Batgirl #23 by Gail Simone (Comics Review)

So, I just finished reading the new issue of Batgirl by Gail Simone. For the fourth time. I’ve never done that before, ever. There hasn’t been a comic yet that has gotten to me like this one has. Through all the ups and down this title has seen since launch, I’ve stuck with it. Well, technically, I only started reading sometime in August last year, or thereabouts, so I haven’t been reading long, but I’ve stuck with each issue. Gail Simone is one of my favourite writers in the industry right now and a big reason for that is this book.

As someone who was never interested in the character before, much like with Aquaman, Gail got me invested in the character. She got me to vividly experience all the ups and down that Barbara Gordon, formerly Oracle and wheelchair-bound, experienced in the New 52. And with this issue, she’s hit everything home in the worst way possible. And I mean that in a good way.

Note: spoilers for the previous story arcs now follow, so best be aware of that.

Batgirl 23Previously, we saw that James Gordon had returned to Gotham and he wanted some kind of payback. For the confused readers, I’m referring to James Jr here, the son of Commissioner Gordon and Barbara’s younger brother, who has been estranged from the family for years. His return led to a huge spiral-down of events in Barbara’s life, not the least because Joker returned at the same time and she had to deal with the mean who had crippled her in the first place. It didn’t help that James Jr returned as a psychopath. In the previous arc, just a couple issues ago, Barbara ended up killing James Jr. It was the most gut-wrenching moment in the entire series so far and marked a low-point in Barbara’s life, leading to her giving up on her identity as Batgirl.

Issue #23 deals with the fall-out of those events, since the Commissioner is now hunting for Batgirl, to bring her to justice for his son’s murder. When the issue starts, Gordon and Detective McKenna approach socialite Charise Carnes, aka Knightfall, wanting information on Batgirl’s activities. We’ve seen her before since she is one of the villains that Batgirl has put down recently and she has a big grudge against Batgirl. From thereon, the issue picks up a frenetic pace that never lets up.

And the story being told is not just a comic book. Its a cinematic event that has one rather obvious conclusion, in hindsight.

I was nervous about the issue going in. I expected some truly heart-breaking moments and that’s what Gail Simone delivered on, via the artistic genius of Fernando Pasarin and Jonathan Glapion. This issue is a dark story, make no mistake. From Barbara’s eidetic recall flashbacks to her brother’s death at her hands, to her and her roommate Alysia getting jumped on by skate punks at a mall, to Barbara’s boyfriend Ricky getting the beatdown from some gangers, all through the action-packed finale, this entire issue is a tragedy.

I read the issue once, then again, then a third time, and then again a fourth time. This speaks to the power of the script, and the art that defines this issue.

Gail Simone is on superb form here and she has undoubtedly delivered the absolute best issue of the series so far. There are so many gut-wrenching and heart-breaking moments here. The very last panel is enough to make you cry.

Jonathan Glapion has been with the book since the post-Death of the Family crossovers and Fernando Pasarin joined up just two issues ago, but they are already starting to gel together into one of the best art teams in the New 52. Aside from a somewhat odd style of drawing character faces overlong and the characters themselves appearing tall, Pasarin’s pencils are great. A distinct lack of any T&A scenes, whether gratuitous or otherwise, also helps. And indeed, this has been a defining point of this book. Batgirl has almost zero sexualisation of the character. It certainly is one of the things that draws me to the title and keeps me interested. Blond, who is the colourist on this issue, and has been for a few of the previous ones, is also on top form with Glapion and Pasarin. His colours reflect the script in each panel pretty well, and the overall dark theme that is going on is also aptly presented. And that last page was just phenomenal. All that blood, and the shadows gelled together perfectly to create a powerful final page to end this issue and lead into the next.

Finally, Alex Garner’s cover, just like the previous two that he has done are superb. Cover of the week? Most assuredly yes. As a figurative and metaphorical representation of Batgirl’s life right now, it is just perfect.

If you want to jump in on this series, this isn’t all that bad a place to start, but I would definitely recommend that you start with #19. And even read #17 and #18, written by Ray Fawkes as a fill-in due to a temporary screw up at DC, since they set up some of ongoing things. Trust me, you want the full experience.

Rating: 10/10

More Batgirl: Vol.1, Vol.2.

Posted on August 14, 2013, in 2012 Reading Challenge, 2013 Reading Challenge, 2013 Writing Challenge, Challenges, Comics Reviews, Review Central and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 18 Comments.

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