COVER BY: Cameron Stewart
ART BY: Babs Tarr
PUBLISHER: DC Comics
Barbara Gordon is no stranger to dusting herself off when disaster strikes, so when a fire destroys everything she owns, she spots the opportunity for a new lease on life – and seizes it! Following the rest of Gotham City’s young adults to the hip border district of Burnside, Barbara sets about building an all-new Batgirl…and discovers new threats preying on her peers! As the new hero of Burnside, Batgirl gets started by facing twin sister assassins on motorcycles! Collects BATGIRL #35-40.
Batgirl Vol. 1: The Batgirl of Burnside takes the character of Barbara Gordon and puts her in a radically different situation than we had seen her for the first few years of her New 52 title. Barbara has let Gotham City proper and relocated in the Burnside district, a small, youth oriented borough where she has gone back to school to work on her PhD and moved into an apartment with, HOLY SECRET IDENTITY DANGER!, roommates. We are introduced to this new situation quickly as the current status quo and some future direction is set up rather neatly. Before you know it, you’re cheering for this “new” Batgirl, and waiting to see what happens next.
Despite this being a collection of already published issues, I am not in the business of spoiling anything. If you, like me, have a tendency to “wait for the trade” then you also deserve the chance to read the story as it unfolds and with no prior knowledge.
Through the course of six + one issues, we follow Barbara as she navigates her new life pretty much how we all did that first real time away from home in a new place, by making a bunch of mistakes. She learns to adapt to the new dynamic of sharing an apartment with people who don’t know her secret identify and have no connection with the superhero business. This is actually one of the first thing that grabs you. Traditionally, a heroine or hero would live alone, or with other heroes, or at least with confidants; but that’s not the case here. Barbara is thrown full into the reality of dealing with people who have no idea why she acts so strange or has such a bizarre schedule, or has such odd friends. As in life, it doesn’t take long for aspects of the old to clash with the new. When Dinah Lance (Black Canary) arrives on Barbara’s new doorstep and announces that she has lost everything in a fire, it sets up a series of events that allows Barbara to transform herself into a Batgirl with a new costume and less resources, but a more exuberant outlook. As we watch her navigate her new world, it quickly becomes evident that the transformation into the Batgirl of Burnside may come at the cost of old friends, and maybe even her secret identity.
Fletcher and Stewart have taken the idea of modernizing a hero to a new extreme, peppering Barbara’s life with modern internet references, pop culture images instant messaging and more. Instead of existing only behind the mask, they allow her to step out and be a young woman who is learning how to live in her new surroundings and situations. She makes mistakes, and has to deal with those mistakes. We are introduced to new villains as well; from a pair of twin anime-inspired motorcyclist, to an artist who seems to be a commentary on the clash of the art world with the virtual world, to a mysterious entity that seems to know everything about Barbara that they shouldn’t. These new villains all are skewed with a technological and youthful eye that makes them seem appropriate for the new direction the book has taken.
And the whole issue of Oracle and Barbara being in a wheelchair? It’s covered, rather well in fact.
The art work by Babs Tarr is a true visual treat, and fits the new youthful and bright feel of the book. Her use of original panel layouts, ghost images, and illustrated internal dialogue give you a feeling that you are experiencing the book on multiple levels. The depiction of the characters throughout the book is refreshing as well. No overblown cleavage and broke-back poses here, these are real body types that the reader sees in the mirror and on their way for their venti mocha frap with no whip.
Overall, is it a good to pick up? Well, seeing as how attempts to re-invigorate books with a more modern and unique bend without being beholden to decades of continuity is now referred to as “Batgirl-ing”, I would give that a definite yes. Younger readers will appreciate the exuberance and attention that makes the book relevant to the current generation, while old-time readers will get to experience a book that opens up new doors to storytelling. It is a great book if you are a fan and a spectacular book to give that non-comic reader friend/significant other to draw them in. Even if the fluid treatment of continuity that is currently in vogue turns you off, it is a book that deserves a read. Also, if you are even remotely interested in the new BLACK CANARY series, this is worth the pick up
Batgirl Vol. 1: The Batgirl of Burnside, gets enthusiastic thumbs up!
on Twitter: @stacybaugher
Batgirl Vol. 1: The Batgirl of Burnside, collects issue 35 thru 40 from new writers Brendan Fletcher (GOTHAM ACADEMY, WEDNESDAY COMICS: THE FLASH) and Cameron Stewart (SEAGUY, BATMAN AND ROBIN) as well as SECRET ORIGINS #10. Babs Tarr provides art for the six issue arc, and Irene Koh provides art for the SECRET ORIGINS story. It is currently out in hardback and paperback.