REVIEW: Batgirl #13

by

Or – “The Importance Of The Conjunction…”

This issue promises to be the first meeting of Batgirl and the man who crippled her since the events of ‘The Killing Joke.’  I’m presuming that they mean in the New 52, as I’m pretty sure that Gail Simone already wrote that same story back during the original run of Birds of Prey some years ago, but it should be noted that I’m trying not to say things like that any longer, as I don’t like being That Guy.  What does ‘Death Of The Family’ have in store for Babs Gordon?  Your Major Spoilers review awaits!

BATGIRL #13
Writer: Gail Simone
Penciler: Ed Benes
Inker: Ed Benes
Colorist: Ulises Arreola
Letterer: Dave Sharpe
Editor: Brian Smith
Publisher: DC Comics
Cover Price: $2.99

Previously, in Batgirl:  Something wicked this way comes, and all that jazz, as the mad vigilante known as Knightfall has ambushed Batgirl, stabbing the Dominoed Daredoll brutally at the end of issue #12 a couple months ago.  Zero Month could not have come at a worse time for this title, as Barbara Gordon has been lying on the floor bleeding for nearly SIXTY DAYS!  Let’s not wait any longer!

BENES IS BACK, AND I’M QUITE WORRIED…

As someone who collected the original run of ‘Birds of Prey’ from the very beginning (blah blah blah original issues fishcakes), I have to say that Ed Benes’ return to the adventures of Barbara Gordon doesn’t fill me with hope.  His work on BoP was both too sketchy and too cheese-cakey, leaving the characters with identical faces, limited expressions and seriously pneumatic anatomy.  (Don’t even get me STARTED on the Brad Meltzer/Ed Benes issues of JLA.)  I am happy to report that the first few pages of this book defy my expectations, as a badly beaten Batgirl lies on the floor trying to gather her strength while Knightfall rants about the Bat-Family’s protection of the city.  There are backgrounds, Batgirl’s expression clearly conveys her pain, and both women are fully covered and proportioned realistically.  I am, all in all, very happy with the art in this issue, especially at the point where Batgirl plays possum, then ambushes Knightfall brutally, beating the living hell out of her opponent with heavy-duty martial arts mayhem and a limited amount of focus on Barbara Gordon’s perfectly sculpted hindquarters.

ANOTHER BAT IN TIGHT BLACK LEATHER…

The battle is back-and-forth, but the intrusion of one of Knightfall’s other victims gives her the upper hand, and the arrival of Batwoman ends the conflict handily.  Sadly, the second half of the issue gives us a different Ed Benes than we had in the first half, as the sketchy art that I feared reappears as soon as Batgirl returns home, and her poor roommate spends two panels with virtually no face at all.  As the issue ends, we find three of Batgirl’s most recent foes (Gretel, The Mirror and Grotesque) being interviewed by person or persons unknown, tying them together, and giving us a final page cliffhanger that gets your attention.  The long delay has affected my enjoyment of the end of this arc, and the majority of this issue isn’t the prologue promised on the cover but wrap-up of the previous thing that was going on, and there is no Joker to be seen anywhere in this issue, something that I expected based on the promotional materials for the book.  There is some confusing stuff involving Barbara’s brother, and Benes’ seeming inability to draw differentiated faces does undermine the last two pages (which is sad, given that they’re the crux of the ‘Death Of The Family’ material in the issue) but most of this is some pretty good stuff.

THE BOTTOM LINE: ROUGHLY ¾ EXCELLENT..

The first half of the issue is quite good, with some nice tension between the lead and the villain, some real worry for Batgirl’s well-being, and the reveal of Knightfall’s true identity.  Batwoman’s arrival works okay, but things are immediately awkward, as Batgirl herself says that Knightfall will easily buy her way out of prison.  There’s a couple of weird moments, and a very well-written climax undermined by sub-par art, leaving me with a mixed impression of the comic in question.  Batgirl #13 makes me wonder if the artist had to rush the end a bit, but has some nice character moments for Barbara Gordon, even if they’re undermined by deceptive trade dress on the cover, earning 3 out of 5 stars overall.  I’m interested to see what happens with the promised Joker/Batgirl confrontations, though, and this is still my favorite of DC’s monthly Bat-titles…

Rating: ★★★☆☆

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