One of the downsides to Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo’s runaway success with their Batman series has been the way the Batman editors have decided to tie in the many, less-successful Bat-titles into it in a desperate attempt to boost sales. 

Every Snyder Batman arc is an event, it seems, so with Death of the Family Batgirl has to awkwardly find a way to fit into it without appearing contrived - which she doesn’t manage to do. There are also unsuccessful tie-ins to Night of the Owls and Damian’s death. 

The flipside of this is that Snyder clearly has better ideas than Gail Simone - that Knightfall stuff in the last volume was rubbish - so forcing her to write about the Talons, the Joker, and James Gordon Jr, instead of some street kid called Ricky, her sexually-ambiguous roommate Alysia, and a space-jockey-helmeted Firebug, makes for slightly better comics in Volume 3. 

Catwoman is hired to bust out the female Talon Batgirl fought in the last book (why didn’t the Court just have one of their many other Talons do this?) and Batgirl gets tossed into the mix for an all-female superhero team-up. It fleshes out the female Talon’s character some but it’s still an unnecessary extra issue on top of all the other Owls shenanigans. 

Then we’re onto the main event as Joker tries to marry(!) Batgirl… for some reason. Joker’s got Babs’ mum tied to a bomb so she’s gotta go along with it, but why marriage…? I’m guessing the Bat-editors decided that they couldn’t get Batman and Joker to marry (Joker just thinks they’re besties) so they decided to make Barbara marry the guy who crippled her because that’s messed up, ie. something the Joker would do? (In the New 52, The Killing Joke still happened but Barbara recovered the use of her legs after a spell.)

It’s really not the best storyline and has no payoff but I guess Simone had to come up with something for the event and actually it’s not a terrible read - the Joker is just too good a character to be boring! 

Continuing the smorgasbord of random storylines, the short from Young Romance #1 where Batgirl kisses Ricky, a street kid with a crutch, because it’s Valentine’s Day, is also included. Like the Night of the Owls issue, it’s very throwaway stuff. 

At some point Damian dies so Batgirl has to acknowledge it leading to an awkwardly shoehorned-in two and a bit pages where she calls up Dick Grayson and has a cry before pulling herself together and getting on with her own storyline - so pointless! 

Ray Fawkes steps in to write a couple of terrible issues focusing on a new storyline about another of Snyder’s hits, James Gordon Jr, Babs’ psychotic bro. Fawkes (and Simone, who comes back for the final issue of the book) take a superbly creepy chap like James Jr who stole the show in The Black Mirror, and turn him into a cartoony villain whose motivations, when revealed after a drawn-out game of cat and mouse, are so embarrassingly stupid I would’ve preferred he kept quiet at the end. 

I did like how at the start of the James Jr story Babs is at her computer trawling the GCPD’s files and catching crooks that way - just like she did as Oracle way back when. Ah! 

It’s worth mentioning that the reason Fawkes took over was because DC fired Gail Simone via email. This is because DC is seemingly run by knuckleheads who change their minds at the drop of a cowl! Anyway, Fawkes didn’t exactly set the series on fire and the readers demanded Simone return or they’d boycott the title, so back she came. 

These aren’t bad comics but they’re definitely not great. Batgirl does the same thing every time: punch, kick, move onto the next enemy. The Talon? Punch, kick, done. Joker? Punch, kick, done. Firebug? Punch, kick, done. James Jr? Punch, kick, done. The stories are resolved in the least inspired ways, which is all the more disappointing given that Babs is written as this genius intellect yet she uses none of her brains in resolving her problems, just the same old punch/kick combo (with some trick Batarangs thrown in for good measure). It’s a case of the writers not living up to the level the characters have been portrayed as. 

Batgirl Volume 3 collects perfectly average superhero comics that are unchallenging, unoriginal, easy-to-read and instantly forgettable. B-sides to Snyder’s A-sides.

Batgirl, Volume 3: Death of the Family

3 comments:

  1. In terms of what I've read, this one came in third for the Death of the Family books batman's was obviously best, but I would put Nightwing's as a close second. The Teen Titans/Red Hood arc was easily the worst.

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    1. I've got Nightwing in the to-read pile so glad to hear that!

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    2. It really matters to the character. I won't spoil it, but there's a much greater emotional impact here than any other. Fair warning, though, the stories that bookend it aren't crash hot.

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