The Masks of Ashes
I can't say I am terribly excited for this issue. I've become kind of bored with the forever long build up of James Jr.'s attack without any apparent motivation or game plan. Ray Fawkes, (former writer of Vertigo's Mnemovore and current writer for Batgirl and Justice League Dark) who is standing in for the fired/hired Gail Simone, (former writer of Birds of Prey) did write Barbara in a way that made her more likable in last month's issue, but whatever excitement that brought was more or less negated by the sight of Batgirl catching a missile in her handbag, so I cannot say I am primed for first tier writing at this point. Added to the mix, we have the Requiem crossover which seems like a hard sell to me. We have never, to my knowledge, even seen Barbara and Damian talk to one another, so why should we expect Babs to have a deep emotional reaction to his death? Altogether, I'm just not overly psyched for this issue, but you never know what an issue has in store. Does Batgirl #18 sell me on the concept of Barbara mourning Damian or Firebug being a threatening villain, or does the potential splendor of this wake go up in smoke?
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In this issue, Batgirl recovers from her encounter with Firebug and prepares to confront the villain while Commissioner Gordon is informed that Robin is dead.
I have to say, much to my surprise, this issue did convince me to the legitimacy of Barbara's emotional reaction to the news of Damian's murder. When Babs gets the news, she does start to cry, but she says, “Oh, Bruce,” and that is what made the scene work. Babs is broken up, but she is not mourning the personal loss of a friend. Rather, she is mourning a friend's personal loss. She is not feeling the pain directly as much as she is empathizing with what Bruce must be feeling.
Babs then tries to call Dick in a move that seems completely in keeping with her old school relationship with Grayson, but Dick says he has to go and they will talk later which kind of sucks. I understand why Nightwing had to get off the phone; he was most likely dealing with the fallout of this event, and he was probably on the verge of breaking down emotionally and did not want to open himself emotionally by putting a crack in his emotional dam. Still, I fear that this conversation, which would no doubt be powerful, might never be covered in comics, and that is a shame.
After that, Babs puts on her game face and the story moves on, and some might see this as belittling to Damian's death, but Babs has always (except of recent) been able to block things out pretty well, so I do not see this as a conflict. However, this brief scene is not really enough to justify purchase for someone who is just interested in seeing the emotional fallout of Damian's death. Unless you are already a big Batgirl fan, I would not suggest buying this for the crossover.
As I've been doing a lot recently, I'm going to do this review Bat Droppings style so I can work more quickly and finally get caught up on all my reviews.
1. Mikel Janin (former artist for Deadman and the Flying Graysons and current artist for Justice League Dark and cover artist for Batgirl) provides a nice cover even though it implies a much deeper relationship between Babs and Damian than actually exists.
2. James Jr. continues to narrate this issue which is a mixed blessing. On one hand, his thoughts are terrifyingly creepy, and this really builds tension for the upcoming issue. On the other hand, James Jr.'s arrival has been built up for so long that I really do not care for anymore build. Also, it is so counter intuitive not to have any inner monologue from our heroine that it threw me off while reading a few times.
3. I mentioned in last month's review that it surprised me that Simone allowed someone else to write her big James Jr. story she has been teasing for so long. I now see that she did not allow it to be taken from her for these two issues amount to nothing more than another extended, high intensity tease.
4. Firebug destroys the whole building with an explosion, yet Babs survives being at ground zero with only scratches. This is really stupid.
5. Though I like that Batman told Commissioner Gordon about Robin's death, I cannot help wondering why he told him. Also, wouldn't Jim know because of witnesses. Perhaps this will be more clear after the next issue of Batman, Incorporated.
6. Let's face it, Batgirl's red hair should give her away to anybody who knows Barbara Gordon, so it seems odd that Commissioner Gordon would not know that Babs is Batgirl. I can't help but wonder if the Commissioner called her not to hear her voice but to deliver the news that her brother in arms fell in battle.
7. James Jr. does a better job of making his sister seem awesome through his narration than Batgirl's series has managed in 18 issues.
Spoilers until Conclusion
8. I will not say that James Jr. putting Babs in a no win situation and then trying to kill Mrs. Gordon to give Barbara massive guilt was particularly original, but it was awfully evil.
9. Mrs. Gordon is acting odd these last couple of issues. She went from being such a victim that she left her family in order to keep her young child from hurting the rest of her family to taunting her adult son as he tries to kill her. Is it poor writing or is there something else going on with Barbara Gordon Sr.?
10. Babs to Firebug: “I have to admit, I'd love to know how you got out of that burning building.” Yeah, Babs, we all would. It would also be nice to know how you survived a building shattering explosion from point blank range, but the story did not answer either of those questions, did it?
11. It would be nice to know what this black stuff is that Babs places over the grenades. I presume it was just something sticky to keep the handle from popping off and the reactive chemicals from releasing.
12. Along the same line of thought, Firebug appears to have his hand caught by one of these gel things, but then his hand is free, so...did he squeeze it out or what?
13. The handle popped off of the second grenade, yet it never exploded. Is the gel supposed to contain the explosion?
14. I did not notice on my first read through, but James Jr.'s hand is covered with blood on the last page implying that he killed the family living in the house he is currently occupying.
I think I'm being generous on this one. I liked parts of this issue. Again, Babs seemed more rounded as a character in this issue, James Jr. was truly menacing, and I thought Babs' reaction to Damian's death was appropriate, but everything else felt a bit lackluster. If you have been following the series, you will probably enjoy this issue, but go in with moderate expectations.
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