Batgirl #23 – Hope Larson, Writer; Minkyu Jung, Penciller; Jose Marzan Jr., Inker; Mat Lopes, Colorist
Ray – 7.5/10
Corrina: Nice Good-Bye
WARNING: SPOILERS BELOW
Ray: The end of Hope Larson’s run on Batgirl in Batgirl #23 sort of snuck up on me, without any real major events to mark the end of the story arc, but this is it. Next up comes a fill-in by Shawn Aldridge and then a short run by Maighread Scott, so Larson’s tech-influenced suspense arc is her final word on the character. When we last left off, Barbara Gordon found out that all the weird events that led to her meeting a bunch of old friends were actually happening in her mind, as she was stuck in a strange limbo after being hit by an electric shock from a villain’s gun. In the ring with two impossibly strong enemies to start the issue, she soon figures that she can game the system by remembering that she’s not actually bound by the laws of physics – she can cheat. After meditating and looking at her options, she decides to try to break the simulation by doing all the things that she never would in her real life.
The bulk of the issue is Barbara tracking down the important people in her life and trying to use them to break the simulation. She’s lured into a trap by a new villain, Martina Falcone, who’s kidnapped her father, but she realizes she’s being played and walks away from the simulation to try to confuse it by abandoning her father. She tracks down Kai, where she reveals her identity and kisses him, which is apparently enough to knock her out of the simulation, allowing her to take out the villain with the help of the woman he’s there to torment. Barbara ends the issue refreshed and ready to take on the world, which sets things up nicely for the next arc. It’s a compelling, if somewhat slight final arc, in a run with a lot of interesting elements but without a real central plot. I’m wondering what the next big arc will have in mind for Barbara because it still feels like ever since she returned from being Oracle she’s been chasing her real direction in this new status quo.
Corrina: It’s been a long strange journey for Barbara even since she was de-aged beginning with the new 52, then continuing with the Batgirl of Burnside era through two full runs of good creative teams. It’s actually somewhat astonishing too because this might be the first time the Barbara Gordon Batgirl has been the solo star of a long-running series. Both Stephanie Brown and Cassandra Cain have had longer running solo series as Batgirl than Babs.
Larson has done a fine job with the younger Babs, the Batgirl of Burnside concept, and allowed Babs to grow into a more experienced hero. I liked bringing back all the supporting characters from the run in these last two issues. Larson’s filled in more backstory for this Barbara’s young career and it’s great to see Babs realize she may need more to her life at the end. This issue also had echoes of “Superman: The Man Who Has Everything,” the classic Alan Moore story where Superman is trapped inside a happy fantasy so powerful that he can hardly bear to pull himself back to reality.
But, I cannot say goodbye to this run without stating, again, that the Burnside concept might have been a better fit for Stephanie Brown and that I had major trouble making the transition to a younger Babara, who’s the same age as Dick Grayson, rather than the relatively older, more experienced hero who I’ve read since the 1970s. Barbara, to me, is the hero who knows a little more than everyone else, is a little bit wiser, and, as much as ditching her Oracle personal, de-aging her and taking away vast swaths of her experience removed what made her unique among the Bat-Family. I guess this is a hope that we someday get back to that.
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Disclaimer: GeekDad received this comic for review purposes.