BatWatch Review: Batgirl #20
A Splinter Where My Heart Should Be
I'm actually a little afraid to read Batgirl. I want to like this series as so many do, and some issues in the past have been a lot of fun. I thought some moments of Batgirl's Death of the Family tie in were amazing, but then we have issues like #19 which...melt my brain. I've already mentioned my criticisms on the issue many times, so I'm not going to rehash everything once more, but to put it succinctly, I thought the entire resolution to the James Jr. story arc was difficult to believe. Now, we have Babs dealing with the guilt over killing her brother and the introduction of a new villain, or rather a new version of an old villain, The Ventriloquist. The images alone have greatly intrigued me as this character looks like she could have stepped straight out of a horror movie.
Does The Ventriloquist live up to the high standards of villainy and lunacy that previous characters have brought the mantle or is this new character just a cheap pretender to Arnold Wesker's throne?
In this issue, Batgirl goes into crisis, and we learn a little about the new Ventriloquist's past before seeing her present where she makes her big debut on a talent show.
The Horror Vibe Works
Will this issue give you nightmares? No, not unless you are one the most easily scared people on the planet or you have a preexisting phobia of dummies, but the issue pretty well delivers what you expect from the cover. This new Ventriloquist is a creepy character. She looks like she just crawled out of a well and through a television set, and her fragile ego starved for attention works about as well as anything as an excuse to become a psychotic murderer. The art plays up her creepiness, and there was one seen in particular where a sudden change in expression actually gave me a tiny bit of a shock though it would probably work better on Comixology as I read it where it is an immediate transition at a touch of a button instead of reading it on a page where you can see out of the corner of your eye what is coming. (fun fact: it has been psychologically proven that people are drawn to spot threatening faces before friendly faces, so there is a good chance you will notice the scary face before you are actually ready to read that panel) The issue reminds me of Buffy the Vampire Slayer in that it is not truly scary, but every once in a while, they do something slightly disturbing.
Some might find the need for fame to be a thin excuse for going on a killing spree, but actually, that's one of the main theories explaining mass murderers. Nobody can be certain what someone else thinks, but there is a lot of speculation that mass murderers act partially because they want to make a name for themselves and be remembered even if they are often committing death by cop. Speaking of the police, the police have actually theorized that the shooter in the Sandy Hook massacre was trying to get a high score in homicides. He was apparently a dedicated FPS gamer, and he had looked up the death tally of other mass murderers before choosing a nice “gun free” zone in which to go for his attempt at the high score. All of that to say, this Ventriloquist's motivation seems plausible to me.
I'm not sure what I think of Barbara's emotional changes. She killed her brother in the last issue, and when we see her in this issue, she is getting drunk to bury the pain. This is very uncharacteristic for Babs, but then again, if you don't get drunk when you killed your only sibling and your father wants to arrest you for murder, when do you get drunk? I suppose her breakdown tracks.
(Spoilers for this Paragraph) On the other hand, she seems to get it together quickly when she realizes a clue, and I'm not sure that makes any sense. First, if you are having so much of a pity party that you go to a counselor drunk in the middle of the day, are you really going to be snapped out of it even by an important realization? Also, how are you going to make that important realization while mentally impaired? Finally, is going out to fight crime while drunk really a good idea? Babs should have gone to Tony Stark for counseling.
Also, though we have seen Babs' therapist in previous issues, it struck me as wrong this time. Babs always seemed like a more solitary figure to me; I'm not sure I buy her opening up to a counselor, but this is a minor complaint.
1. Seriously, who the crap leaves poison in a yard full of kids? This is a pretty stupid plot point to go unexplained.
2. I missed it when I read the preview, but its pretty clear that Shauna's parents knew something was wrong with the child from the weird way they were acting.
3. This is a minor detail, but it really bugged me. How did Batgirl cut out the Bat symbol from her costume? It shows her, it appears, cutting through the entire cloth to cut a section out, yet we see that there is no hole in the costume. Instead, most of the yellow of the bat symbol is gone, but some remains as if she scratched it off. What gives?
4. I thought Fernando Pasarin (former penciler for Oracle: The Cure and current artist for Green Lantern Corps) was taking over penciling duties for Batgirl in this issue, but he did not get the credit for it. Instead, it's still Daniel Sampere (former penciler of Batman and current penciler of Batgirl) who does a pretty good job though his art looks better in some places than others.
5. The rip off of America's Got Talent/American Idol has been done quite a few times in different mediums, but I'll confess I still enjoyed it.
6. I liked that Gail (former writer of Birds of Prey and current writer of Batgirl, The Movement and Vertigo's Time Warp) did not immediately unveil Shauna's abilities. I was glad I was able to wonder for a while. In fact, I'm still wondering if her vocal abilities have a supernatural element.
7. Ricky got a little character development in this issue, and I have to admit that I'm interested in this new wrinkle of his identity.
Spoilers until Conclusion
8. I had forgotten that Knightfall was out and about. Her involvement could prove interesting.
9. I felt the action scenes were much better in this issue than what we've been getting. The fight with the rent-a-cops was cool as was the fight with the dummy.
10. It's worth mentioning that the reveal that got all the attention last issue, Alysia being transgendered, was not so much as mentioned in this issue. In fact, Alysia was never seen. She needs to be a fully formed character.
This was definitely several steps up from the last issue, but it still had its problems. On the positive front, Babs is actually somewhat likable in this issue with some vulnerability, a muted level of pride, and a funny line or two. Also, Ventriloquist pretty much delivers as promised, a creepy new villain with a dummy, and she seems like she could even have some depth as a villain. On the other hand, poison just left in a yard, eidetic memory, and hangover curing revelations are kind of sloppy writing, and there was nothing spectacular about the issue. If you are a Batgirl, Simone or Ventriloquist fan, you should probably pick up this issue though you might want to read a few pages before laying down the cash.
More Recent Reviews:
For more news, reviews, and commentary for the entire Bat Family, check out BatWatch.net.