Batgirl #22 review

Barbara Gordon comes back from a night of crimefighting to find she’s forgotten that she’s meant to be going on a date. At the front door, bearing a bouquet, is Ricky, whose one attempt at being a car thief cost him a leg. Now he’s cleaned up his act and getting to know Babs.

If adversity helps a couple get close, the potential relationship takes a giant leap forward when the pair are attacked by gang members. The thugs claim Ricky’s elder brother Rolo wants to be a big name on the streets, and plan to mutilate Babs as a warning to him. Ricky acts, preventing Babs from having to save the day herself and potentially compromising her secret.

Attackers routed, Babs and Ricky have supper with his family – including Rolo, who seems a nice guy – and go dancing. Our heroine has the most fun she’s experienced in forever, but back home her mood is wrecked when dad Jim Gordon phones, asks her to meet him for ‘lunch and a chat’.

Next day, in lieu of a nice meal, he takes her for shooting lessons on the police range. Having been crippled by the Joker’s bullets, Babs hates guns. But having recently lost his son, psycho Jim Jr – apparently at the hands of Batgirl – Gordon wants Babs to be safe; and as a cop, he puts some trust in guns. Spurred on by a traumatic memory, Babs shows that she can hit a target, no problem. But her father’s fear is obvious, it’s tearing him apart, and Babs reckons the only thing she can do is ensure he never sees her alter ego again. It’s going to be Batgirl No More…

Except she’s wrong. Gordon does want to see Batgirl. That night, he summons Batman and demands he stay out of his way while he tracks down and arrests the vigilante.

And this is where the story gets confusing. Gordon punches Batman, then yells at him (click on image to enlarge).

Is there any way to read this other than that Gordon knows Batgirl is his daughter? Even Ricky, who’s known her for ten minutes, has obviously worked it out, so there’s no way a father wouldn’t look at his daughter in a masked costume and think, that’s my daughter in a masked costume. Never mind his being a detective, he’s a guy who’s seen this young woman almost every day of her life.

So if he knows Babs is Batgirl, why the heck is he wanting to track her down? They just met earlier in the day. Gail Simone is a smart writer, so I’m obviously missing something, or misreading, so please illuminate me!

Headscratching apart, I liked this Batgirl-free issue – clunkily titled ‘A Day in a Life of Endless Velocity – a lot. Just seeing Babs have a good night with ordinary human beings, not obsessing on crime, makes for a refreshing change. I’d have preferred she had 24 whole hours without a violent encounter, but at least the fight moves the story forward.

An intriguing snippet here is that Babs is on the verge of a new job, as a children’s crisis counsellor. Despite a relevant degree (Dead Robins 101?), I think she’ll be rubbish – this isn’t a woman who deals with pain and moves on, she carries it with her, embraces it, invites it for supper. Angst is oxygen to Barbara Gordon. And the only people she shares her feelings with are lunatics. Poor kids.

Something I love is that while Babs regularly faces up to hardened crims, she’s terrified of the dance floor. I know just how she feels, I can’t dance the Batusi either.

Something I don’t love is that when Gordon tells Batman he wants Batgirl for the death of his son, Batman doesn’t speak up for her. Then again, it could be that Batman believes Gordon knows Babs is Batgirl, and that she would never kill anyone, never mind family. I think that’s the subtext of this panel, anyway.

In which case, why Gordon’s insistence on bringing Batgirl in? Please don’t let him be flipping out now.

I’ve no idea why inker Jonathan Glapion was taken off the Batman book, but Batman’s loss is Batgirl’s gain. His finishes bring a bewitching sharpness to the illustrations of penciller Fernando Pasarin. Their people are outstanding – distinctive, emotive, with a Dave Gibbons feel at times (especially Babs, who resembles a ginger Laurie Jupiter). And the artists display a real flair for conveying movement. The streets of Gotham’s Cherry Hill district are as forbidding as Ricky’s family is welcoming.

Commissioner Gordon’s journey from forced cheerfulness to calm instructor to broken man in Simone’s superbly written pistol range scene is presented with sensitivity and confidence. And the tension in his confrontation with Batman is there in every line. Outstanding work.

A niggle – we see Babs in her smalls for a couple of panels, changing for her date. Despite her constant beatings, she appears unblemished. A non-prurient impression of bruises and scar tissue would make for an interesting reminder of her usual evenings as she allows herself to be excited for this one.

Blond isn’t a colourist whose name gets bandied about when the modern masters are discussed, but when it comes to choices, textures and lighting, his grasp of craft and singular style puts him up there.

Like this week’s Justice League, Batgirl #22’s cover suffers from a collision of logo and art. When the image has been drawn with scant regard for traditional logo placement, the masthead should be shrunk or moved, or the image contained in a box. Here, the logo bat-shape is see-through, but it’s still ruddy huge and invasive, marring Alex Garner’s gorgeously clever illustration. And the cover copy is trying to help, but really, it’s unnecessary and tawdry, hogging space that could help the eye land on the figure.

If you’ve not been reading Batgirl, consider a purchase; Simone’s narration by Babs always gives enough of the basics to make jumping in possible, and the art teams are always at least solid, and often excellent. Babs is one of DC’s most distinctive characters, easily as interesting as she was in her Oracle days. And Simone is working hard to present fresh, creepy villains and engaging supporting characters. What’s more, in these economically challenging times, it’s a meaty read for $2,99. Give it a try.

6 thoughts on “Batgirl #22 review

  1. I think when Jim Gordon was speaking of the girl, referencing Batgirl, he didn't mean his daughter, he meant the unknown girl who he believes was corrupted by Batman's influence. I think he sees Batman as a man, capable of making his own decisions, but he sees Batman's decision to work with young people, such as the boy Robin, or the obviously young woman Batgirl as a bad one.

    Of course, when he finds out Babs is Batgirl, his attitude may change, since he seems to think of Barbara is capable and smart, and as such, not someone to make crazy decisions without some thought.

    I don't think Ricky has her figured out, though, I never got that impression from this issue.


  2. Yeah, that's how I interpreted it. Gordon doesn't know that Batgirl is his daughter, but he sees her as somebody who may just as well have been his daughter. He's projecting his concern for Barbara onto Batgirl, unaware that they're the same person, and also sees Batman as being indirectly responsible for his son's death.


  3. Thanks Hector. In which case Jim Gordon is the world's worst detective ('That girl who could me my daughter looks like my daughter, but she's obviously just a girl who looks like my daughter… ').

    And I thought Ricky suspected from an earlier exchange, so Babs is mixing with some really dumb fellas.

    And cheers too, Neil! I really appreciate you both giving me your interpretations.


  4. One thing, though, thinking on. What about the emphasis in this Gordon line?

    'It's not just my SON in this story.' That, to me, says he's talking about his daughter. Plus, shouldn't he be ragging on Batman for taking young lads into his war too?


  5. Don't care much for this series, every issue I checked out I thought to be clumsy and awkward. With me enjoying The Movement so much more, I get the impression that Gail Simone is just not up to the task with all these serious traumatic issues. That would take more than your average superhero genre writing and, sadly, Batgirl is mostly cringeworthy in that aspect.

    That being said, thanks for the nod to Blond. I've ben noticing the guy doing my favourite color work for quite some time now and wondered how he isn't a big name (well, as “big” as a colorist can really be in this industry). Glad to see other people are taking notice as well.


  6. Great review Martin. I'll add that in addition to the issues with the cover you mention that this is yet another example of a cover that does not seem to go with the inside story in an attempt to make it seem like some 'totally extreme' thing is going to happen inside. There was no “Ultimate Sacrifice” (written in blood no less!) that I could think of, unless it was supposed to refer to her stopping being Batgirl (a decision she's 'made' in the past several issues).


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