BatWatch Review: Batgirl #19
A Blade from the Shadows
Ah, Batgirl. I'm not sure if I love you or hate you. I think it is a wee bit of both. For the past year, I've more or less liked Simone's (former writer of Birds of Prey and current writer of Batgirl and Vertigo's Time Warp) spin on Batgirl's stories, but Babs as a character seems like an unlikable chick with nothing particularly human to identify with except fear, sadness, self-doubt and self-pity. We did see Batgirl woman up at the end of Death of the Family, but I'm not sure if her more assertive nature at the end of DoTF is going to stick or if we are going to see more of the heroine who cannot make up her mind who she is and what she represents.
This issue might be a big one. The cover teases the idea that Babs might kill James Jr. Also, we might see one of the most mainstream introductions of a transsexual character in this issue through Babs' roommate, Alysia. If nothing else, we should finally see Babs come face to face with her brother in a battle that has been teased for what seems like forever.
Does Gail Simone make a triumphant return in Batgirl #19, or has this story been building up for so long only to fizzle out at the end?
In this issue, Barbara patches things up with Alysia before taking on James Jr.
That's the word for it. Almost everything in this issue is just incredibly, amazingly contrived. The extent of it is so pervasive that I do not even know where to start. Everything in this issue seems to happen unnaturally as if the only reason certain events take place is to arrive at a certain destination as opposed to the story naturally progressing where logic would dictate. Contrived.
The whole issue is so...tied up with itself that I think I am unable to break this down into fitting sections, so I'm going to pick it apart scene by scene.
1. The issue starts out with a flashback of Babs and James Jr. enjoying horror movies as children, but of course, James Jr. is enjoying them a bit too much. I'm fine with this scene; it gives us a little background into Babs and James Jr.'s relationship as children, and at least for me, this is something that has not been well established in Batgirl, so some clarification of their bizarre relationship is helpful.
2. Next up, we have a scene where Babs and Alysia make up. If you'll recall way back in Batgirl...#14 I believe, Babs left Alysia in their apartment with a bunch of subdued thugs lying on the floor, so it makes sense that Babs and Alysia should have a reckoning. However, the time line does not really work out. Death of the Family has been over for awhile, and Babs was at home working on her computer identifying Joker thugs the other day. If she did not run into Alysia then, couldn't she have at least given her a call or a text and been like, “Hey, I'm not dead. LOL.” Also, why didn't Alysia check up on her. If I were Alysia, my first call would be to Commissioner Gordon, and he has been in contact with Babs and knows she is okay, so what gives?
3. Also, Babs gives away all her secrets except the whole Batgirl thing which is fine and serves a purpose for Alysia's forthcoming revelation, but nothing Babs told Alysia really explains how she was able to beat up three thugs.
4. Again, I see the character development purpose this scene serves, and I'm glad Simone is focusing more on Babs' personal life, but do we need four pages for this? I don't think so.
5. Alysia is a transsexual which I Called Months Ago as soon as Simone said a trans character was coming to Batgirl. Just patting my own back for a second.
6. I get that Gail Simone is very pro-LGBT, and if she wants to have a character who represents that in comics and is accepted by Babs, I'm fine with that. I agree that Babs would probably have no real problem with having a transsexual friend based on my experience with her as a character. However, I don't care how accepting you are of transsexualism, there is no way a friend is going to come to you and say, “By the way, I'm a transsexual,” and you are just going to accept it without question. That is such a huge revelation about somebody. I mean, can you imagine if you had a friend and roommate for months, and they suddenly said, “By the way, I have a kid.” Wouldn't you immediately have many questions for your friend? Now, you are trying to convince me that someone tells you that they are a transsexual which is a much bigger, life-changing, extraordinary revelation, and you are just like, “Cool beans. Hugs XOXO!” I don't think so. You are going to have some questions. One obvious one is which way is Alysia going? I would assume she is male to female, but maybe she wants become a dude. It's just odd.
7. It was nice to see Babs turn the table on James Jr., and the setup with her mom makes sense. Sadly, that is about the end of things that make sense in this issue.
8. Babs gets the drop on James Jr., yet instead of taking him down, she lands between him and her mom.
(Spoilers until Conclusion)
9. Hold up! You're going to tell me that Babs has kept the secret of her identity from Commissioner Gordon for four years, but a few months after her mom comes back, she spills the beans on Batgirl to the woman who abandoned her as a child? Really? That's insane.
10. What? Mrs. Gordon shoots James Jr? What the crap? You have a bona fide, armored superhero standing between you and your own son, yet now, after all the crap James Jr. has already done to you, you decide your going to kill him? Why? Let Babs take him down, drama queen!
11. The moment after Mrs. Gordon shoots James Jr., Babs is concerned about her mother's depression. Keep your priorities straight, Batgirl!
12. James Jr. disappears in two seconds just after being shot.
13. James Jr. manages to appear out of nowhere to bludgeon Batgirl in the back of the head. This would be completely unacceptable except for the rain which probably covers up the sound of James Jr.'s movements, so I guess this is okay.
14. The panel where Babs is seeing double is pretty cool.
15. Babs was struck by an enemy from behind, goes down for the count, is nearly ready to black out, and then somehow shakes it off to subdue the bad guy which is exactly the same thing that happened with Knightfall in Batgirl #12
16. Mrs. Gordon walks up to James Jr., like a freaking moron, to have a heart to heart. Batgirl, like a freaking moron, let's her.
17. In this heart to heart, James Jr. admits that all he ever really wanted was attention which somehow gives this whole issue the feeling of an after school special for neglectful parents. I mean, I get that kids act out to get attention, but there is a huge line between acting out and killing people, and that is not a line anybody ever crosses just for attention.
18. Batgirl hits James Jr. in the freaking eye with a batarang? Holy crap! Later says she was not trying to kill him? Please! You had his whole face for a target, and you landed it exactly in his eye.
19. How many times do you have to hear a spine breaking before you recognize it? Apparently, only once, and Babs could hear it over the sound of Joker's gunshot because she is just that awesome.
20. James Jr. washes away in the ocean which is such a classic, “He's dead but not really,” move, and by classic, I mean tired.
21. What! Commissioner Gordon is trying to kill Batgirl for killing James Jr.? Commissioner Gordon is not an idiot, and he knows the difference between justifiable homicide and murder. He has seen Batman do things like this a thousand times. I know this is his son, but I think Commissioner Gordon is better than this. Also, where has he been? The story makes it clear that some time has passed between James Jr.'s call to his father and James Jr.'s arrival at the docks, so what took Commissioner Gordon so long?
Once again, I must say this is severely contrived. Almost every twist and turn existed just for the purpose of making the story twisty and turny, and very few of the twists and turns made any sort of logical sense. Simone wanted to create drama between Babs and her parents, so she wrote an extremely long and convoluted story to get to that end. James Jr. and every other part of this story were just means to that end. If it had not been such a long buildup for such a ridiculous conclusion, I would probably be more lenient, but the buildup was long, and the payoff was minimal, so it deserves this rating. Save your money.
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