REVIEW: Batgirl #20

by

Or – “Get Ready For The Nightmares…”

There’s a new Ventriloquist in town, and she…  she…

She scares me.  Your Major Spoilers review (from behind the sofa) awaits!

Batgirl20CoverBATGIRL #20
Writer: Gail Simone
Penciler(s): Daniel Sampere & Carlos Rodriguez
Inker(s): Jonathan Glapion with Vicenta Cifuentes
Colorist: Blond
Letterer: Dave Sharpe
Editor: Katie Kubert
Publisher: DC Comics
Cover Price $2.99

Previously, in Batgirl: After her Bat-fellows were kidnapped and psychologically scarred by The Joker, Barbara “Batgirl” Gordon had her own psycho to take down, in the form of her brother James, Jr.  That battle ended badly, with James dead and Batgirl hunted by her own father, Commissioner Gordon.  Where do all the chips land?

A TERRIFYING ORIGIN…

Our story opens nine years in the past, at a birthday party, as we see the series of events that creates the newest version of the Ventriloquist.  If you’re a fan of Gail’s writing from ‘Secret Six’ and ‘Birds of Prey,’ you know that there are some really terribly dark places in the woman’s head, and that’s where this flashback takes place.  To it’s credit, the art team (I’m not sure which penciller did which portions of the story) keeps up its end of the bargain, giving us equal doses of sympathetic and terrible, and those pages alone would have earned this book 2.5 stars.  (If you’re wondering, their impact is such that you have to go read it for yourself, and yes…  I’m aware of the name of the website.)  Cut to Barbara arriving at her therapist’s office in tears, overwhelmed by the sheer volume of her recent tragedies.  I like the fact that the relationship between Batgirl and the psychologist feels authentic and even supportive, with the Doctor even sharp enough to know that Barbara isn’t telling her everything (notably the parts about her nocturnal vigilantism.)

THERE MAY BE SOME POWERS INVOLVED, HERE…

Babs tells the story of her clash with the Ventriloquist in flashback, and we even get a little bit of Knightfall in the issue, but the star of it all is Ferdie, her wooden partner, who has a few tricks of his own (some of them, razor-sharp.)  A Simon Cowell analogue gets the first taste of Ferdie’s perfidy after saying that he could see her lips move, leaving the villain to capture the not-Paula-Abdul girl (or perhaps not-Mariah-Carey, I don’t know what year it is) and set up the conflict.  Things get ugly, and Ferdie and the Ventriloquist escape, but with a grudge against Batgirl that will lead into next issue, but the emotional climax and cliff-hanger comes as we see the GCPD dredging the harbor for the body of James Gordon, Jr.  The Commissioner is grim, and refuses to let his men interview his wife, insisting that his story is the one that matters, and that his son’s murderer is Batgirl… and she is going to PAY.  It’s disturbing to see the usually straight-arrow commish filled with rage, and I wonder if we’re finally going to see his resources turning on the Bat-family, not knowing that his vendetta is with his own daughter.

THE BOTTOM LINE: FOR ONCE, THE ART DOESN’T LET THE STORY DOWN.

Short form?  This is a good’n.  Visually, the multiple pencillers and inkers deliver an issue that’s consistent, well-rendered, and dramatic, especially in the design of the new villain and her partner.  Most importantly, Gail Simone manages to follow-up the big media reveal last issue with the best overall package they’ve delivered since before ‘Death Of The Family.’  Batgirl #20 hits the spot, and scares the heck outta me, earning a nicely-handled 4.5 out of 5 stars overall.

Rating: ★★★★½

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