16 April 2013

"Batgirl" #19 by Gail Simone (Jun 2013)

Batgirl #19
"A Blade from the Shadows"

Gail Simone - Writer
Daniel Sampere - Penciller
Jonathan Glapion and Marc Deering - Inks
Blond - Colors
Dave Sharpe - Letters
Eddy Barrows, Eber Ferreira and Marcelo Maiolo - Cover
Editor - Katie Kubert
Group Editor - Mike Marts
Batman created by Bob Kane

Date of Publication: 10 April 2013
$2.99/32 pages

I haven't reviewed Batgirl here for a while now. To be honest, I just didn't care for "The Death of the Family" storyline or how it was told, although I feel that Batgirl #14 was easily the strongest issue that I read of both that story and this book. Then, after that crossover event finished, Ray Fawkes took over the book for a few issues. I don't want to disparage the guy, but truthfully I'd have bailed on Batgirl had he become the permanent ongoing writer. It could have worked out once he found his footing, and I tried to be fair to him but it just wasn't the book I've enjoyed reading all along. The last issue, #18, showed us Barbara's reaction to the death of Damian Wayne. The cover is one of my favorites in the series to date, showing us a bereaved Barbara sobbing but Fawkes scarcely acknowledged the event itself in either his story or his characterization of Barbara. She expends all of three panels reaction - one to call Nightwing, who then blows her off because he's busy. It was business-as-usual and the story failed to live up to the cover - or even the "Requiem" story at all.
There was far more heart in this cover than in any of the inside pages written by Ray Fawkes.

I don't blame Fawkes for that, though. Once again, I feel that a glaring storytelling issue with these comics is the result of a lack of long-range editorial direction at DC Comics. Whether it's "The Night of the Owls" intruding into Tony Daniel's arc in Detective Comics or that "Zero Month" causing a two-month gap between the second part and conclusion of Simone's arc in Batgirl, DC seems obsessed with marketing synergy but not storytelling synergy.

Issue #19 is Gail Simone's awaited return to the book, though, and I couldn't have been happier. She wasn't there to show us the human being that Babs is handle the news of Damian's death, but she's on hand here for the final(?) showdown between our heroine and her psychopathic brother, James, Jr. This feels like the issue that Simone was trying to build toward months ago, before Scott Snyder's "Death of the Family" ran roughshod over the Bat-titles and before the boneheaded editorial decision to remove her from the book. I have to assume Brian Cunningham was the one responsible for that fracas, because he's gone from the book as of this issue and Katie Kubert has been promoted from Assistant Editor to Editor. That seems like a very strong step in the right direction.

When the estranged Barbara Gordon (senior? Is that a thing?) resurfaced at the very end of issue #4, I wasn't sure what direction that relationship might take. Watching mother and daughter try to reconnect - and enduring shared trauma in recent issues - has worked out very well, though. I feel good about the two of them and what it means for the book to see them continue to develop their relationship.

Then there's Alysia, Babs's roommate. She reveals in this issue that she's a transgender woman, which is really no surprise to me after following the Twitter friendship between Simone and Natalie Reed. They had made mention of exchanging emails, Reed answering Simone's questions, and that portended a trans character in the works. My only question was whether it was for Batgirl or another project of Simone's. I've liked Alysia since we first met her. I'm not a member of the trans community, but I remember how excited I was when I went to see The Men Who Stare at Goats and George Clooney said he had Crohn's disease. There's something about even a minimal acknowledgment in entertainment that people like you exist outside pharmaceutical commercials and support groups that's empowering and on that level, I get it. I'm excited for the trans readers who will find some solidarity in Alysia.

From the beginning, Alysia has struck me as the kind of woman who would insist on vinyl over digital, though, and I even tweeted Simone about that. I continue to hold out hope that one day we'll see her record collection and hear her expound on her love for vinyl. That would make me happy. It'd be too contrived to ask Simone to write a Crohnie into Batgirl, but how perfect would it be for us to be represented in her forthcoming, super-secret book The Movement? The jokes write themselves!

Batgirl #19 is the most suspenseful, enthralling issue of the book to date next only to issue #14. It felt right to hear Simone's voice telling the stories again. There's quite a lot of action from start to finish, but what Simone brings to the book that was absent from Fawkes's admittedly brief run is heart. This issue isn't about the action of a psychopath terrorizing his family. This issue is about how those events affect the people who endure them. Simone writes human beings, not rising and falling action, and that's why she's the perfect writer for Batgirl. I'm relieved that she's back on it.

That said, I don't buy that James, Jr. was ultimately just a jealous younger brother. His wiring was way more off than something as simple as that, and I have to think being used as a hostage as an infant - and then again as a child - really screwed him up. Also: What the hell is going on in Gotham City that a guy whose son is a serial killer gets to remain police commissioner? David Petraeus had to resign from the CIA over an affair with his biographer, but somehow no one has a problem with the police commissioner having a murderous son? I don't buy it.

Now, I just want Babs to go see a doctor. Anyone will suffice, even if just to spend an evening in the Batcave with Alfred tending to her. I wouldn't have thought about such things when I was healthy, but living in chronic pain has made me scoff at how Babs keeps getting up and going on about her business when by all right she should be lying in bed puking her guts up and relying on Alysia to bring her meds on a set schedule.