Batgirl Annual 2014 (Comics Review)

Given that April was a five-week month for comics releases, the final week saw the release of a lot of annuals from various publishers, plus some additional material here and there since Free Comic Book Day coincided with the Saturday of the week as well and that saw the release of quite a few freebies. As far as I’m concerned, Batgirl has been one of DC’s best titles in the New 52, especially when the title is under Gail Simone’s pen since I haven’t liked any of the issues written by the two guest writers we’ve had so far. Gail just… gets the characters and in the new annual issue, she shows that off quite nicely.

Last year’s Batgirl Annual focused on Batgirl, Catwoman and the Talon named Strix. It was a pretty damn good read and the Batgirl/Catwoman story was something I’ve wanted to see more of since. However, Gail goes a very different route this time, by showing us one of Batgirl’s “missing” adventures with the Birds of Prey when the team was still getting together in the New 52. It focuses on Batgirl’s relationship with Poison Ivy and is quite a cerebral read with Robert Gill and Javier Garrón’s artwork being especially nice.

Batgirl Annual 02 2014Very recently, we got to see Poison Ivy get a great outing in the pages of Jimmy Palmiotti and Amanda Conner’s Harley Quinn and the refreshing team-up of these two characters was awesome. When characters get together like that, or crossover like that, it is great because it allows the writers to explore more than the on-the-surface mission statement and really get the characters to connect with each other beyond the superficial. That is what happens here with Gail’s team-up of Batgirl and Poison Ivy. They were both a part of Black Canary’s clandestine team Birds of Prey when she got it together, although Poison Ivy ended up betraying the team. Writer Duane Swierczynski enjoyed a really good run on that title before it left, and one of the best things about it was the inclusion of Poison Ivy herself.

And this is something else that Gail explores in the new annual. This is one of the “missing” moments from those days and it gives a spotlight to both these characters, but especially to Poison Ivy, who has been rather neglected of late, even though she got her own Villain’s Month title last year and was a core component of John Layman’s Gothtopia arc for the Bat-books earlier this year. She is a character that I have often been fascinated by and I loved how Gail explored her as a supervillain, going into explanations of her powers and her psyche as well. That isn’t something that you see often in comics.

In these pages, Gail references last year’s Villain’s Month issue for Poison Ivy and she also references the deep friendship that the villain has with Harley Quinn, and those references are what really push the story here over the top and into the brilliant category. Honestly, if we could get more villain pieces like this then things would be much better for villains in the DC-verse. Hell, I wish Marvel would do something similar as well!

There are four chapters in this annual and each focuses on a different season and shows how Poison Ivy’s powers are affected by the seasons. And not just her powers but also her personality, which was indeed a most refreshing experience. The dialogue can get a bit confusing at times, which is unusual for Gail’s writing, but I didn’t have too much trouble following along, so that’s something.

Robert Gill has worked on Batgirl before and his work is quite decent indeed. But I have to say that he really hits the mark in this issue. With an expanded canvas for the story, he really goes to town and the artwork throughout the issue is pretty damn amazing, especially whenever we see Poison Ivy using her powers, whether she is with the Birds of Prey or otherwise. Javier Garrón also gets in a few pages at the end to show off his work and he doesn’t disappoint either. Slight inconsistency with the rest of the issue, but nothing major. Romulo Fajardo Jr. does the colours in this issue and his work is just as amazing as the pencils. Each season has a different thematic visual feel to it and I loved that aspect. And I should also mention that Clay Mann and Paul Mounts’ cover for this issue is amazing too.

Batgirl Annual #2 (2014) isn’t quite the story I was expecting, but it ended up being quite good even if I had some trouble understanding some of the events and the dialogue. It is nice to get a standalone story for this series, considering all the crossovers that have happened recently, and that’s the true value of this book. Anyone can pick it up and dive right in.

Rating: 8.5/10

More Batgirl: Vol.1, Vol.2, #23, #24, #26, #27, #28, #29, #30.

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Posted on May 6, 2014, in Comics Reviews, Review Central and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 5 Comments.

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