Monday, October 13, 2014
Big change for Batgirl
OK, so the new Batgirl comic dropped last week. It's the first issue with the new creative team, and with the new team has come a change in the overall tone and setting of her story. The 34 issue Gail Simone run was excellent and was loved by fans and critics alike; pretty much everybody was sad to see it come to an end.
Simone is one of the best comic writers out there and has written for Superman, Wonder Woman, and Deadpool before her work on Batgirl. Anyone following her has tough shoes to fill, but doing it with a major change in the stories is an even bigger challenge. The Simone run was very dark in tone, as grim as many of the Batman story arcs that we've seen over the years. That's probably what made it work for so many people. The new team is lightening things up a lot. In Simone's last issue Barbara Gordon found out the her brother James Jr. was not dead, thus exonerating her from his murder (in a fight between the two James went over a rail and seemingly vanished at sea; presumed dead, Batgirl was fingered as his killer and had to go underground). Having dealt with that problem and one of her main enemies in Gotham, Knightfall, Barbara opts to leave the part of Gotham she's lived in all this time and move to a safer, more hip part of town. The move across town is an obvious allusion for the move from one creative team to another.
So in issue 35, we find Barbara with new roomates, a new outlook on life, and a new start. Instead of being haunted by the Joker, she's haunted by the news she gets about a drunken make out session she had with a guy the night before. Her new roommates are much more fun loving than the environmental activist she shared an apartment with before. The only throwback we get to the old days are when she meets up with Dinah Lance (Black Canary), who things are still frosty with after the last mission they went on together as the Birds of Prey. By issues' end she's suited up again and gone into action, and gets a cryptic phone call from someone claiming that they know who she is. Now a lot of people are upset over the change. Batgirl was one of the best liked New 52 titles among the people who read it, and as we all know the number of people looking for a reason to whine about the New 52 are legion and looking for any reason to dish up some new complaints. This is right up their alley. Now forget that a lot of the complainers are the same people who didn't like them going back to Barbara as Batgirl in the first place when New 52 started; consistency is not a requirement to complain about comic books, after all. People wanted their Batgirl to stay dark, dammit! No time for happier stuff!
I've only read issue 35 once; I haven't given it my second reading where I usually soak in all the nuance and detail. I enjoyed Simone's run on the book, but I'm perfectly fine with them changing things up. The Simone run got a little too melancholy for my tastes at times. It's understandable that Bruce Wayne has a life that always goes to pot just as it starts to get better. Dick Grayson went through a lot of that in the Nightwing series, too. But somebody in the Bat family needs to live it up a little. Jason Todd is nuts, and Tim Drake is all responsible as the Teen Titans leader. That leaves Barbara; seeing as how she's the one with the closest to a normal life of the crew it makes sense to lighten her story up a little for a spell. No murdered parents and no death at the hands of the Joker followed by a dip in a Lazarus Pit. Yes, she has a psychotic brother and yes she did get shot and paralyzed by the Joker, but she recovered from all that. She can have some fun in her story without it turning into a death wish for those around her.
We'll see what happens over the next few months. If you've been reading it, I advise you to continue. Don't drop the book because it switched up some. After 34 issues, maybe it was time to do so even if things were going strong. The books are for enjoyment after all.