I was really looking forward to this final issue of Batgirl. Crazy I know right? With the new status quo established from “Joker War” I was curious where this would leave the character. SPOILER ALERT! In Batman #100 she redons her Oracle persona in the main event series, and two former Batgirls are Batgirls again (Batman: Joker War Zone #1).
So you figure with that sort of thing happening, this being a “Collateral Damage” aka epilogue to that. Plus oh yeah, deal with all the stuff that Barbara had to go through in this series. This issue would masterfully bind those elements plus being the fiftieth and final issue weave this all into a powerful message why Barbara Gordon is that strong a character right?
Instead, you get an issue that doesn’t feel final at all. It doesn’t do any of these things. Nah, it’s just one mess of an issue that lumbers to the finish that’ll leave the reader befuddled. Well, that and those who have read this volume from the beginning question what was the entire point?
The issue opens with a rehash of what we got from the prior volume that ended Gail Simone‘s run abruptly (i.e. she was fired because she refused to kill off a character in the story prior): James Gordon Jr dead (this time for reals since there’s a body) with Poppa Jim and Barbara attending the funeral. More rehashing of the same plot from the prior volume continues with a quite rushed scene of Barbara taking her father to a fast food place (like seriously that’s post-funeral meal now?) where Jim blames Batgirl for his son’s death.
Okay, I know how a lot of writers play the game of “Does Jim know?” and usually there’s hints thrown here or there to give off “he knows”. That he or Babs just outright say it.
We get none of that, with Jim coming off like an idiot in the scene. Going off with the current theme of Gotham where all masked vigilantes are criminals, and takes the biggest stupid pill ever. Seriously, this is Jim Gordon. He’s a better character than what we’re given. Ugh.
Babs isn’t much better as later on Bruce breaks the news of him losing his fortune, but still having enough riches to keep the vigilante business afloat. Here we have Babs’ “astounded” that Bruce gives money to his sons (Tim/Dick) and wait– wasn’t that the entire point of the past volume? Heck even Maigrhead Scott’s run prior to this one?
Yes, the moment comes off as a joke, but what doesn’t is the next scene where Babs criticizes Dick for being mind-controlled by the Joker and Punchline (which he had zero control over). Again, the hell? This whole scene doesn’t help that last week we JUST HAD Babs/Dick talking over things in Nightwing. This scene just feels like a slap in the face to both characters.
Okay, this is the final issue to a series. This has to feel at the very least FINAL. There has to be a lingering feel of finality to this issue. A few weeks ago, we got this sense in Batman & the Outsiders which I hated ended, but I understand why (a relaunch is a coming plus a few characters in that comic are at a crossroads). At the very least, the comic ended on the terms of the writer wanted.
Likewise, Batgirl Vol. 3 #24. The fact that writer Bryan Q. Miller had to wrap up ALL subplots and still churned out the still greatest final issue of a Batgirl ongoing is nothing but exceptional. Gail Simone ended her Batgirl run with Future’s End: Batgirl #1 with a coda to Batgirls and the legacy Barbara imparts on younger girls. Even Batgirl Vol. 1 #73 felt final because it meant a turning point (for good or bad) with the character of Cassandra Cain (again that ending was rushed too).
What I’m saying is if your a capable writer you can ace the landing and deliver something– beautiful. Sadly, this issue by Cecil Castellucci and her run doesn’t feel final at all. It feels muddled. There feels like a change in the beginning, but it’s a facade (Writer’s Note: *checks around to make sure Dan Slott isn’t going to pop in and correct him on how to pronounce this* Okay, I’m safe). It feels reused. Which again has been a major problem I’ve always had with this volume.
I’ll give the first writer on this volume, Hope Larson tried at the very least to take Barbara outside of Gotham, but once she got back both the character and writer were saddled with rehashed plots. Cue Scott who tried to Burnside up this joint with her run, only for it to get cut short and Castellucci to come in. Therein probably lies the greatest Batgirl foe: the editor.
It was editing and creative heads above the writer that has doomed this series from the get-go all the way to Volume One. Yes, at the very least we got some good runs and fresh directions. But there’s been this feeling ever since Volume 4 that the higher-ups have even clamped down on this character and book more. There was a bit of freedom in the “Burnside” run, but it felt worn by the time it (and Vol. 4 ended as a whole). But at least it tried to pass off an ending, but still, reaffirm Babs would still keep going on as Batgirl.
You get that feeling more at the ending of the first story and the entirety of the second. Where you have Barbara reaffirming her Batgirl identity, but also commenting on how Batgirl is just as needed as a certain other identity of Barbara’s (we’ll get into that soon). Instead, it just feels like it spits on everything set up by prior writers (Simone did establish a rogues gallery, which Scott used, and then oh Castellucci continued to use). So, all the villains Babs fought prior are meaningless? Okay….
But again, this just feels mean-spirited and a slap not only in the face to prior Batgirl writers but the Oracle identity as a whole. And oh gee whiz.. there’s an Oracle story at the end with a wildly talkative Cassandra Cain, and Barbara going back on the prior story not needing anyone.
Like seriously, what kind of message are we supposed to be taking here? The story feels hollow. Just thrown in to try to appease fans of the Birds of Prey and the other two Batgirls (yet from the way the two are decked out they aren’t that here but in the prior identities). You had the foundation to do something that was started (have Babs pass the mantle or okay the mantle to the other two girls, that Gotham needs her as Oracle more than Batgirl). All you have left in this entire issue is really pretty art wasted on some bad stories.
It all just feels– empty.
Which is ironic sadly, because ever since DC returned Barbara Gordon to the role of Batgirl it has felt rather– empty. For all their luster and attempts at trying to get Barbara off the ground in a solo ongoing. This volume, this issue, in particular, stands out as why Barbara shouldn’t be Batgirl any longer.
The character has outgrown the role. She had become a better character in Oracle every story since the New 52 era kept trying to tell us: Oracle was nothing (besides doing EVIL Oracle stories to make fans of the prior era roll their eyes) and that Babs was THE ONE TRUE BATGIRL (where fans pulled an impersonation of WWF’s the Undertaker with their eyes painfully rolled back further). Batgirl can DO ANYTHING AND MORE. Yet, we’re what? Almost ten years and still it feels like a downgrade for the character.
Is it any wonder Simone’s best issues with Barbara in “the New 52” era were outside the restraints of this universe (again Future’s End: Batgirl #1 and Convergence Nightwing & Oracle #1-2)? Or why there’s this bubbling hunger to return Barbara to being Oracle, and giving the other two Batgirls their due (or one really since Stephanie ended her run perfectly, and Cassandra really feels like the only one who’s run ended abruptly even if it was at seventy-three issues, which might be a testament how to truly map out a run leaving many still hungry for more).
Nothing has been really accomplished by the character, and instead, it just feels like Barbara is in this cycle of never-ending plots tied to the Batgirl identity. This issue didn’t help matters while even being the final issue ending with such a whimper. It just feels like just another issue, with the sad fact that nothing really coming after this. No real hook or overall message for the character going forward. It just feels like the last few issues a “GOTCHA!” moment after “big moments” that amount to nothing.
I really hope the new blood that are now in charge do something different with the character, perhaps even go with what James Tynion IV is doing with the character in the Batman comic. Maybe it is truly time for Barbara Gordon to put the Batgirl identity aside (save for something big). Let another (or two) take on the role. Just to fresh it up.
Because this issue and volume? It did the character of Barbara Gordon and her time as Batgirl zero favors. AT ALL. For a series that tried to showcase why the two are linked, all it truly did was show how the concept and character have petered out in the end. How hollow the role is to the character.
Is it because of the writer or editorial? I think a bit of both sadly. I truly do hope that DC does the right thing and just keep Barbara as Oracle, and a better writer tackles these characters and the legacy of Batgirl identity better than what we’ve got these last nine years.
Barbara Gordon, the Batgirl mantle, and fans of the Batgirl legacy deserve so much better than this issue and series have given us. They really do…