Issue 35 of Batgirl brought HUGE changes for Barbara Gordon. According to the creative team, you could pick up that issue and start the series without feeling lost. As someone who started reading comics fairly recently, I’m always waiting for someone to tell me where to start. With the costume redesign and new creative team, I jumped in. The trade paperback (whole story arc) starting with issue 35 has been released, and anyone who hadn’t previously been picking up the issues can start the series.
Babs Tarr and Cameron Stewart have done amazing things artistically. There is truly nothing else like this in comic books today. Bringing in Babs Tarr in gives the comic this very fashionable, fun look. The story is set in Burnside, the hipster borough of Gotham, and the art is a constant reminder that Babs is not in Bruce Wayne’s Gotham anymore. One of the things I love is that I am around Barbara Gordon’s age, living right outside Boston, and am friends with plenty of hipsters. The brownstone buildings, the apartments, the concert venues, coffee shops, and clothes all feel right for what the creative team was going for. If you’re in your mid-twenties and know hipsters, you’ll appreciate the accuracy here.
The art is a 10/10. The story… Not so much. Issue 35 presents a complete story and it’s spectacular. Babs is a twenty-first century crime fighter, which means combating digital crime as well as purse robbers on the street. Babs has moved to Burnside, is settling in, when she realizes that she is the bat that Burnside needs. The page where she puts her costume together is probably the most epic out of the whole volume.
After issue 35, a lengthier story takes up the rest of the trade. Babs faces some villains who she takes down fairly easily, makes some friends, and develops computer programs. As Babs gets more comfortable putting Batgirl in the spotlight, she also puts herself in more danger.
One issue, which was highly controversial, sees a Batgirl imposter taken down and revealed to be a man. I remember picking up the issue and thinking, “Oh, that can’t be right.” And then promptly also purchasing the issue with the alternate cover art as well. When I read the issue, I realized it was Batgirl’s imposter in the bedazzled suit, not Babs. People were furious by this overused transphobic trope being presented in a comic book that was supposed to have been a step forward for DC. The creative team did apologize promptly. Hopefully the next story arc will have some forward thinking without being offensive.
The rest of the trade tells a good story. I liked the message the creative team presented, which was, “yes, you can be excited about the new costume, but don’t forget that this is really about taking down bad guys.” I appreciated that because there was SO much hype regarding the new costume, but so little intrigue into what Babs Gordon’s new story would be. I loved seeing Dinah Lance be a background character, as a reminder of the larger superhero world. I also loved that the comic as a whole was super diverse.
One bit that really confused me was a flashback where the reader sees Babs in a wheelchair after having been shot by the Joker. My issue was that if this was supposed to be a fresh start for the character, why are they going back and referencing some very Oracle-like plot points? I definitely may be over-thinking this with my vague knowledge of this character’s history. Maybe to someone who knows nothing about Batgirl’s history at all, it falls into the story with no issues. I was perplexed.
Aside from the one flashback, I did find this to be a great way to start reading Batgirl. Babs is a great example of a superhero for modern young women done correctly. She is truly relatable. The art is phenomenal. The story may not be spectacular, but it’s definitely entertaining, and I’m intrigued to see where it goes from here.
Have you been reading Batgirl? Let me know what you think in the comments!