Tag Archives: barbara gordon

Review: Batgirl #1

BatgirlCoverRafaBatgirl’s recent tradition of striking visuals continues in this new volume and its new creative team of writer Hope Larson (A Wrinkle in Time), artist Rafael Albuquerque (Huck), and colorist Dave McCaig (American Vampire). They take Barbara Gordon out of her home, company, and friends in Burnside and take her on a road trip through Asia. Her first stop is Japan where she runs into a good friend, meets a superhero from the past, and gets into a hand to hand fight with a woman, who looks like the adopted daughter of Sailor Moon and DC’s Katana. It’s a fun story filled with lively dialogue, fluid combat sequences, and a clever use and exploration into Babs’ eidetic memory. Unfortunately, Larson doesn’t give us much time to explore or enjoy Japan before immediately moving to another location, which is my only major issue with this comic.

From the action-packed cold open, Albuquerque’s art and McCaig’s colors excite the senses with brisk speed lines, a sharp orange palette, fierce action poses Like Frank Miller and John Romita Jr before him, Albuquerque chooses storytelling over photorealism, and it pays off and immerses you into the story even if the Batgirl and her Chinese-American friend Kai’s attacker isn’t developed as an antagonist just yet. Later, in the story, Albuquerque uses grids to show the precision of Fruit Bat’s movements as she goes from asleep 104 year old woman in  a wheelchair to complete and utter badass. On the other hand, he uses wider panels for the quick lunges and reckless abandon of Batgirl’s antagonist, who is out of control.

During the quieter scenes, Albuquerque returns to the grids to focus on more intimate, character focused scenes like when Kai is talking about returning to his ancestors’ homeland to find himself while the bigger panels work better with the more comedic moments like Kai puking his guts out after having octopus. McCaig’s colors enhance Babs’ emotions like a deep purple background when she is astonished by Fruit Bat’s combat skill or a harsh pink when she’ locked in mortal combat with her attacker. He also lets Albuquerque’s art breathe and doesn’t cover all of BatgirlInteriorRafahis lines and black space.

The plot of Batgirl #1 has some cliches, like American tourists not being able to handle other countries’ food and the mysterious, almost silent female Asian assassin, found in dozens of action movies. But Larson shines in the characterization department by having Batgirl worried about her life and company back home in Burnside while appreciating having a break and getting to enjoy Japanese culture. She doesn’t force a romance between Kai and Babs and has them slowly reconnect through memories of their childhood in Chicago with police officer fathers as well as fun quips about the Midwest. (Kai doesn’t like sea food even though Lake Michigan and Superior are basically oceans.) Larson also makes Kai essential to the key mystery as seen in the cold open, but focuses on who he is as a person instead of immediately turning him into a plot device.

Batgirl #1 has fantastic artwork from Rafael Albuquerque and Dave McCaig, who excel at depicting the detailed backgrounds of a to using diagram type panels to simulate Babs’ eidetic memory. Hope Larson writes some charming character interactions between Babs and Kai as well as showing Batgirl’s admiration for Fruit Bat and empathy for her because they both used to be or are currently disabled. But unfortunately their time together is cut short as Babs moves onto the next country in search of some amorphous “teacher”. However, unlike some other people at DC Entertainment, Larson, Albuquerque, and McCaig respect Batgirl and depict her in a thrilling, yet nuanced way. Hopefully, the book doesn’t slide into “white person is trained in martial arts by Asian person” cliches as Babs’ road trip continues.

Story: Hope Larson Art: Rafael Albuquerque Colors: Dave McCaig
Story: 7 Art: 9 Overall: 8 Recommendation: Read

DC Comics provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review

Review: Grayson #12

STK682753“Back to the Nest”

First off I will say that I have been saying the praises of this series for quite a while now, and I must say now I want to start singing them. Every time I think the bar has been raised, the creative team seems to trapeze with ease right over it.

For the past 11 issues Dick Grayson has been taken out of Gotham and thrust into the world of SPYRAL and international intrigue. It has been a wild ride thus far and even with Dick being in a new element it’s been him at his most “Grayson” in a long time. Well this issue might just be him at his most “Graysonest” (Not a word I know, but it darn should be) ever. Whether it’s as Dick Grayson, Nightwing, or Agent 37, this team just gets it. So when I read that this would be the issue that he makes his grand return to Gotham, I got so excited. I had my reservations but my faith in this series far outweighed my worries. I was right. This was brilliant.

Those who are regular readers are usually treated to high-octane action, secret agent double crosses, dangerous romantic exploits and quips and jokes by the boatload. Well this month we take a slight hiatus from that format. This is a simple story at its core. Just a story about a man who has been estranged from his family for a long time, and he finds his way home.

First things first, the former first Robin needs to see: The Bat. To his chagrin, Bruce Wayne is and no longer remembers being Batman. Ever.

GRAY_12_2Alfred, has made it clear to Dick, that during Bruce’s final battle with the Joker, (Back in Batman #35-40 by Bat Lords Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo) Batman finally died but Bruce Wayne survived. Dick needing to see this for himself, decides to dress in disguise to go see a Bruce Wayne who doesn’t remember him anyway.

What makes this scene work so well is that the page is adorned in many thought bubbles. To the not so keen eye, they appear to be random thoughts. To the eyes of an honorary detective however you discover that every single solitary one of them has been seen in print in the pages of a Batman or DC Comic before. I thought this was a fantastic touch, almost a literary semblance of seeing ones life flash before their eyes but with thoughts. They are all excerpts from former conversations between the original Batman and Robin: Bruce Wayne and Dick Grayson. The writers managed to take the very long history between the two and condense it down into just quotes on one page. A great device that brings the reader up to speed without having the overuse of long-winded narration to get the point across. Before Dick leaves he asks Bruce just one last question. “Are you happy?”  Bruce isn’t able to give him a clear-cut answer since he has no memory of his past and isn’t quite sure what to feel. Dick realizes that it may not be the same Bruce Wayne standing in front of him at that moment. One thing is crystal clear though. Batman is not home anymore.

tumblr_nv4panMqjJ1spjdwjo1_1280Next stop up, we find Dick getting punked out on a rooftop between his former “Robin boy wonders in arms” Jason Todd and Tim Drake. Like Bruce, Dick has a storied past with both these individuals. They all at one time were the successor to the mantle of Robin in some form and the teen sidekicks of the Dark Knight. Dick tries to explain his side of the story to the both of them but it falls on deaf ears. (Faking your own death to your best friends, has a way of getting to the toughest of us) He goes on and on trying to explain the reason, that it was the greater good and the greatest burden he had to bear to keep them safe. They simply say to him that he shouldn’t have lied to them because above all else, they aren’t just siblings of the Bat, they are brothers. Then and there, Dick understands they are right. Before he leaves he says a small speech to each and presents them with two Batarangs. He tells them Bruce would want them to have it. Like the previous scene with Bruce, this was done very well. First we had Jason slug Dick right in the face and Tim try to break it up. Simple touches like that gives the effect these characters all have a deep relationship and maintains that they are a family. Simply put, all families fight. Especially brothers.

75afa9c1089cf4e28e4c82a5b7c65396  tumblr_nuzyb3lXO71u0u277o1_1280

A short time later we find ourselves atop a bridge in the midst of a reunion conversation between Dick and Batgirl herself: Barbara Gordon. This was the one conversation Dick dreaded the most. It’s not just a former caped crusader or sibling or friend, this is the love of his life. The love of his life that he has lied and deceived and no excuse on Earth is good enough for her. So he doesn’t try. He just mans up and lets her know how much he’s missed her and he’s sorry. Unfortunately like in real life, sometime saying your sorry isn’t good enough. Nor should it be. I really liked this approach, another tip of my hat to the writers here, showing they understand that Dick Grayson is a humanized superhero. He is not above reproach or tries to be holier than thou. It’s one of the reasons Dick Grayson is at the top of my list of all time favorite fictional, not just comic book characters. He has a purity in his fallible nature that is refreshing. He may make mistakes, but he always tries to make up from them and more importantly learn from them. Barbara doesn’t have to accept his apology but she at least hears him out. She then leaps off the bridge (that’s a better exit that over dramatically slamming a door any day got to give the girl style points there) and in true chivalrous fashion Dick follows suit. (flying off bridges is nothing for a child of the circus and Batman’s side kick, helloooo)

tumblr_nv4qg86gjV1upytp1o1_1280Once Dick catches up to Babs (as he always called her) and says he just wants to give her something. He hands her the trapeze bar from their first date at the circus when Barbara was still rehabilitating after her torture at the hands of the Joker. Being a human being, this strikes a nerve with Barbara and then hears him out. It isn’t the love fest one would expect but it is heartwarming nonetheless. Barbara then figures out that the deliberate speech pattern and words Dick used and pulls a clue from it. (I won’t spoil, but it is a very clever concept that is repeated through the issue) Before she can get confirmation, Dick is long gone.

Finally we make our last stop. Dick arrives to see Damien Wayne, son of Batman and Dick’s former Robin. (Dick as Batman in Grant Morrison’s run on Batman and Robin is one of the all time best stories in my opinion) This scene was my favorite in the book. It was brief but, near perfect. Damien rushes and somersaults his way with joy right over to Dick as soon as he learns he’s alive. No cold shoulder just a warm embrace for his back from the dead brother. A long hug and a couple of wisecracks exchanged between them and that was all that was needed. Such a great touching moment.

Overall: Like I said before the bar keeps being surpassed each and every single month and it is a true joy as a reader to pick up a book that you don’t want to put down. Those who were looking for fast paced espionage might have been a little disappointed this month but not me. I couldn’t have been more pleased. This was just a good story about a uniquely estranged family which was raw and had a lot of heart. I’ve enjoyed this book a little more every single issue and with Dick back amongst the Bat-Family, it’s only going to get better. Ladies and gentleman the band is back together and this might just be their best performance yet. Keep the lights on in the cave and see you all here in 30 days.

Story: Tim Seely and Tom King Art: Mikel Janin 
Story: 9.9 Art: 9.3 Overall: 9.9 Recommendation: Buy

Review: Batgirl Annual #3

batgirlannual003When reading the modern medium of comics, it is easy to forget that comic stories did not always have the same format.  As opposed to the modern day where one-shots are an absolute rarity, they used to exist more or less in this format across the entire medium.  Long story arcs were rare, and heroes usually met a villain and dealt with them in a short amount of time.  These stories which can be more easily located in the silver age, had a fairly common format of hero encounters villain, is beaten at first but then quickly recovers and wins.  This format is interesting because it is still occasionally used, but also because it is used in this most recent Batgirl Annual, and used quite cleverly.

Facing off against a mysterious villain and organization tied to the name Gladius, Barbara is forced to make some unlikely alliances which take her around the bat-family.  The cover alludes to the one that fans would be the most excited about, with an encounter with Dick Grayson, but there are also some clever other interactions as Barbara follows the trail of Gladius.  She encounters two other former Batgirls from previous years (Stephanie Brown and Helena Bertinelli) as well as Batwoman, a decent collection of Bat-ladies that is only missing Cassandra Cain.  The story diverges in an unexpected direction as well, crossing over what might be DC’s two best titles at the moment, as Batgirl and the residents of Gotham Academy get to meet for the first time.

What is most interesting about this story, is that while it is told in a series of separate vignettes, each with their own style, it also still manages to be a fluid story that makes sense, without the cameos seeming too forced.  Barbara is still the star but she cedes that status easily to those that she teams up with, making this issue more than the sum of its parts.  While the main series occasionally gets tied down in its own plots, this annual seems to represent a desire by the main creative team to cut loose a bit and have some fun with the character, and they succeeded.

Story: Cameron Stewart and Brenden Fletcher Art: Bengal, David LaFuente, Ming Doyle, Mingjue Helen Chen, Gabe Eltaeb, Ivan Plascensia
Story: 9.4 Art: 9.4 Overall: 9.4 Recommendation: Buy

Review: Batgirl #41

batgirl041As a phenomenon there are few better than what Batgirl has managed to impact on the comic industry in the past year.  Although really not at the heart of the changing outlook towards young female superheroes (the source might be better located with Ms. Marvel) the character got noted for the change in direction that was taken as she was made to be more approachable to fans.  The subsequent “Batgirling” of other series led to this being a real trend, one that comic companies try to create for themselves but which often fall flat.  On the opposite side of the spectrum are the changes underway with the main Batman title, where Bruce Wayne is presumed to be dead and Jim Gordon has taken his place inside a robotic Batman armor.  This is specifically the kind of controversy that DC Comics has tried to create before with the replacement of Bruce by others, even if it has never really been that effective.

The grassroots versus astroturfing approach to comic trends butts heads in this issue as Barbara returns for her first appearance post-Convergence and she has to deal with the introduction of an unlikely hero as well as the interjection of her father in his Batman gear.  She is on the track of people still under the impression of the villain from Hooq from her first story arc, and it leads her to an abandoned house where she faces the cult-like followers as well as the new Batman.  After a nice interjection with some father-daughter time, where Jim admits to being the new Batman, the heroes face off against each other once again.

In terms of what wins between the manufactured trend of the new Batman versus the organic trend of the new Batgirl, the hands down winner is Batgirl.  The new Batman is a strange direction to take Batman and it remains to be seen if it will connect with the fans at all.  Batgirl on the hand continues moving along with the same momentum, which is built on her solid characterization and a supporting cast of characters that makes her seem more believable.  The Jim Gordon Batman likely has a short shelf life as fans will get tired of the stunt and look for the return of Bruce, but it seems like this new Batgirl is here to stay which is good news for everyone.

Story: Cameron Stewart and Brenden Fletcher Art: Babs Tarr
Story: 8.7 Art: 8.7 Overall: 8.7 Recommendation: Buy


Review: Batgirl #40

bg40Few may have read the actual origin, but the Oracle identity of Barbara Gordon started in Suicide Comics #48 in 1990.  The Barbara Gordon that had been crippled by the Joker in the Killing Joke reappeared for the first time as a superhero, but as a very different superhero, different even from what she became as Oracle.  Instead of the cyber sleuth who could track down any and all information through computer hacking, she was a cyber hero, given the form of real person in cyberspace to battle other viruses or other malicious cyber entities.  Moving forward to the DC Comics company wide relaunch into the new 52, and the new direction for the character was criticized, notably as it removed one of the most prominent disabled characters from comics and replaced them with a healthy version of Barbara Gordon (albeit one in which the events of Killing Joke still occurred.)

Much has been made of the new direction that Batgirl has taken in the past year, and the character has become the standard bearer of how to treat female characters in the modern medium.  Somewhere along the way though her past got mostly forgotten, but with the latest issue of Batgirl that is addressed finally.  Her algorithm has created an alternate version of herself, based in a computer landscape, but one which wants to escape into what it views as its rightful body.  Barbara is forced to ss481990realize that her approach to life is not perfect and has to do so while essentially battling herself.  As the action unfolds, it is a fairly normal set of action sequences but even they are given more depth through an extreme utilitarian approach of the program to achieve justice.

What this issue manages to achieve is rather impressive.  Fans of the character since before the reboot or before the new 52 relaunch will be happy to see the references to what the character used to be as well as her past.  While this is an effective nod to the fans, it is not heavy handed at all, and for those that are oblivious to the character’s detailed past, this still reads as a tight plot with everything in the right proportions.  There are those that might think that this first story arc is getting a bit tired with its constant focus on the role of technology in our lives, but this is the end of the menace of the algorithm, and the end of the first story arc of the new run.  It will be interesting to see where they go from here, but so far this series has achieved unexpected success which is capped by this excellent issues.

Story: Cameron Stewart and Brenden Fletcher  Art: Babs Tarr
Story:  9.2 Art: 9.2  Overall: 9.2  Recommendation: Buy

Updated: #ChangetheCover Erupts Over Batgirl Joker Variant

BG-Cv41-Joker-variant-solicitation-88c4e-31e8dA new Twitterstorm has kicked up over one of the variant covers for DC Comics in June. The theme for the month is Joker variant covers, and folks aren’t too happy with the choice of cover for Batgirl #41. The cover drawn by the talented Rafael Albuquerque features Batgirl in tears and victimized by the Joker. The cover is a not too subtle reference to a classic Batman story The Killing Joke written by Alan Moore in the 80s. The story saw Barbara Gordon kidnapped, shot in the spine, and then stripped naked with photographs taken of her, all by the Joker. There are hints of sexual assault and molestation beyond being stripped naked, all the increase the angst of her father. The variant cover in other words features a “victim of sexual assault with the man who molested her wrapping his arms around her shoulders and painting a smile” with what looks like to be blood, another visual reference to The Killing Joke.

Doing some research, again the controversy has sprung from Tumblr, a popular platform for armchair clicktivism (and a threat of starting a Change.org petition). I’d normally cite the person who sparked the movement (and I quoted above), but in this case I’m not going to and I’ll explain why further below.

My personal opinion is, the cover is stylistically amazing. I’m a fan of Albuquerque’s art, and this is another fantastic piece. Art can be fantastic, but also tasteless at the same time. Art should spark debate. But, it’s not so much the image as it’s the choice of DC Comics to go with this cover is what’s really at question here.

Barbara Gordon, after her run in with the Joker, has been built up over the years as a character of strength, beginning in her role as Oracle, a computer expert and information broker who became integral when it came to fighting crime for the Bat family. She was a prime example of strength, both as a woman and also being confined to a wheelchair, though the story that got her there was rife with controversy.

batgirl_495x767DC’s New 52 did away with the wheelchair, though The Killing Joke still took place in continuity. Instead through some miracle physical rehabilitation and experimental surgery Barbara was once again able to walk, and don the cowl as Batgirl. Though it was justified that such surgery and rehabilitation exists, there was public outcry taking away one of the few disable characters in comics. Writer Gail Simone did address the past though and looked at the after-effects of PTSD and the trauma one would have after what Barbara went through.

With sales flat, a new team was brought onto the series with issue 35 giving the character a praised new look, new location, and new friends. It was a re-invention of the character into a more modern hipster version of herself, a new direction breaking the traditional mold and the creative team got their much deserved praise. Through adversity came strength, growth, and re-invention for the character, and she became a feminist icon in comics during it all.

Six issues later from praised re-invention, DC Comics is now under fire for their choice of variant cover, much like Marvel was for their choice of a variant for Spider-Woman. Instead of a cover with Batgirl triumphant, instead we’re given an again victimized character. As The Outhousers point out, you see that with no other variant.

What’s stranger is, the cover seems to have little to do with the interior (as is often the case with variants) so could have been anything, just like the “triumphant” idea mentioned above. Here’s the solicit text:

There’s a new Batman in town…and that spells bad news for Barbara Gordon! She’s already got enough upheaval in her life, with her roommate Frankie in on her biggest secret…and now she’s looking to get even more involved in Batgirl’s business!

The Tumblr post I can find that seems to be the spark of this debate doesn’t feel The Killing Joke should be swept under the rug, quite the opposite. It’s a much more thought out and nuanced piece. As they point out, there’s been a use of cameras as iconography with Batgirl since, especially lately. A reference to the story, and a way for the character to take back strength from the situation.

There are a lot of potential Joker variant covers that would have been amazing. I would have loved to see Barbara stepping on the joker’s face after punching him to the ground, perhaps using that iconic camera of his to take a selfie. But a violent, bloody cover of a weeping Batgirl as the man who molested her smiles by her side is sickening. It’s disgusting. And I am tired of her scenes in The Killing Joke being referenced while the serious issues involving her assault are casually ignored.

And instead of just asking for change, the poster makes a call for an alternative instead, taking a voice and platform and attempting to turn it in a positive direction. Not just calling for a ban, protest, or boycott.

The reason I only allude to the poster, is the reaction to the #ChangetheCover. In the days since its launch about 3000 tweets have used it a day, and the hashtag has been clutched by many who are also involved in the harassment campaign that is #GamerGate. This hashtag is evidence that the movement that’s all about “ethics in journalism” is nothing more than a campaign to intimidate and harass, and I don’t wish that upon anyone, whether I agree or disagree with them. Many of the same personalities involved in the GG movement, are now decrying SJWs, aka social justice warriors, and claiming censorship. Irony, since they themselves are attempting to censor through intimidation. Though it hasn’t quite gained steam, there’s an attempt to hijack the debate, and turn it into something much sinister and toxic.

DC Comics has changed covers before, and it’s unknown what will happen here. What’s for sure though, this is just the latest flash point in the comics world, as the debate about inclusion and sensitivity continues. DC Comics recently announced the jettison of the New 52, and their embracing of diversity (and ironically less reliance on continuity). While they’ve said they want more “girl power,” catering to an ever-growing female market, this is anything but. Since a cover is the first thing so many see, and delivers the first impression, this one shows continued victimization and fridging. It’s off-brand, it’s off-message, and people have a right to be angry. The creative team of the series should be angry, as the variant cover dilutes their take, their message, their vision and new direction for the character. If DC’s goal is to reach out to the 40 something percent female audience, this probably isn’t it.

The call to #ChangetheCover isn’t about censorship, it’s about holding DC accountable for a standard they set for themselves two months ago.

Updated: DC Comics has pulled the cover per the request of artist Rafael Albuquerque. Below are the statements both he and DC released.

Rafael Albuquerque:

MyBatgirl variant cover artwork was designed to pay homage to a comic that I really admire, and I know is a favorite of many readers. ‘The Killing Joke’ is part of Batgirl’s canon and artistically, I couldn’t avoid portraying the traumatic relationship between Barbara Gordon and the Joker.For me, it was just a creepy cover that brought up something from the character’s past that I was able to interpret artistically. But it has become clear, that for others, it touched a very important nerve. I respect these opinions and, despite whether the discussion is right or wrong, no opinion should be discredited.

My intention was never to hurt or upset anyone through my art. For that reason, I have recommended to DC that the variant cover be pulled. I’m incredibly pleased that DC Comics is listening to my concerns and will not be publishing the cover art in June as previously announced.

With all due respect,


DC Entertainment:

We publish comic books about the greatest heroes in the world, and the most evil villains imaginable. The Joker variant covers for June are in recognition of the 75th anniversary of the Joker.Regardless if fans like Rafael Albuquerque’s homage to Alan Moore’s THE KILLING JOKE graphic novel from 25 years ago, or find it inconsistent with the current tonality of the Batgirl books – threats of violence and harassment are wrong and have no place in comics or society.

We stand by our creative talent, and per Rafael’s request, DC Comics will not publish the Batgirl variant. – DC Entertainment

Batgirl co-writer/artist Cameron Stewart also Tweeted to clarify about the threats: