Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Batgirl Volume 3: Death of the Family

Written by Gail Simone
Art by Daniel Sampere

            If you know anything about Barbara Gordon pre-New 52, or hell, even if you’ve just read The Killing Joke, you know one of the defining moments in her life: the Joker showing up at her apartment door, shooting her in the spine, and leaving her paralyzed, making her Oracle for the 20-or-so years before the New 52 reboot put her back in the Batgirl costume.  But history hasn’t been erased here, and so a crossover with the Joker has big expectations, most of which are met.
            As with the main Batman Death of the Family story, the main appeal here is finding out exactly how twisted the Joker’s current plan is.  Thus, it’s hard to say much about the primary story here without inherently feeling like it’s a spoiler.  I can say that, not only is it appropriately twisted, but it works well as a Barbara Gordon story.  Not only does she get faced with some real horrors and no easy way out, but we see the difference between her and Batman in a situation like this.  Batman may hate the Joker, but not like Batgirl does.  And she gets pushed right to the line of going from justice to outright revenge.  Unfortunately, there’s one major problem: the finale is the same finale from the Batman side.  This means that the story builds up to a climax where either you’ve already read the main Batman part and thus you’ll probably just skip over it, or you haven’t read the Batman part and suddenly you’re moved over to a focus on a different character.  It just feels like a letdown, and I imagine it’s a problem with several of the other crossover books.
            This collection does feature two other story arcs.  One of them is cleanup from the Night of the Owls event.  I haven’t been reading Batgirl or her part of that event, so I don’t know if there was more meaning that I was supposed to get out of this.  It was a nice story, but kind of forgettable, and felt like it ended and then moved on.  The other story arc features James Gordon Jr., who shows up during the Death of the Family part, and Batgirl has to take care of his own plots, which can be just as twisted as the Joker’s.  I don’t know if James has shown up in the New 52 before this, but compared to The Black Mirror, he’s lost the mystery angle of “Is he or isn’t he evil?”  He is very obviously evil here.  But this doesn’t make him any less creepy.  In a book that features a reincarnated super-assassin and THE evil clown, the guy with no villain identity, no powers, just his own warped mind, has one of the greatest impacts, and where the confrontation with the Joker fizzled in the end, the ending to the James arc is stunning.  It’s the kind of moment that makes me want to read more Batgirl just to see the effect the final moments have in the future.  And that’s really good.

            Batgirl’s side of Death of the Family has its flaws which you can really feel.  But when it’s working, it’s working really well.  People who were reading Batgirl before should be pleased, people who came on for the Death of the Family crossover should have plenty of reason to stay.

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