Batgirl #30 // Review
Father/daughter stress can be tense. When the father is a police commissioner and his daughter is a masked vigilante, things can become all the more tense. In Batgirl #30, family drama mixes with political intrigue and a bit of mob violence in a story written by Mairghread Scott with art by Paul Pelletier that is inked by Norm Rampmund. Jordie Bellaire handles the colors.
Having made a full recovery from debilitating injuries, Batgirl swings into action just in time to aid police in breaking-up a riot during a political rally for aspiring congresswoman Luciana Alejo. Batgirl’s alter ego Barbara Gordon supports Alejo, which complicates matters with her father Police Commissioner Jim Gordon, who is being investigated for possible corruption along with the rest of the Gotham City P.D. Complicating matters further, the villainous Jason Bard makes a return appearance while another nemesis The Cormorant prepares to strike in the first chapter of the multi-part Old Enemies story.
Mairghread Scott launches Barbara and her father into a solidly intriguing tension. As it is strongly rooted in Batgirl’s recent history, the first part of Old Enemies runs the risk of being weighted too deeply in exposition. Scott manages the delicate business of delivering exposition without making it feel weighty and tedious. The expository end of Batgirl’s internal monologue feel like explanations delivered by a friend. This and other dramatic elements of the issue feel very social. Reading Scott’s narration feels a bit like playing unseen sidekick to Batgirl. Once again Scott’s rendering of Batgirl feels like spending 20 pages with a real cool college genius who just happens to also be a fearless vigilante in one of the most crime-ridden cities in the country.
A nagging flaw lingering in the background of the series brushes into prominence early-on in the issue. Batgirl is aiding Commissioner Gordon during the riot. He threatens her in the middle of the chaos by drawing his gun. “Do not touch me, vigilante,” he says. “There’s a limit to my patience.” He doesn’t realize that he’s threatening his own daughter...and they’re practically face-to-face with each other. As Barbara Gordon, Batgirl is quite close to her father. At this point she’s even living with him. The Batgirl mask doesn’t cover much. It’s difficult to imagine that a tiny black domino mask and some bat ears are going to keep him from recognizing his own daughter as Batgirl. It stretches the bounds of credibility. Still...it IS possible that he knows who she is. Maybe he chooses to let Barbara’s Batgirl persona be the one he addresses when she’s in costume. Having been around Batman for long enough, he’s careful not to let-on that he actually DOES know her identity.
In previous issues, Paul Pelletier had done a good job of delivering action to the page. In previous issues he’s been a bit clumsy more clumsy with the interpersonal drama. This issue pushes the action/drama balance in the other direction. There are a few very dynamic bits of kinetic violence delivered to the page, but most of the action feels pretty flat. Even Batgirl’s first post-injury swing into action feels a bit stiff where it needs to be celebratory. By contrast, emotions play across the faces of Barbara, her father and others come across vividly. Rampmund’s inking lends a nice edge to the action. There are a few explosive moments rendered in silhouette that allow Rampmund’s inks to deliver most of the action. Jordie Bellaire’s are dominated by grays and blues with a few shocks of color as Barbara visits Alejo’s campaign office at issue’s end.
Scott Explores divisions between father and daughter in the first part of a story in which shadows of the past loom into the present. It’s a promising opening to a new chapter for Barbara. She’s gaining some level of independence having been recovering from serious injury in the recent past. With the opening of the story established, this new chapter in the life of Batgirl should find some interesting new momentum.