Batgirl #17 – Hope Larson, Writer; Chris Wildgoose, Penciller; Jose Marzan Jr., Andy Owens, Inkers; Mat Lopes, Colorist
Ray – 8/10
Corrina: Nice Ending
WARNING: MAJOR SPOILERS BELOW!!
Ray: The conclusion of the “Summer of Lies” arc, reuniting Batgirl and Nightwing as they chase the ghosts of a mystery of their youth, delivers a satisfying conclusion as the two heroes face off against the Red Queen. Last issue revealed her to be the deranged sister of Barbara’s deceased friend Ainsley. The issue opens with a flashback as a mission to rescue Ainsley from the Mad Hatter’s thrall goes badly when the villain pushes the wrong button and Barbara winds up beating him within an inch of his life. In the present day, after spending a night in uncomfortably close quarters, they chase down the Red Queen’s lair and enter the equivalent of a dime-store haunted house filled with red spider-robots. There are some cool visuals here, but ultimately the Red Queen herself isn’t as imposing as set up.
However, the bigger threat is the Red Queen’s mind-controlling nano-bots, which lead to Nightwing being possessed. The best way to cancel that involves Batgirl linking up with his mind via her implant, which also has the effect of temporarily shorting it out. This is an interesting plot device that the Batgirl of Burnside run also used – the fact that Barbara’s implant can fail. While in the Gail Simone run Barbara’s implant was essentially just a MacGuffin that allowed her to sidestep the injury, now it seems to be becoming more of a factor in the series. While it’s nice to be reminded that she’s not completely unaffected by her past status quo, it also makes her feel almost like a cyborg at points, which feels a bit out of step with the Bat-family.
Overall, though, this arc has been strongest due to its strong grasp on the two title characters.
Corrina: I seem to be in the minority in that I prefer an older take on Barbara Gordon, rather than having the character de-aged and younger. Perhaps because I grew up on Congresswoman Gordon or because I loved Oracle so much. But I know it’s taken a great deal of time for me to adjust to the Batgirl of Burnside, the college student still learning, rather than the 30ish experienced hero. That’s why the reference to Babs’s implant surprised me in this issue because I thought perhaps DC decided to ditch that part of the reboot Babs. (Indeed, it’s hard to tell how much of the reboot Babs survives, even her brother or her shooting by the Joker. I guess we won’t know until someone decides to use a piece of her long history again.)
That’s why the use of Babs’ implant came as a surprise in the climactic fight but it’s interesting that her disability is still present. I’d like to see that explored more often, as that Babs’s trauma and recovery has largely been dropped for the lighter tone since the beginning of the Burnside era.
I agree with Ray, though, that this is the best arc of Larson’s run and likely my favorite since Burnside began. It’s not just the glimpses of the old Batgirl/Robin team-ups, though those are nice, but that this arc called for more emotional depth and a look at why Babs and Dick became heroes and why they still suit up to fight crime. I like the hints of the romantic relationships, and I especially like Dick’s reference to Shawn, but that does ignore the weird “Hey, I just broke up with Shawn, let’s get hot and heavy” affair with Helena Bertinelli. I much prefer Dick’s statement in this issue about taking it easy to the quick hop into bed in his own title. Feels more like him.
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Disclaimer: GeekDad received this comic for review purposes.