Batgirl #5 Review.

The first four issues of the rebooted Batgirl were a little shaky in places. The series was visibly finding its feet, a lot like Barbara herself, and frequently threatened to veer off track. But issue five finally puts us on slightly more solid ground, and the start of a new story arc promises intrigue and mystery galore, which I’m a sucker for. The nervy feel of the first few issues is gone, though unfortunately, the supremely annoying roommate is still around (on a side note, it is an absolute crime that Babs’ roommate, Alysia, still plagues us and yet Catwoman’s fence Lola, a hugely interesting, likeable character, bit the dust very early on.) Also mercifully missing from this issue is Barbara’s dubious relationship with her therapist. The dating scenes between the two of them really dragged down issue #2 and I’m glad that she has been able to put a great deal of the tedious angst behind her and get down to business.

As usual, Simone really excels at creating an authentic voice for Barbara, especially her inner dialogue, which is suitably youthful and intelligent, and makes for a convincing read. There is a good balance between the caped action and the out-of-costume drama, and really tight control of pace. However, it’s not all perfectly rosy.

Our first introduction to green-haired Gretel

The first appearance of the new villain, Gretel, is a little underwhelming, and, in my opinion, badly framed. It’s disappointing, because it began as a promising dynamic intro, but suddenly all the energy drained out of the page as we got our first full reveal. Her personality also seems a bit vague and ill-defined, and I’m not really sure what to make of her just yet. I don’t think she’s especially threatening either, not in the same way Mirror was in previous issues, and there is no real sense of danger, just mild inconvenience. Though I do expect this problem to be resolved, as a first issue of a new story, I wish this could have been a bit more gripping.

I have no doubt that the striking similarity between Barbara and her mother is intentional, but there were times when I wasn’t sure who was who, and I had to read back over the dialogue again to make sense of it. A clearer visual difference would make for much easier reading and a delineation between Barbara and her mother, possibly one that Babs has deliberately cultivated, would be a big improvement. That being said, the art is great, if a little vague in the background department at times, and the cover is simply stunning. Adam Hughes completely captures Barbara’s mix of vulnerability, strength and defiance, which comes as no surprise, and I really wish he was doing the interiors too.

Babs and Mama Gordon – but who’s who?

So, while this is a noticeable improvement, there are still some niggles to work out. I’m not keen on the psychological aspects of Babs recovery being explored, because previous issues have tried to cover that, and it was tediously hamfisted. But, I do appreciate that this needs to be addressed to give her some depth, and it is much needed. While Barbara’s personality is developing well, the personality of the series really isn’t, and I still don’t know whether to expect a fun Batgirl or a torturous angsty Batgirl, as the tone varies month to month. The next issue promises the appearance of Batman (Bruce Wayne appears towards the end of issue #5.) This comes less than a month after Nightwing guest starred, and although I know the Bat family invariably run into each other, I can’t help but feel there is a lack of faith in this book, to give it two such high profile guests so quickly. It would be nice to see Batgirl function on her own, without the interference of her male counterparts, regardless of the context. But, all of this is just growing pains and I have enough faith in Simone, and Babs, to know it’ll be a stellar book in no time. 8/10

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