When I do comic reviews, I tend to try to avoid anything spoiler-y. I would prefer that the reviews focus on the strength of the story and let those who read my thoughts not get drawn into so-and-so was killed or “Another Jean Grey resurrection?” type comment. I try to keep those types of reviews to a minimum. This will not be one of those reviews. No, this one is definitely going to give some spoilers away, thanks to the last 2 freaking pages. So, reader beware: There be spoilers here. It won’t be for a little bit, so you have time to go back to something else before reading on.
Still here? OK, good.
First off, let me say this. The change in the creative teams was one such that I was considering dropping this book. Those who have read some of my other reviews know that I am on a quest to reduce my monthly purchases. Many of the cancellations of titles from both Marvel and DC leading up to their respective universe-changing events managed to do that for me. Batgirl was not one of the cancelled books, but it did end up in my “almost done with it” list. This is not due to the skills of the creators on the book. No, Cameron Stewart and Brenden Fletcher have written a solid story. It is enjoyable. The problem is that the transition from the Gail Simone era to the Stewart/Fletcher era seemed completely disjoint to me. It was such a drastic shift in character that it seemed poorly executed. At the end of Simone’s run, Barbara Gordon asked her roommate Alysia Yeoh to come with her on a new adventure. Simone’s run had a defined end and opened up the door to a new chapter.
The new chapter arrived, but Alysia was nowhere to be found. A supporting character that had grown in the title was suddenly gone. Add to that, Barbara was suddenly back in school, had new roommates, and there were a few timing differences that seemed to have gone out the window. (By timing differences, I mean things like Dinah “Black Canary” Lance hanging out with a number of college-age kids, when we know she is quite a bit older than the standard crew due to her time in Team 7.) It seemed like the previous run was just discarded, especially with the sudden switch from the dark and gritty era to this new, brighter-style era – complete with a costume change, a brighter visual aspect to the series, and just feel like a completely different series and a completely different character. Not a coming-of-age character, but something that was something like a step back almost. It’s hard to describe. The last few issues, this title was one that made it to the top of my “drop” list.
The finale of this issue… It is off that list. From what I can guess, this feeling of a different character was intentional. The change in persona, the different feel… I get the feeling that this was completely intentional. Sure, DC did announce a change in direction but I originally did not feel it was going to be to this extent. Instead, this final page calls into question (at least to me) everything about this creative team’s run to date and how real it truly is. It also teases something that fans have been asking DC to address since the New 52. And the only way to truly address it is with the last page in question:
Although they have not said it, it appears that Oracle is back. Barbara Gordon. Batgirl. Oracle. In one frickin’ title. There is NO way that I could pass up this title now – I have to see what happens. (My only grumble is that I have to pick up the next issue of Secret Origins now, and I had no desire to pick up that series at all.)
As you can see above, the art from Babs Tarr is – as I had said – bright. It’s the opposite of what had come in the previous run, which was much darker, much like the entire DC Universe since the New 52 launched. It’s the opposite of the entire Bat-family line, which may also be why the art was a little disconcerting at first. But the more I read it, the more I love the art, and with the cliffhanger that this issue ended on I love it even more. The changes that Tarr made to the Batgirl outfit were not too jarring, and to be honest seemed to herald back to the original 1960’s Batman TV series, and so having a lighter feel to the visuals really made that change welcome. As well, there appears to be a lot of influence from the Paul Dini/Bruce Timm style of art; at least that is the take that I get. (For those who don’t recognize the names, think Batman: The Animated Series.) It’s a little cartoony, but amazingly detailed. It promotes a fun sense of the story, which too may of DC’s current super hero line do not (with the exception of Justice League 3000 which has our bwa-ha-heroes back in the spotlight.) This difference is one reason why I continued to pick up Batgirl even after the first couple of issues of the creative team, which is usually how long I will give a new team to prove that they are telling a story that I want to read. I did not know the writers before their run here, neither did I know Tarr’s artwork. It was the art that kept me around to this point, and damn, now I am glad that I did.
This is one of the few New 52 titles I think I could give a top rating to of late. I may be somewhat biased, due to the possibility of Oracle here (even though I know I will see classic Oracle during Convergence), but I never saw this coming. And that’s what I want out of a good story.
Writers: Cameron Stewart and Brendan Fletcher
Artist: Babs Tarr
Colorist: Maris Wicks
Publication Date: April 2015