BatGirl #27 // Review
Obsessively dedicated crimefighter Barbara Gordon has seen much under the mask of Batgirl. Batgirl continues her pursuit of the sadistic masked villain named Grotesque in an issue written by Mairghread Scott. Paul Pelletier’s pencils have been inked by Norm Rapmund. Color comes courtesy of Jordie Bellaire. Barbara’s heroism comes across quite vividly in a story with a fair amount of darkness that the art doesn’t always quite capture.
Batgirl begins the issue in an ambulance and ends are crawling out of a dumpster. Clearly things aren’t going very well for her. She’s dealing with a million things at once, especially the knowledge that the neurological implant that frees her from her wheelchair could be life-threatening. She’s not really focusing on that, though. There’s a psycho that needs to be put away. She’s in a hospital bed with a notepad trying to remember everything she can about the killer she’s after. Her father is concerned about her health, but she’s not at all concerned about herself, just about the killer’s next victim, and it’s this very grim determination that makes her a fascinating hero to follow.
Scott breathes some life into the character. The overall milieu that has been around since before Batman continues to look good and feel fresh, when a young woman with her whole life to look forward to is driven by a selfless needed to combat criminal insanity. Once the villain shows-up, there’s a monologue, but it’s not coming from a place of two-dimensional evil. There IS some level of pathology behind it, but it’s nothing terribly interesting. The grim determination of Batgirl makes up for a lack of originality in the villain, though. The story ends up being a lot more about her and what she’s willing to sacrifice and her selflessness than it is about the actual horror of what the villain is doing. This is perfectly OK, as Barbara is a fascinating person to spend 20 pages with.
Paul Pelletier’s art is...nice. There’s a very straight ahead interpretation of action, with clean lines delivering very primal motion and emotion both in action and reaction. If the art suffers from anything, it’s a lack of mood. The very clean and clear presentation follows the hero from ambulance to conversations with a concerned father into a confrontation with the villain. There’s about as much visual menace in the scene with the villain as there is with Commissioner Gordon, which doesn’t make any sense. The clean, straightforward delivery of action lacks enough intensity to really amplify the sense of heroism that needs to be be there with Batgirl.
There are moments of visual impact, though: There’s a rather cute moment where she’s sending off an adorable little emoji-fied avatar of herself to the police to alert them that it would be nice to have their assistance. The contrast of the sweetness of that alert against the darkness of everything else should be a lot more prominent and a lot more striking in order to have more impact. There are a lot of ways to make Batgirl’s world more visually striking. Perhaps all that’s need is a bit more shadow delivered to the page by Norm Rapmund, or a bit more tilting of the frame by Pelletier, or Jordie Bellaire could work with a stronger contrast between brighter colors and the darkness of the setting--something to convey a bit more about what’s going on than simple characterization and delivery alone could manage. That being said, it’s still solidly enjoyable.
Barbara Gordon is a fun character to follow into shadows, whether or not they are rendered in great detail. She’s not some old, rich guy with a vendetta; she’s risking a lot more than some multi-millionaire avenging his parents. If Scott could pair her up with a villian that had a bit more depth, this could be a very clever evolution beyond the traditional Batman formula, but Scott falls just a bit short of the well-balanced brilliance that could make her truly unique.