Tuesday, January 28, 2014


"Are you seriously going to complain that you can walk again? You think you’re the only person who’s ever regained mobility?”

- Black Canary to Batgirl

Oddly, with Batgirl Vol. 2, Gail Simone goes back to Batgirl’s past rather than immediate recovery after The Killing Joke. It begins with the day she became Batgirl and puts on a bat suit while trapped in the GCPD. This volume deals more with the psychological damage caused by the Joker, instead of her physical frailty. More to the point, it incorporates The Court of Owls and even a Bane-type character in a gang. I get that it all connects her to Batman’s history, but frankly it feels a little recycled.

Batgirl faces three enemies: An epicure in a devil mask named Grotesque who can channel electricity. Now, I liked this part of the story, but mainly because there’s a brief cameo from Black Canary who trains with Batgirl and reminds her she never complained before when she was in a wheelchair. (As Oracle, leader of The Birds of Prey.)

From there, there’s a weird subplot about a young girl, (Ms. Carnes.) whose home was invaded by a mass murderer, and she now tortures evildoers for revenge! And now James Jr. is a psychopath working with The Court of Owls. Ew. Too many good-guy-turned-evil twists. But, I guess comics just work that way.

That’s not the Bane girl. Her name is Bonebreaker, her gang member. Their leader is the young girl…who’s name is Knightfall. But, as Batgirl is tracking Grotesque, the Owls take over Gotham. This is clearly meant to overlap with The Court of Owls storyline, which was running at the same time. Fair enough. I just don’t see why James Jr. had to be brought in. We’ve established that the histories are intertwined. Leave Batgirl’s family alone.

Also, her estranged mother comes and leaves again. And it’s established that Joker is tracking her a la The Killing Joke near the end. Poor Batgirl just can’t get a break with the family issues. Although I guess it follows the same logic as Court of Owls Vol. 2, where it’s revealed that Batman’s long-lost brother is leading the owls.  Not a lot I liked about this one, with it’s constant interwoven plot twists.

 One part I did like though, was when she mistakenly battles Batwoman in a police detective’s apartment, believing her to be an undercover agent of Knightfall’s gang. (Yeesh. What a corny name: Knightfall. Even the name Knightfall recalls Bane‘s entry title!) So in the end, she’s able to track Knightfall and work with Batwoman to free the prisoners. She gets the prisoners to hold Ms. Carnes back so she can fight her. The end of the novel seems to suggest a volume 3, with all Batgirl’s former villians being freed, (Mirror, Grotesque, and Gretel.)

Overall, I feel like Volume 2 kind of sacrificed the originality of exploring her recovery in favor of getting her back into action. This is okay, since action is what heroes and heroines do, but I was more upset by the co-opting of The Court of Owls and Bane-type plotlines. Surely, Batgirl can survive with an original rogue gallery rather than cheap Batman knock-offs. And not to dwell on the training scene with Black Canary, (My favorite part!) but that one scolding scene is basically all we get from the recovery angle so richly explored in the first volume.

So in conclusion, the action was fun, and I really enjoyed the first half, until The Court of Owls and a Bane clone were brought in. I don’t think Batgirl should be a Batman clone. She’s got her own individual origin (Explored in this volume!), rogue gallery, and set of issues to deal with…such as being paralyzed by Joker.

Now, some might say she can’t dwell on it forever, but I maintain that without her own set of issues, Batgirl becomes a Batman clone…and she’s capable of more than that. In sum, I knew they’d drop the recovery angle, but I guess I…was still disappointed by how quickly it was dropped. By the way, for the original characters in the first half, I give this 3 stars, but the Owl/Bane parallels are groan worthy.

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