22 December 2012

"Batgirl" #15 by Gail Simone (Feb 2013)

Batgirl #15
"Collision - Part Two: Engagement" | Death of the Family
Gail Simone - Writer
Daniel Sampere - Pencils
Vicente Cifuentes - Inks
Ulises Arreola - Colorist
Dave Sharpe - Letters
Ed Benes & Ulises Arreola - Cover
Katie Kubert - Assistant Editor
Brian Cunningham - Editor
Batman Created by Bob Kane
Date of Publication: 12 December 2012
$2.99/32 pages

The Context
I was pretty down about buying this issue. Shortly before it was published, it came out that someone at DC Comics had the intelligent idea to unceremoniously fire Gail Simone from the book. Editor Brian Cunningham emailed the news to her, though I'm not sure whether the idea was his or if he was the clumsy messenger. In any event, this was to be her penultimate issue, and I had resolved it would be mine, too. I would buy this and the next and then stop. I bought the issue this past Sunday, six days ago, but I've procrastinated on reading it. Being one of just two remaining, I didn't want it to end, you know?

Then yesterday, Simone sent the following tweet:

I'm not letting DC off the hook for this debacle, but I'm thrilled to hear that they've remedied this situation. I won't be fully satisfied until there's an explanation for why this happened in the first place, but I take at face value that if she's happy to rejoin the book then I can continue reading in good conscience. I began by finally cracking open issue #15 around one in the morning when I went to bed.

The Story
Issue #14 was one of the most intense comics I can recall reading, certainly in recent years and probably ever. We left off with The Joker holding Batgirl's mother hostage. It was unclear whether he knew that Barbara was Batgirl. In any event, what he wants is for Batgirl to "marry" him, a scheme explained here as appealing to his concerns about his own mortality.

I confess, this issue felt like a step down from the last. Yes, it was interesting to watch Barbara make the decision to exact her revenge on The Joker and to get in some blows, but that last issue was crazy intense. This felt more controlled, more "typical superhero"-y. That's not necessarily a knock, mind you; as that fare goes, this is a solid issue and one of the stronger issues in the series to date. It's hard to imagine much following that last issue, though, that wouldn't have felt this way for me.

The Art
Daniel Sampere's art, though quite different from Ardian Syaf's, is a great fit for the book. Check out that whimsical opening double splash page (story pages 2 and 3) of The Joker rollerskating around Batgirl and her mother! It's lively, it's fun and yet creepy as hell at the same time. Turn the page and check out the look on Batgirl's face on story page 4, panel 4. She's distraught but resolved, and she's just made peace with herself about her plan to kill The Joker. The tears around her eyes, the gritted teeth...this is our girl in a place we've not wanted to see her, but we understand.

Flip forward to story page 16, panel 3: Barbara, bound and gagged, bloody and tearful. There's a numbness to her face that makes her all the more sympathetic. My only real complaint of the entire issue is actually on that same page, the bottom panel of Batgirl dashing off. Her facial expression is devoid of any emotion. It could be a stock promotional image for all the feeling that's in that image.

Story page 18, panel 2, has Batgirl arriving at a condemned church and her pose is a bit too much of the ubiquitous Contorted T&A style so prevalent in other DC Comics. That right leg is unnaturally high. Plus, it's unclear why she's landing anyway. Being in the middle of nowhere, she clearly wasn't descending from a skyscraper. It's possible she just scaled a fence, which is hinted at in the background though it's hard to tell just where it actually runs. I'm not saying we can't or shouldn't see Batgirl's physique. I'm just saying it should make sense and there's really no physiological reason for her butt to be so prominent in that image.

Final Thoughts
I'm thrilled to know that Gail Simone will continue writing Batgirl. I've jokingly taken credit for getting DC to reverse their boneheaded decision but in all sincerity, as I outlined in my Open Letter to DC Comics, I do appreciate living in the Internet Age where social media empowers me to weigh in on issues much more directly than I ever could in the past. There's no editorial filter to screen out complaints now, meaning that it's impossible to contain or spin a backlash the same way as in the era of letters columns. It's a power that I admire and appreciate, and it's why I use this blog to discuss such matters as my experiences with depression, the nature of health care in America and why there ought to be an MC Hammer Christmas album.