Batgirl #20 – Hope Larson, Writer; Sami Basri, Artist; Jessica Kholline, Colorist
Ray – 7.5/10
WARNING: SPOILERS BELOW
Ray: Like Batgirl #20, there’s been quite a few comics dealing with politics lately, many of them focusing on shady, conniving politicians who look to manipulate the public in order to further a negative agenda. Gee, I wonder why. However, a story like this usually benefits from letting the story play out slowly, and this issue gets almost all the developments out of the way in one issue. When we last left off, Burnside had been hit by a freak blizzard out of nowhere, and Batgirl suspects this may be the result of direct sabotage of the weather warning system. Penguin has swept into the city, offering his help and seemingly being accepted by everyone. The reason for that becomes clear quickly into this issue, as Batgirl tracks down Qadir at his tech lab and finds out that an invention he’s been working on – a radio ray designed to make people seem more trustworthy – has been stolen. Gee, I wonder if that could be abused in any way.
From the second that’s revealed – and Batgirl has a major issue with this device existing, which is amusing given that she was on the opposite side in the ethical tech battle in BoP two weeks ago – we know what’s going on. Penguin’s planning to run for Congress, and he’s using Qadir’s device to brainwash everyone around him. That sort of lets Burnside off the hook, making their quick embrace of a demagogue not a product of human vulnerability but villain brainwashing. Ethan Cobblepot is revealed to be working with his father behind the scenes, and he’s out for revenge for the scars he received when his suit backfired in his last battle with Batgirl. Penguin is an intriguing villain, but Ethan really isn’t. What I did like, though, is the part of this issue where Batgirl reflects on her time in Burnside, and seems on the path to a major move in her life. Larson’s Batgirl is very strong, a nice bridge between Burnside Barbara and classic Barbara, and I hope it continues on that path.
Corrina: The arc with Ethan and this current one that stars his father played with the possibilities of how tech can be used to exploit people, everything from tracking locations to using microphones on phones and computers.
But, I admit, a trust ray is a bit out there, as far as tech goes.
That’s something that seems like it came from Batman ’66, not a regular DC Comics. This is not necessarily a bad thing, as I like Batman ’66 a great deal and Babs pulls of her own escape and her unmasking of Penguin with intelligence and perseverance. (Indeed, this might be a callback to a plot in Batman ’66.) But the flipside of writing a story this way is that I never feel that emotional depth with the characters that I do with a different writing style.
But, yes, the part at the end where she things “I was so young” when she started in Burnside got to me, as it did to Ray. Except I was thinking she wasn’t that young when she started in Burnside, at least not emotionally given her recovery from paralysis, and there’s my disconnect again with the changing of Babs’ age to this young and sometimes inexperience hero. Still, it’s brought her new fans and some excellent creators, so I shouldn’t grumble too much.
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Disclaimer: GeekDad received this comic for review purposes.