REVIEW: Batgirl #16
Or – “And That Gail Simone Always Seemed So Nice And So Normal…”
Batgirl has been through some pretty intense stuff in her second run as a costumed hero, but nothing could prepare her (or the reader) for what happens next… Your Major Spoilers review awaits!
Writer: Gail Simone
Penciler(s): Ed Benes/Daniel Sampere
Inker(s): Ed Benes/Vicente Cifuentes
Colorist: Ulises Arreola
Letterer: Dave Sharpe
Editor: Brian Cunningham
Publisher: DC Comics
Cover Price: $2.99
Previously, in Batgirl: The Joker is back in town, and he’s just as disturbed as ever, perhaps even more so. His latest mad scheme has many layers, but one of them is forcing Batgirl to be his bride through the careful use of hostages. Their last interaction ended her superhero career and nearly her life, what will the new confrontation bring?
A MEANINGFUL FLASHBACK…
We open the issue with a flashback to Barbara’s days in a wheelchair, as she discusses her feelings about her paralysis and the man who put her in that position by explaining her recurring dream: Strangling the life out of the life out of the Joiker, and never being entirely sure that she’s sad about the violence or the fact that it’s just a dream. It’s a very short sequence, but one that very boldly draws the lines of our “new” Batgirl’s world. Smash-cut to the present, as the Joker forces Batgirl into a farcical marriage, with the life of Barbara’s mother (held hostage by the madman) in the balance. Having not read all the Bat-titles, this issue is my first in-depth look at the skin-mask Joker, and his appearance makes him an even more disturbing character to look at. Sadly for my enjoyment of the issue, though, the first ten pages are drawn by Ed Benes, and come across as very sketchy and cross-hatch heavy, a perception made even more obvious by the clean work of Sampere and Sifuentes in the second half of the book. When the Joker pulls out a chainsaw with evil intentions (drawn by Benes) it’s unpleasant, but a mere two pages later, the same character gains MUCH more menace under the second art team, leaving me with a ‘what could have been’ feeling about that dramatic sequence…
MORE THAN ONE LUNATIC IN PLAY.
Things get more complicated when Barbara’s little brother (himself recently escaped from Arkham Asylum) arrives to gum up the works, and the second half of the issue is a series of reversals that play incredibly well to build the tension. Will Batgirl kill the Joker? Will he be able to fulfill his horrifying plans for her? (Trust me, you don’t want that one spoilered, you definitely want to read it for yourself, if only for the shudder factor.) Simone and company do a very good job of making us doubt our hero and her ability to avoid cold-blooded murder, and the big twist into the last-page reveal caught me completely off-guard. The ‘Death Of The Family’ crossover continues in Batman #17 (which I’m sure Stephen will be willing to tell me about at some point) but this issue works as a continuation of last months’ tale, the overall arc of Batgirl, as well as dealing with the elephant in the room that is her miraculously recovery from years (our time) of paralysis to return to her black and gold cape. All in all, there’s a lot to recommend here, but once again I find the work of a “fan-favorite” artist (Benes, in this case) to be distracting and to detract from the story being told. It’s not as bad as Amazing Spider-Man #700 was for me, but they change in quality and tone of the two art jobs here is a little bit heart-breaking…
THE BOTTOM LINE: DISTURBING AS HELL, IN A MOSTLY GOOD WAY.
In short, this is a strong issue of a good title, and everyone who lamented and/or cheered at the annoucement of Gail’s firing and re-hiring on this book should definitely pick up a copy to show DC just what kind of quality they’ve got on their hands. Batgirl #16 works as drama, as part of a crossover, as a single-issue, and features the amazing sight of hand-to-hand combat with a chainsaw involved, earning 4 out of 5 stars overall. If I could somehow guarantee that the rest of the crossover is of this quality, I’d even be interested in perusing the mainstream Batman titles…
DID YOU READ THIS ISSUE? RATE IT!