Review: Batgirl #2 by Gail Simone and Ardian Syaf

If you are reading me on Comic Nexus, then you probably don’t know that I reviewed Batgirl #1 for my little blog last month. I didn’t like it very much, as I thought it was really poorly executed. I expected much more from Gail Simone, who is a writer that I like, especially with a debut issue of a character that she supposedly knows very well. To me the issue showed very little coordination between writer and artist. And it really seemed like someone was trying to cram too much stuff into a first issue.

But that happens. First issues and pilot episodes sometimes do that. And when I was picking the titles that I would read this month, Batgirl #2 was definitely on my list.

Now, from what I could see this issue got lots of praise from the internet community, with several people calling it the best book of week 1. I found it mediocre at best. So, am I the hater here? Or was everyone else just so enamored with seeing Barbara Gordon as Batgirl in costume again, that they ignore the flaws that I found.

So let’s see what we have this week.

Batgirl #2: Cut Short, Cut Deep
Writer: Gail Simone | Penciller: Ardian Syaf

In the last episode:

  • Barbara Gordon is back in the Batgirl costume having regained the use of her legs, after the Joker shot her.
  • A new villain called Mirror is in town, and has    list of people who he feels doesn’t deserve to live, and Barbara Gordon is on the list.
  • Barbara moves out of her Dad’s house where she’s been living, and finds a place with a new roommate, Alysia.
  • In a hospital, Barbara confronts Mirror who shots a cop and pushes an informant out the window, but Batgirl freezes at the sight of a gun

Synopsis

  • Batgirl chases Mirror from the hospital, nearly falling down as she tries to save the killer.
  • Commissioner Gordon takes Detective McKenna off the case, and she informs him that Batgirl is active again.
  • Batgirl chases Mirror to an exclusive Cemetery, where Mirror is reviewing his list. Barbara is able to hold her own in combat against Mirror and view his list before he runs off.
  • Barbara’s roommate helps her recover and get ready for her date with her former physical therapist, Gregor.
  • After doing some research, Batgirl tracks down Mirrors identity and his residence, where he reveals the latest part of his plan.

Questions and Answers

  1. Answer: (Or more specifically a clarification) Barbara has not been Batgirl in several years.
  2. Question: Why is Batgirl on the list? Barbara Gordon makes sense, but why Batgirl?
  3. Question: Why was Matt Zegler’s grave specifically shown? Is this important, or is this an insider joke/Easter egg?
  4. Question: Is Gregor a potential love interest for Barbara and vice versa. He kissed her on the forehead which could be early romantic or the sign that they should just be friends.
  5. Question: Continuation of the ongoing question about Barbara’s miracle. Why would Barbara accept the miracle that makes her walk, and yet not have a lie that is convincing for her Physical Therapist? (And if not, then why try and date him?)
  6. Question: Why does Barbara go to the library to look up something? Wasn’t she a computer whiz for the last 3 years? And information power broker for the good guys? I think she’d own a laptop, wouldn’t you?
  7. Question: In issue #1 when Mirror shows the criminal in the hospital his reflection in the cracked mirror, he is seriously affected. Batgirl just sees her own reflection. Is there something different about Barbara’s redemption/miracle? Is it the costume?
  8. Answer: We learn Mirror’s identity and what his motivation is for killing these people.

Analysis

This was a much better issue than the last one, but I still had some nits to pick:

Would a Gotham City Detective really immediately know who Batgirl was, when she hadn’t been active in several years?

Batgirl is fighting Mirror in a graveyard at night, while raining, and she is able to read all of the names on the Mirror’s paper in the 10 seconds before he snatches it back? They couldn’t have her have a ripped piece of the list?

I didn’t like the scene where Barbara borrows a dress from her roommate that she met yesterday. Barbara doesn’t own a dress for her date? And she’s going to borrow a dress from a girl she met yesterday? And the dress is going to fit?

And I really didn’t buy the type of dress for Alysia. I’m sure I’m stereotyping. But the writing and the art is providing the stereotype.

Barbara frets “What is it about good guys that gets me every time?” Is she actually fretting about liking good guys too much?

Barbara puts on the Batgirl costume to swing through the streets of Gotham during the daytime. Changes to go to the library, and then changes back into Batgirl to chase down a lead? Um… No… that doesn’t actually make sense if you want to keep your identity a secret. Plus, I didn’t really see her carrying a change of clothes.

Some very nice touches in this issue:

I liked Barbara knowing enough of her abilities to know that she’s not at peak performance. She even says that she’s not quite ready to be out there. This is how an athlete views their own body and abilities. I liked this a lot, and I hope it leads to a plot line, and not just something that is thrown out due to experience.

Loved the drawing of Commissioner Gordon when Detective McKenna says that Batgirl is back. Gordon had to have noticed the absence of Batgirl coinciding with Barbara’s paralysis. Either way it was a very nice tease.

I really liked the back and forth between Batgirl and Mirror at the fight above the rooftops and in the graveyard. I felt that Batgirl really brought a different approach to the ‘battle’ that is unique from the other members of the Bat Universe. I especially liked the idea that Barbara is very familiar with different types of villains, when she recognizes that Mirror is a Zealot. Felt like Oracle’s knowledge coming through.

Also very unique was the inner monologue of Barbara regarding the graveyard. It is very good for someone to remember (i.e., the writer) that Barbara comes from a blue collar family. The other members of the Bat-Universe are middle class or higher. That would be a nice thing for Gail to follow up on. Make Barbara different.

I still think the communication between Gail and Ardian is off in some way, but there were some very nice shots of Batgirl looking both sexy and powerful at the same time:

However, in this scene, I have no idea how Barbara is moving? Or what position her legs are in.

Spoiler (Skip if you need to)

Mirror is revealed to be Jonathan Mills whose family was killed in a car explosion, most likely due to the Gotham Underworld. He survives and his family perishes. However, he chooses to kill those who got the second chance instead of his family. Okay, it certainly works in a comic book. Going after miracles instead of the people who blew up the car, is a stretch, but I can live with it.

However, at the end, he says to Batgirl, “A good man would have burned to death in the car… with his family.” Huh? Because you were saved, or saved yourself, you’re not a good person? I didn’t get this. I could understand not believing in a purpose or fate or even justice, and want take that away from the people that cheat their way out of what is fated. Why would he target good people specifically?

Verdict

This was much much much MUCH better. It still had some serious flaws which did detract from the overall story. But I really thought that Gail Simone really started to get somewhere with Barbara. And that she might bring something different to the table than the others in the Batman Universe. And I liked Mirror as a villain.

Not sure how I think about it as an overall series, but this was a very pleasant read.

7.5 (Much Improved)

 

 

 

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