Review: Batgirl #37

Babs Gordon thwarts a doppelganger in Batgirl #37, written by Brenden Fletcher and Cameron Stewart, with art by Babs Tarr, colors by Maris Wicks and lettering by Jared K. Fletcher.

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Three issues into the new feel and god I want to like this. God I want to like this. I really want to like this. Beautiful color, snappy artwork, fresh and young (if not a bit try-hard and a bit overblown) this is really fun stuff at least it’s trying to be and it’s also really trying. There’s a gnawing little bulldog in my head that just doesn’t put this Babs with the one we previously have seen. It feels too domestic. Too small. And it’s not working for me.

POSITIVES

Really there’s nothing fundamentally wrong with this comic visually and aesthetically. It’s gorgeously drawn. It’s got okay plots. Babs is up against a doppelganger who appears dressed literally in a modernized version of Yvyone Craig’s Batgirl suit, which is a whole other shade of purple and was sparkly. Babs later attends an art show and it’s glammed out pictures of….BATGIRL. She tries to track down the artist and finds her doppelganger again, now decked out in a Batgirl suit of pure gold sequins. This is a pretty fillerish issue, while I’m always a fan of one off stories this felt a bit too small, which ties into my question as to why are we making Batgirl so small time?

NEGATIVES

This whole Burnside and now “Batgirl of Burnside” is sort of obnoxious and it’s only been three issues of this new Batgirl. Not only is Gotham expanding at the writer’s whim but in a city like Gotham you’d think Babs moving to the trendy gentrified area would bring about possible criticism of said gentrification or a concentration of wealth (despite students not having any) and focus on what people there are doing to help the city. What it comes off as is a little bit self indulgent instead. Which is fine people are allowed to have fun but and I know she’s in college too. But it feels so dissonant. This feels like it’s Batgirl Year Two.

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While I sort of like that Babs has a techy friend gadget guy now, it sorta feels redundant. A big thing about Babs was her DIY spirit, why have a guy make her stuff if she could probably make it herself? Or at the least show her inventing stuff?

I was not a fan of the cross dresser Dagger Type being the villain here for the sake of some sort of vain art experiment on idol worship and their own delusions. There’s inklings of transmisogny there and it’s not cool. The language Babs uses, calling the “disco suit” trashy points in that direction. Her surprise at the wig pull outing and about to call Dagger Type a man. Like really?

I also did not appreciate the wheelchair artwork. That artwork alone shows how DC does not understand Babs or Oracle and Babs’ ability to get past that, they misunderstand her growth. I adore the focus on detective work but it’s really missing the mark as to what Babs is. I need a better Batgirl than this. Dick is able to go be a super spy, and Babs is left beating up obnoxious artists. Oracle could topple cities. Why do they want Babs to be so small?

VERDICT

Cute and flashy with appealing looking  characters and diversity however the cracks in the writing and huge character misinterpretation are really starting to show and it’s putting a hamper on what was a promising start. I really need DC to give Babs a chance to be Babs and show off her tech prowess and smarts. Why haven’t we seen Babs actually do anything near a computer?! Why is that so bad? The villain did not make much sense either and the transmisogny surrounding Dagger Type, whose personal motive meanwhile made little sense, was distasteful. If you want to do more trans characters don’t do them that way. They can be the villain too, just don’t do that. Don’t have Babs react in that manner.

The writers need to stop trying too hard to be young and hip as well, it’s been generally okay but they’re starting to rely on mentioning social media and focusing on selfies and cellphones too much; it comes off as contrived. Only old people actually talk about selfies the way people talk about selfies here. The art is fantastic and saves this issue from it’s pretty disastrous writing, otherwise it would be a two. The wheelchair part was really quite offensive and shows some questionable understanding of Babs as a character too aside from the trans issues. I hope they apologize and make an effort to do better.

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  • Jesse24O

    I honestly don’t remember bat girl legitimately making her own tech like batarangs and grapples and the plethora of toys thatbbatfamily members usually have access to. Babs isn’t as capable in all fields of science as some one like Bruce, and that maybe due to time constraints she is adapting to life in Burnside. While she is working on a doctorate, compounded with the knowledge she has bills to pay; all whilst having to deal with a villain who is actively turning normal psychologically vulnerable citizens into public threats Barbara has to root out. I mean Barbara is a computer science savant and she also is very intelligent as has been alluded to in this book. I really like who a focus is placed on visually illustrating Barbara’s mind. The drag issues I didn’t catch it maybe that I didn’t associate the villain with anything other than being an artist that was so obsessed with fame that he was willing to do everything and anything to attain it. The background ofthe villain is too ambiguous to really levy the assertion that the books writers were actively trying to demean a certain demographic. though I respect your perspective on the subject matter I know it’s a touchy issue, but I have seen this kind of narritive in manga’s which this books does draw some inspiration from so maybe I am just desensitized to this type of aforementioned type offensive plot I am not going to broach this topic further. I can also see there is aoverarching plot that connects these pseudo one shots so I will say the plot is bigger than it appears. Also with Barbara currently having no equipment I do not believe she would be able to deal with massive problems and cases just yet . I personally view the Batgirl reboot like Metroid in that she lost most of her equipment but slowly she is acquiring the tools to be back at full go. That’s my two cents on the matter I find this review was very critical of the plot and actually missed some social commentary particularly in regards to fame. Still keep up the good work.

    • Max Eber

      Thank you for the comment! I really love Babs which is why I’ve been pretty critical. I thought Gail Simone’s Batgirl was terrible and was glad she got a refresher with this new team. Unfortunately some problems that had been in Gail’s book have continued and I’m not fond of they have no delivered any insight on her recovery, we know its a traumatic experience but we have not seen the surgery that helped her, we have not seen the rehabilitation, we’ve seen the initial trauma but we have not had any of the catharsis in seeing Babs get to where she currently is regarding her mobility. They focus on the negative, as the portrait of Batgirl in a wheelchair was meant to show (Dagger Type obviously did not know she was in a wheelchair for x amount of time that was a clear jab for the reader to know it would upset Babs). I’m also pretty biased in that I believe Babs deserves more. She doesn’t need to be this small. I would have loved her to have gotten a Motoko Kusanagi type action-hacker type treatment, a little more sophisticated than this, which is super cute in theory but it just feels so young to me. So yeah I’m a little biased.

      Unfortunately with this issue, the intent or lack thereof when it came to being intentionally offensive or hateful doesn’t mean the tropes used in the writing aren’t. I’m pretty sure they were not actively trying to demean trans people, they are trying very hard to be diverse, but that does not mean their writing choices weren’t transphobic and transmisognistic. This is very common. It’s institutionalized, not active, the same goes for institutionalized racism in this country. A lot of people are not actively bigoted people but they don’t realize that particular opinions, reactions or behaviors that we’ve been taught are racist or ableist or what you and can be harmful. For instance a girl may wear a fake war bonnet headdress to a party while getting trashed. She may not actively hate Native Americans but the fact she wore it is ignorant to the offensive nature to the act. A lot of people have to step back and detangle their perceived notions about things and what they’ve learned. I know I sure have to too. It’s a slow process for sure.

      Thank you for the response though, I hope I’m reasonable. I do love the art, it still gets 3/5 due to art and coloring. I don’t consider that a terrible score at all.

  • Jordan Richards

    Batgirl has never been the one who made her own gadgets and tech honestly. Plus, she can’t really get any technology or gadgets from Bruce at the moment due to Wayne Enterprises being out of the picture (Batgirl was seen in her more current outfit in the latest issue of Eternal, so the events of this story are happening around the same time).

    The wheelchair picture wasn’t DC showing they don’t understand Barbara or whatever. It’s meant more as a villainous thing by whoever the big bad of the series is at the moment. He or she knows who Batgirl really is and he’s mocking and taunting her with it. While she be past it, it would still sting a bit to see one of your lowest points be used to mock and humiliate you and display it for all those to see, even if they can’t connect the dots themselves.

    I honestly don’t think the writers are trying to be modern and hip with this in a serious way. I think they are going overboard with it as a way to make it just so goofy and over the top ridiculous that we can laugh at it or have fun with it. It’s not meant to be taken seriously; it’s just something that gives the book its own unique and bright tone to it while also being incredibly cheesy and perhaps parodying it. Frankly, if the book was trying to be serious and relevant with its modernism and hipster feel, it would be more akin to something like Young Avengers & The Wicked + The Divine. Everything in this book is so flashy, goofy, and up to 11 that I can’t see remotely this writing team playing anything super straight.