the_mighty_monarch's Batgirl #18 - The Mask of Ashes review

The Gordons

That cover is damn powerful. Mikel Janin gives us an absolutely amazing Requiem cover.... it just doesn't fit. Batgirl's reaction is a single tear mostly, and it's far more about the effect it has on Bruce than any personal sorrow. Her dad has a more intense reaction, and I actually rather like that, since I think it'll cause some tension as Batgirl goes head to head with his son James Jr. As evil as he is, Gordon is probably going to feel a greater attachment to his son after the knowledge of this tragedy.

This is going to come across as a bit fanboyish, but I feel my concerns here are very legitimate and rational. This is yet another stab in the heart from having Barbara as Batgirl over Stephanie Brown. Barbara really didn't know the little hellion very well, but Stephanie did some serious bonding with the kid, arguably she was the third or fourth closest person to him, and now she isn't around to react to his death. It's just.... an extremely unfortunate and huge missed opportunity that makes me miss Stephanie all the more. Because what reaction we do get from Barbara is small, but some of that may be due to her burying her emotions for the sake of the more immediate and vital mission; and therein lies the problem again. The Batman Family has plenty of character who do that, it just keeps Barbara's Batgirl as a sort of bland Bat, not really standing out much on her own compared to the others, but Stephanie is completely different and unique.

All right, now that that's out of the way, let's focus on what's actually here, as opposed to the continued painful dream of an absent Stephanie Brown. This issue made me realize that, when it comes to the James Gordon Jr. plot, Ray Fawkes is basically just carrying Gail Simone's loose threads while he writes his main side-story. Firebug is Ray Fawkes' plot, and James Jr. is here to be set up for Simone to tackle when she returns next month. Except, this issue it feels really minimal. It's like a distraction keeping Batgirl from focusing on her brother for a day or two, because Firebug's not really made out to be much of a threat. There's a bigger conspiracy implied, but overall his performance was very lackluster.

Though I saw Fawkes is just carrying James Jr. for Simone, I have to admit he writes him well and puts him right in the forefront. This entire issue is narrated by James himself, and we really get into his weird detached head. There are times where his insights on Batgirl's actions and emotions are impossibly accurate, but when he's got her right in his hands he makes some impressive and looser observations. His postulation on what makes a hero is intriguing, especially with the cheering Batgirl's getting; but what's with the one guy who once says she should burn? It's just one speech bubble and none of the supportive mass even acknowledges this asshole's comment. What was the deal with that? There's also something going on with Barbara's recently returned mother, and I'm incredibly intrigued by that. Her reasons for leaving are still a bit in the dark, but she's shown some frightening retorts to her sociopathic son that suggest she's MUCH darker than she appears. Based on the solicits I'm going to guess that she might be the new Ventriloquist. Regardless, Fawkes writes an amazing James Jr., with his unnerving calm and stellar manipulative planning. He also, sadly, writes a better Barbara than Simone does, because he's not trying to make Batgirl a teenager again in any way.

In Conclusion: 3/5

I wanted to like this more, especially since James Jr. made such a spectacular show, and seeing Gordon's reaction to Robin's death was pretty potent, but overall I just wasn't feeling it. Firebug became a simple distractionary foe, Barbara was written more like Barbara but it only accentuated how little she stands out in the Batman Family now, and so much of this issue rubbed salt into the Stephanie Brown shaped wound.

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    The Masks of AshesI 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 wa...

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