Thursday, January 12, 2012

Batgirl #4

Cover by Adam Hughes

Batgirl #4 (December 14, 2011)
Writer: Gail Simone
Penciller: Ardian Syaf
Inker: Vincente Cifuentes
Colorist: Ulises Arreola
Letterer: Dave Sharpe

I have reacted indifferently to the majority of the re-launched Batgirl series and Batgirl #4 is no exception, sadly.

There has been very little about this series to pull me in and at this point, I genuinely miss Oracle. Barbara as Batgirl is still struggling with her identity and the miraculous use of her legs after being shot by the Joker over a year ago. Perhaps this is the reason why her characterization feels rather off. This Barbara Gordon never seems sure of anything and if there was one thing I could always rely on Barbara for, it was her steadfastness.

Instead, Simone imbues Barbara’s constant inner monologue with a lot of self-reflection and doubts bordering on Batman levels of self-pity. It was quite exhausting. Furthermore, her dedication to crime fighting feels rather superficial, particularly in her final confrontation with the Mirror. Though she does, rather forcefully, make him literally confront his past demons, Barbara learns nothing from or about the Mirror. For someone ruthlessly killing many people in Gotham, the Mirror just appears to be not very important. He could’ve been a really fabulous villain but he never really transcended beyon kitsch one-shot.

Of course, the symbolism of the Mirror was really important and illustrated quite literally numerous times in this series, especially this latest issue. Simone is a very strong writer normally and I just wish Batgirl hadn’t descended into so much doubt and confusion. I know it’s important for a writer to stretch and place characters in new and uncomfortable situations but I felt that so much more could’ve been done with the now walking Batgirl. Is it wrong that I care more about her vigilante abilities than her personal problems? How important is the personal with our superheroes and how come I get the feeling that the personal is most important with our female superheroes?

Syaf’s art was pretty good and his characterization of Batgirl was spot-on. Arreola’s coloring was dark and very Gothamy, which is run of the mill in Batman related comics. I do wish, however, that he had played with light a bit more rather than simply wash the panels in darkness.

Simone also ended the issue with a cliffhanger, though one that is decidedly personal and has nothing to do with Barbara’s vigilante life. I suppose I’m curious to see where this series is headed but I do hope that Barbara develops a lot more, as well.

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