Just dial F for Feelings on this one.
My second journey into a Gail Simone book, and let me just say, that I really enjoyed this book. Gail seems to have found her footing in this book and with the character. Much of the campiness that slightly turned me off was toned way down in this book. There was still some campiness there, but not to the same degree as the previous volume. This book follows Barbara on a series of encounters ranging from a run-in with the Court of Owls and the emergence of vigilante named Knightfall who may have been an innocent girl turned into a crazed “hero” intent on saving Gotham by purging it of its evil.
The thing I’m finding very interesting in these books is the storytelling format. So far, the volumes have been made up of various mini-stories rather than having one specific arc focus. I think the reason this works so well with Barbara’s story is because we watch as she adapts to these different situations while coping with the various thoughts and feelings she has.
Continuing with the theme from volume one, Barbara still stands on shaky ground. She continues to be a dichotomy. She’s still trying to come to terms with her capabilities as a hero, and she’s beginning to question “the system.” She questions if they’re contributing to the problem by protecting the “haves” and their investments from the “have-nots” rather than addressing the problem of poverty and the disproportionate gap between the two. Is she truly a hero in this respect?
She also comes face to face with very important parts of her past in the form of her mother, which started in the last volume, and one of the thugs who witnessed her crippling at the hands of Joker (an encounter that turned out differently than I expected). There’s also the issue of Barbara’s brother, James, that she’s unaware is bubbling into something that will probably blow up on her soon. Throw in the fact that she’s still dealing with her survivor’s guilt and trauma, which tends to make her react in very emotional ways in some situations because she’s triggered.
A character that I’m rapidly becoming to enjoy is Melody McKenna, an investigator for GCPD whose story we learned more of in this volume. Barbara keeps insisting that Melody McKenna hates her. That is so not true, and it’s so obvious that it’s not. McKenna is upset with Barbara because of what happened with her partner after Barbara’s return. That’s obvious as well. However, while McKenna has an invested interest in Batgirl, she’s allowed Barbara on numerous occasions to do her thing. In this volume, McKenna seems to fully grasp what happened with her partner is truly not Batgirl’s fault because she relates a situation where she acted in a similar fashion as Barbara with the same outcome.
I could chalk this up to Barbara’s current conflicting feelings, though, how she seems to take everything so personally and feel it so deeply. She feels every loss. She sees the situation with McKenna’s partner as something she should’ve handled better, so maybe this insistence that McKenna hates is just transference of her own harsh views of herself onto a tangible person/object.
My only complaint with this was In the Line of Fire, which is issue #9 and part of the crossover with the Court of Owls. This pissed me off so bad, but not because it was bad. Truthfully, it was very good, and it was shaping up to be my favorite part of the book (now my favorite part is the Batwoman/McKenna/Batgirl team-up near the end), but it just ends without you really knowing what happens. I don’t think it really think this should’ve been included since it heavily depends on you reading issues from other books to get the full scope of what’s going on. The other stories have an “ending,” except this one, and then the next story goes immediately into this Knightfall storyline. You’re left wondering what happened, if you haven’t read it, because it was obvious a big deal. However, it does say that you need to go to Batman #9, but still, I had to track down this Owls business to read soon. Remember I said I wasn’t really wanting to get into all this DCnU stuff, but DC is making me.
I think this is shaping up into a fine book. I like the sort of darker approach to her return. It’s not all sunshine and rainbows. Barbara has issues that have plagued her return and will presumably continue to plague her for a while. Watching her triumphs and failures, her insecurities, her growing confidence, makes her feel like a very believable character.