BookBin2014: Batgirl Volume 3: Death of the Family and Volume 4: Wanted

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It seems to be that I’m locked in a ménage à trois with Kate Kane and Barbara Gordon. I spend time with one…I inevitably then spend time with the other. It’s not a bad relationship, to be sure…especially when you’ve got someone like Gail Simone still plotting the course for Batgirl (I can’t really deal with Batwoman’s future right now).

Simone is still at the helm, thankfully, for Batgirl’s third and fourth graphic novel collections, Death of the Family and Wanted. The third volume is part of an umbrella story arc that ran through a few other Gotham-related characters’ comics as well, but was still compartmentalized quite nicely enough that you don’t need to read the others if you’d rather not (which I’d rather not, thank you). There were a couple of elements that I was a bit curious about, but the wonderful thing about teh Interwebz is that you can find the answers to almost any of life’s lesser mysteries with the click of a few mouse buttons or the swipe or two of a finger. It’s fantabulous, is what it is.

I love that one of the holdovers from the “clean slate” reboot that continues to remain a significant part of Batgirl’s storyline–being previously shot and paralyzed by the Joker–returns in this collection, full-throttle. I love that the writer who helped Barbara Gordon deal with the aftermath of that moment in her life is once more leading our heroine through the fray. I also love that Simone is one of those rare gems of a writer in that she’s able to balance between the action and the interpersonal connections of her characters with the dancer’s grace of Batgirl herself. Sometimes, she falters a bit…but she is mostly on-point the entire time.

Same continues into the fourth collection, which deals with the aftermath of how the third collection ended. Cliffhangers are cliffhangers, denizens. They keep you hanging on and hanging around. I would love to give more details regarding the action…but spoilers. I don’t necessarily mind mentioning something like Batgirl’s former paralysis by the Joker because that original action happened many moons ago at the hands of a Joker wielded by the pen of Alan Moore. The expiration date on keeping that secret ran out a long time ago. However, all this action is new and fresh–and quite enjoyable. Again, I feel a bit guilty stating this, but I think Batgirl is having the better run in the Bat Race between her and Batwoman.

Why do I say this? More holistically solid writing. Less misogynistic artwork. Way less. Again, I can’t help but wonder if this is because Simone is at the helm of the writing, but the artwork for Batgirl not only has been consistently beautiful, but it also rarely ever feels exploitative. It’s celebratory of the female form, yes. It’s depicting physiques that are physically impossible, yes. It’s a comic book. That’s allowed. What shouldn’t be allowed is wanton sexism and objectification of women. And that is something that has been blissfully absent from each one of Batgirl’s collections. I wish I could say the same of Batwoman.

The other thing that I will mention in this review, that happened in a beautifully understated and naturalistic way, is this moment:

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Alysia Yeoh is Barbara Gordon’s roommate. If you’d like to know more about Simone’s rationale for this character, you can read it here.

With what transpired with Batwoman and the fallout of Williams and Blackman leaving before they could even finish their story arc, I’m admittedly skittish about this revelation. I’ve no idea where it will go from here. If it were up to Simone only? I’d have no worries at all. She is brilliant and kind and will give this character the respect she deserves. However, there’s always the shadow of DC itself, hovering over its characters and making rash decisions for no logical reason. I hope nothing bad happens to Alysia. I’ll be watching, DC. Make note.

Final Verdict: Keepers, they both are. I was a little meh about the revelation at the end of the fourth collection, but mainly because it was predictable in that genre fiction way. However, cliffhanger failure notwithstanding, these two were solid entries into the New 52 continuation of Batgirl’s story.