Review: Batgirl #35 by Cameron Stewart, Brenden Fletcher, and Babs Tarr

batgirl35

BATGIRL #35

“Burned” (20 pages)

Story by: Cameron Stewart & Brenden Fletcher
Pencils by: Babs Tarr

Breakdowns by: Cameron Stewart

Colors by: Maris Wicks
Letters by: Jared K. Fletcher
Covers by: Babs Tarr; Kevin Nowlan
Publisher: DC Comics
Cover Price: $2.99

 

Batgirl, Badgirl or Bratgirl??? To say that this series has taken quite a turn is a gross understatement. Never have I seen so many panels and so much dialogue in one single issue from one of the Top Two companies. This isn’t a bad thing by any means. This actually works given the fast-paced action and purposely young characters found in this issue.

 

I’m taking a different approach this time around — I quite enjoyed the radically different spin on this book. My only criticism is how Barbara has ‘de-aged’. How young is she anyways? Is she actually 21 or a bit older? Her roomies look even more youthful than her as does a surprise appearance by one of Babs’ (former) teammates.

 

Social media permeates in every single aspect of everyone’s life. This is blatant for the new direction of the series but it also reflects reality. Every single person on this planet has access to some smart device and refers to certain sites on a regular basis.

 

Babs’ move to Burnside (a ‘new’ ‘burb of Gotham) could not be more literal and/or symbolic. Gone is the grim and grit that Gail Simone feverishly worked on. Erased is the angst and anger with being one of Gotham’s guardians. New neighborhood = new lease on life = new outlook.

 

I commend the new writers for given a proper send-off to Barbara’s former roomie Alysia. She cannot help but comment how Burnside is the “cool hood” of Gotham. Alysia remains true to her activist ways by heading off to protest Genuflex, a club run by Riot Black who is infamous for unabashedly posting the juiciest dirt on any common citizen via his Black Book site. TMZ, anyone?

 

Enter new character #1: Frankie. One of Barbara’s roomies. The two of them met at physiotherapy three years prior. Babs taught Frankie some katas. I obviously had to look up this term. Kata is Japanese for “form” and is done solo or in pairs in terms of martial arts. MMMM, this is a reference to her post-Oracle days since she was miraculously cured. Interestingly enough, Gail Simone ‘promised’ to explain Barbara’s ‘cure’ to regaining her legs but she never did deliver.

 

Has Barbara reverted back to teenagehood or is this simply having the adolescence she never had given her crimefighter status? The fiery redhead is awakened by her roomie via text to inform her that a guest is awaiting her. Here’s where things are ambiguous for me — enter new character #2: Liz. Is she the other roomie or the guest that awaits Babs? That is still unclear to me when some guy named Troy walks out of the bathroom. According to Frankie, he and Barbara were making out large at the housewarming party. Part of me wants to scream and shout at how Barbara would never stoop so low. However, I love how realistic this is whether you are a super-heroine or not. This is spot on in terms of art imitating life.

 

Cameron Stewart & Brenden Fletcher continue to quickly establish Babs’ new status. Yes, I alternate between her full name and nickname. Via her smartphone, we see that Babs has new promising employment, has an impending bankrupt account, and a reminder that she can drop by her old place anytime since Alysia left her with a pair of keys. Talk about a convenient fall-back if things get rough.

 

Tech is the theme of this issue when Babs goes to a Starbucks knockoff to order some coffee when a customer complains of his tablet being taken. THIS IS THE BEST USE of Barbara’s eidetic memory in the 48 years of her existence. She literally can’t miss a thing due to this precious gift. She easily combs the new ‘hood and obviously nabs the culprit. After easily disposing of the thief, she disposes of something else — last night’s liquid consumption. Way to go, Babs! Wait, is it a badge of honor to have a hangover or a shroud of shame?

 

Enter surprise guest-star: Dinah Lance, the Black Canary! I truly was surprised 0-=   I haven’t read Birds of Prey since last year (issue 22) so I don’t know how the series actually ended. Obviously, it wasn’t on a good note since there’s awkward tension after Babs made it clear to Dinah that she didn’t want to see her. Dinah has nowhere else to go since she has lost literally everything in a fire that has razed the entire neighborhood where the Birds’ secret headquarters was located. Barbara legitimately worries about her costume, gear, and tech. Dinah rightly puts her in her place when she mentions how selfish Barbara is not wanting to talk to her but worrying about her possessions. She tells Babs that she has no choice to help, especially if a super-villain is involved. True to form, Barbara tells Dinah that it’ll be easy to pinpoint the culprit by checking her laptop. Surprise!! It’s gone. A recurring theme is developing here. So much for Babs’ ‘Oracle’ insight.

 

BEST USE of Barbara’s eidetic memory #2 – she combs the ‘crime scene’ recalling all the guests at the housewarming party. After a thorough examination and interrogation of two of the party-goers, the only way to get to the Big Bad is to sign up to a dating site. Quite the innovative way to fight crime!! Knowledge is power, after all.

 

A new costume is in order. Makes total sense since she lost her other one in the fire and since the point of this is to portray a younger, more positive and confident woman. It’s astounding how rising or established heroes/heroines have a knack to easily put together a costume. Babs is no exception and her new threads really do suit her. Less hokey, more practical and totally reflective of her youth. Takedown of thug #2 — the beat down isn’t just physical. What really makes the thug quake in his boots is the BEST USE of Barbara’s eidetic  memory #3 when she cites sensitive personal info on him. We really do live in 2014. Identity theft and public exposure are valid concerns. It’s the Age of Interaction.

The climax of the story is here! The all-new Batgirl crashes Riot Black’s concert. This “outer” is not just dangerous with his posts, he’s literally plugged into the digital world with cybernetic flash memory implants. That puts a damper on things!! Natural memory vs. artificial. Another little shock: Batgirl offers to remove the cowl and reveal her true identity for the entire world to see!!! Say it ain’t so.

 

Ever the resourceful one, Batgirl knows better than to pull a silly stunt like that. Whilst Riot Black attemps to upload her photo, he scans a QR code instead (that’s so 2011). As a result, all files are deleted. Batgirl says it best: “The Black Book is closed.” Ms. Gordon sure has come a long way from her days as a mousy librarian. She is the Oracle/Overseer of the online world!

 

Some much-needed quiet time allows Frankie to clear the air with Babs about hooking up with Troy. This doesn’t seem to faze Barbara since her integrity remains intact. With every major victory comes a small defeat. This is threefold: (1) Babs has lost all her research at her new job. (2) Dinah reappearing in Barbara’s life is no mere coincidence. It seems that there is a major force at play here. Riot Black’s tinkering of Babs’ laptop triggered the arsenal in her van parked outside the Birds’ headquarters. Babs is (in)directly to blame for Dinah’s dire straits.

 

Cue the cliffhanger — (3) Babs gets a text saying that her win is a fleeting one, that she’s not wanted in Burnside, her safety and that of others is threatened, and more importantly SOMEONE KNOWS HER SECRET IDENTITY!!! Oh, it’s also signed Batgirl with a heart. To be continued…

True confession time. I was only going to buy this issue because of all the buzz surrounding it. I wasn’t even going to flip through it. I was collecting the entire run of the current series but decided I wouldn’t continue after Gail Simone’s departure. Even though I was officially assigned this, I’m glad I went through it. What a breath of fresh air! Part of the reason why this book has so many talking about it is because of the “happy go lucky” vibe. Gotham will always be a crime-infested city but it’s appealing to see that not all of it is gloom and doom. There are many decent folk out there. The cast is portrayed as the opposite of yuppie. Just simple, straightforward everyday citizens.

 

Both writers are new to me despite being in the industry a good decade and a half. OMG, they’re Canadian just like me!! How sweet is that? I have a swelling pride in my chest for these co-creators. Now, after looking up their résumés I realize I do own some of their works eg. Batman and Robin #7-9 (Stewart) and Wednesday Comics: The Flash (Fletcher). What’s interesting here is that both men have transitioned from art to writing. I appreciate the inclusiveness of the cast: Alysia is a transgendered individual, Sevin is homosexual, and Frankie is bisexual. No need for labels, judgments or stereotypes. They are all regular folk with interests and passions. These two gentlemen definitely acknowledge and respect Barbara’s long history but move forward and bring her into the zeitgeist.

 

Artist Babs Tarr really is new to me. I’ll call her a relative unknown without any negative connotation. She’s quite active online and her artwork really seems to be permeating everywhere. I like the retro/youthful look all the characters have. The eyes say everything in each of them. It’s somewhat ‘cartoony’ but it works for this new direction. How coincidental is it that her name is Babs and that the main character is affectionately known as Babs? Cameron Stewart does a bang-up job with breakdowns, not completely letting go of his artistic ability.

 

Jared K. Fletcher gets major kudos for lettering. Aside from all the dialogue, he painstakingly recreates with pinpoint accuracy e-mails, text messages, Babs’ internet profiles, an Riot Black’s event page. This is on top of the onomatopoeia and the materials for Babs’ new costume.

 

Pastiches / Obvious References:

 

In order to avoid copyright infringement, here are the following:

 

  • Chiroptera   (the scientific name for “bat”) — Starbucks
  • Pixtagraph — Instagram
  • Hooq — any dating site
  • Snapgab — Snapchat

 

Sign of the times:

 

The overabundant use of hashtags. My question is would Riot Black actually say “hashtag” with the words that followed or was that for the readers’ benefit?

Based on the bat shape on Babs’ costume, I give this issue 7 points out of 8 (87.5%)

 

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