Sunday, 23 September 2012

Batgirl Volume 1: The Darkest Reflection

As I’ve mentioned in an earlier blog one of the local comic shops I use has a loyalty card, where you get money back for every pound you spend. I don’t know the full detail on how it works but as I buy the comics anyway, I signed up just as the new DCU hit the shops and low and behold on my last visit I had enough to buy a trade book. The book I picked was the hardcover Batgirl trade which covers the first 6 issues of the new run, why that book well I am a fan of Gail Simone's work having read Birds of Prey and the excellent Welcome to Tranquillity. I had also heard good things about Batgirl, and having not bought it as a monthly due to budget reasons I decided to go for it.
The trade is tittled The Darkest Reflection and covers the first 6 issues of the run, although after finishing the book it did feel like a lot more than 6 issues (in a good way).  That’s because there is a hell of a lot of story packed into those 6 issues, and you feel like you’ve been on a emotional roller coaster when you get to the end.
Its the new 52 and Batgirl is back but its not Cassandra Cain or Stephanie Brown (both have their merits), but Barbara Gordon the original Batgirl the TV and animated series Batgirl. The Batgirl who was shot and paralysed by the Joker, then went on to become Oracle you get my meaning Batgirl is back.

In this new updated DCU Batgirl still has the history of been shot and paralysed but has now been cured, I won’t go into how if anyone hasn’t yet read the book I don’t want to spoil it. However for me the explanation on how she was cured is very plausible one, especially if you live in a world that is full of flying super heroes and villains.
There are two story arcs covered in the book the first of which sees Batgirl go up against The Mirror and then secondly Gretel, both of whom seem to be cold hearted killers but are really victims of circumstance and ultimately both tragic characters. It is a clever move from writer Gail Simone that she started the series with two new villains, rather than go with one who is more established as it gives the reader a chance to focus on Batgirl rather than villain of the month.

This is a Batgirl who was not written as I expected either; this is a Batgirl who still has doubts that she can be a hero, a Batgirl who freezes when a gun is pulled on her resulting in the death of an officer, a Batgirl who is good but is not sure if she is good enough? There are also several plot lines that are started in this book which don't get closed off by the time you get to the end (taxi for book 2), Barbra's new flatmate has secrets, police officer Melody McKenna has an unhealthy fixation with Batgirl (it was her partner who was shott and  killed), Barbra’s mother is back after abandoning both her and Jim years ago a story plot I liked and look forward to reading more of. 
All of these add to the tone and feel of the book and help create a world outside Batgirls crime fighting world, I found it fun to read and learn just as much about Barbara and her everyday life as I did about Batgirls.

There is the expected cameo from Knightwing and Batman but  you can’t have a story set in Gotham without these two iconic characters making an appearance, its also good that their appearances don't feel forced and it felt very organic within the story's they were involved in.

The artwork by Ardian Syaf and Vivente Cifuentes is stunning and looks absolutely gorgeous on the glossy pages of the book, add to that the covers by Adam Hughes and you have a very desirable book indeed.

If you haven't read Batgirl yet and I have to admit I may be in the minority here, do yourself a favour and go out and buy it you will not be disappointed. At £16 its not a cheap buy but trust me it is well worth every penny, my only dilemma know is do I continue to read the book in trade or go out and buy the monthly.

It is a dilemma I tweeted to Gail Simone after first congratulating her on her work, she answered back that she would go for the monthlies but that's because she is impatient. Now I wouldn't normally disagree with the lady but I think I will stick with the trade, its worth the wait to see such a high calibre of work presented in this format.

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