REVIEW: Batgirl #9

by

Or – “Crossover Doesn’t Have To Be A Bad Word…”

As the Night of Owls continues, Batgirl is dragged into the middle of a fight she has little to do with.  Would it help if she changed her name to Butterfly-Girl?

BATGIRL #9
Writer: Gail Simone
Penciller: Ardian Syaf
Inker: Vicente Cifuentes
Colorist: Ulises Arreola
Letterer: Dave Sharpe
Editor: Bobbie Chase
Publisher: DC Comics
Cover Price: $2.99

Previously, in Batgirl:  Barbara Gordon’s return to the mantle Batgirl has been eventful, with villains old and new popping up to harsh her mellow.  Now, her city is under siege, and a mysterious explosion has left her facing another mysterious foe, this one an Talon assassin from the Court of Owls.  As the city burns during the Night of The Owls, Barbara finds herself seriously outgunned in combat…

THE PAST IS PROLOGUE…

This issue opens with a really odd and interesting prologue, set in Japan during the waning days of World War II, as a group of young women help to create paper balloons that will carry bombs towards the enemy.  These ‘Fu-Go’, or fire balloons, are actually a real part of history, and they serve as a beautiful metaphor and bridge into the main story, but part of my mind is a bit confused as to whether these paper devices would have survived the ensuing 60-0dd years in a Gotham warehouse.  Either way, we find Batgirl in the immediate aftermath of one of these devices, get her butt handed to her by a female Talon assassin.  The fight goes poorly (and QUICKLY) before the killer has Batgirl at her mercy, hanging from the edge of a building, inches from disaster.  And then…

…she simply walks away, after stroking Batgirl once on the head.  It’s a very disturbing moment in an issue that’s all about confusion and disinformation, but serves the unfortunate cause of making it seem incredibly lucky that our hero is still alive.

STRANGELY, NOT BATGIRL’S STORY…

The major portion of this story isn’t really about Barbara Gordon at all, with the emotional heavy-lifting being done by Commissioner Gordon, whose run-in with the Court of Owls this issue is devastating, as they threaten his daughter.  I’m unclear as to whether they know that Barbara is, in fact, Batgirl, or not, but the warning shakes Gordon enough that he initially doesn’t respond to the chaos that the Court has unleashed in his city.  Barbara unravels part of the backstory while Afred Pennyworth, of all people, gets a full-fledged Wolverine badass moment amid the chaos.  The issue helpfully uses the mostly-forgotten technique of text boxing references to other issues in the crossover, which I appreciate, but there’s a decided lack of context for the dramatic events here.  A little wiki-magic got me all I need to know, but having not read the core Batman books does affect my enjoyment of the issue.  There’s a nice through-line about young woman that I enjoy, traveling from the second World War to the history of the Talon to Batgirl’s rather tragic history, and the last page of the book has a kick if you know your history…

THE VERDICT: INTRIGUING PARTS THAT DON’T QUITE GEL.

There are a lot of lovely parts of this issue, and the back story has a lot of emotional resonance, especially when the Talon finally explains her actions to Barbara, but overall there’s just a bit too much mystery for my taste.  Batgirl looks phenomenal, as Ardian Syaf delivers some excellent sequences throughout the issue, but things never quite come together as beautifully as the opening would have made me hope it could.  Batgirl #9 is a good one, though, don’t get me wrong, and it handles the crossover well (and ends with an effective gut-punch) earning 3.5 out of 5 stars overall.  It has done what a good crossover needs to do, as well, sending me out to seek the rest of the Night Of The Owls and see what’s up in Gotham…

Rating: ★★★½☆