Review – Batgirl #39: The Battle for Burnside

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Batgirl #39
Batgirl #39 variant cover, via DC Comics.

Batgirl #39 – Cecil Castellucci, Writer; Carmine Di Giandomenico, Artist; Jordie Bellaire, Colorist


Ray – 7/10

Ray: Batgirl #39 is now three issues into the new run. This is a title with several big ideas that aren’t coalescing into a cohesive whole. The main story centers around Oracle – now a separate cyber-entity that wants revenge on Barbara for locking her away. Remind me a lot of the recent Steven Universe: The Movie special, which also had a character whose love for the one closest to them was met with abandonment and curdled into hate. It’s not a bad concept for a villain, but the problem is this Oracle comes across like a dispassionate robot – there’s no emotion to buy into, so she mainly seems like she’s out for revenge because she was inconvenienced. She’s partnered with the Terrible Trio, keeping these low-rent villains captive and working them halfway to death running simulations of fighting Batgirl. You almost feel bad for them, but they’re also mostly ciphers of villains without anything to get us invested in rooting for or against them.

Stronger is Castellucci’s take on Barbara Gordon herself, which seems to combine elements of the Burnside Babs and the older, more mature Oracle. She’s at rock bottom right now, and it’s causing her to make some reckless choices, but she’s able to pull back from the brink and use her brain.

The stuff with her in her civilian guise this issue is the best, as she takes Jason Bard on a tour of Burnside for her boss’ anti-gentrification efforts, and reunites with likable former supporting cast member Frankie Charles.

Batgirl #39
Batgirl vs. Oracle. Via DC Comics.

I’m still completely cold on the idea of a Babs/Bard romance for a lot of reasons, but it seems to be sold hard. The Luthor-incited riots are starting to hit Burnside, with many ordinary people deciding to abandon the rule of law to seek the people’s justice, and Barbara’s fighting against the tide. By the end of the issue Oracle is stepping up its war against Batgirl’s beloved neighborhood, and the stakes are rising. I just hope the villain here rises to the level of its hero.

Corrina: The tour of Burnside is indeed fascinating and fun, even if I still dislike Jason Bard. (Note: he was a Silver Age love interest of Babs and it looks like this run might go there again. Not a big fan but I guess there’s a precedence.)

Most of all, I’m displeased with this new dichotomy between Babs and “Oracle.” I said that last month but hoped Batgirl #39 would allay my fears. Instead, it’s more of the same, with this AI Oracle behaving as if she’s been abandoned. The AI is full of rage and angry and yet also dispassionate at the same time, so the concept is confusing, as Ray said.

But, more, Oracle isn’t an AI, she’s a setup creaed by Babs, not as a separate entity, but as part of Babs herself. I suppose I should be intrigued at the idea that her Oracle programs developed a mind of their own but that was never how Oracle worked. I would guess the story is moving toward Babs reclaiming the Oracle identity and that could be good, in the end. But the journey is obviously going to be a rough road.

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Disclaimer: GeekDad received this comic for review purposes.

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