It’s impossible to talk about Batgirl today without bringing up the feminist debate that surrounds her. So let me address feminism head on:
I mentioned before that I’m a “non-practicing feminist.” I believe that the battle for woman’s rights was won in western culture by our foremothers and while there are still a few jerks in the west, the real fight for women’s rights is on a global scale. In some countries such as China sex-selective abortion is a common practice. In parts of the Islamic world, simply allowing girls to go to school is something people debate. Yet, rather than using their platforms to highlight these issues, the modern feminist movement wants to complain when a fictional character is victimized by another fictional character. This is why no one likes feminists.
The problem with modern day Batgirl in a nutshell is this: DC is scared of Batgirl being seen as a victim, so she is never allowed to be at a narrative low point. Without a lowpoint in the story, you have no story. Basically in the name of feminism, they are afraid to put her through the same challenges a male hero would face.
Batgirl has yet to hit the big screen unless you count the little girl cowering from Two-Face in The Dark Knight, or that other thing:
In the comics, Barbra Gordon was always a strong independent woman in or out of costume. Even in the 1970’s she was smart and sexy. An image of female empowerment.
Then The Killing Joke happened. Joker can kill and maim innocent Gothamites and no one cares because that all ‘part of the plan,’ but he attacks a named female character and everyone loses their minds!
The Joker shooting Batgirl was a real shake-up to a status quo and forced Barbra to make a big character change. Bruce Wayne: The Road Home is not a great story, but it has its moments. Perhaps the best is a flashback to just after the events of The Killing Joke.
And that’s what Barbra did. She became more than any costume. She became Oracle. The eye-in-the-sky computer hacker for not just Batman, but the whole Justice League. Barbra may not have been Batgirl anymore, but she was not helpless.
Barbra did the one thing that Batman couldn’t. She grew as a character. When Bane broke Batman’s back he had to get better, because Bruce Wayne in a wheelchair is not interesting. He is a flat character who can never really grow and change, but Barbara found a way to keep fighting with a physical handicap. An independent woman working in a STEM field.
So why didn’t writers like Jeff Loab, Paul Dini, and John Ostrander just throw Barbra in a Lazarus pit and heal her in the next issue? Because to do so would be disrespectful. It would be disrespectful to survivors of traumatic events to simply “undo” the trauma Barbra had gone through. So instead of instant healing, Barbra went on a character journey of growth and change. While these so-called feminists just saw Batgirl as an object of male oppression, these writers were treating her like a character.
Now the gender studies majors have won, and we have a Batgirl again. I have now read the first 18 issues of Batgirl Rebirth, NO ONE can say I didn’t give writer Hope Larson a chance, and my gorge rises at what Larson has done with my beloved Batgirl!
The biggest problem with the new Batgirl comic is the overall lack of tension. From the screw-ball villains to the weak mysteries, this series does not know what it wants to be, or who it wants to be for.
The villains in Batgirl are weak little losers. She shares a mythos with the most famous rogue’s gallery in all of comics! Two-Face, Riddler, Mr. Freeze, Joker, and what do you do with it? Have Batgirl play table tennis with the Penguin of course!
Most of Batgirl’s villains are silly and stupid. Hope Larson’s inspiration for the psychology of Batgirl’s villains wasn’t the motivations explored by writers like Alan Moore, Jeff Loab, Paul Dini, or Grant Morrison. It wasn’t even inspired by the pathos found in Batman: The Animated Series and studied by psychologist Dr. Andrea Letamendi. Apparently, Larson’s inspiration for creating these villains is Captain Planet.
I can forgive a lot of fluff in story if there is something bringing me back for more. Tom King’s Mister Miracle has had its ups and downs, but I still love the series: the stakes are high, I have no idea what’s going on half the time, and no idea how it will end, but I am invested enough that the occasional lull doesn’t shake me.
I am not invested in Batgirl, and I want to be. I’m a comic book reading, millennial, librarian! If I’m not your target market, who the heck is?!
The mysteries in Batgirl are copy-paste Scooby-Doo plots. But unlike Scooby-Doo, there is no charming over-the-top gothic atmosphere, just easy to solve mysteries. For example: In issue 2, Batgirl is looking for a criminal syndicate, she follows a mysterious drone’s signal to:
I know what your thinking. It’s what I was thinking: This is a Chekhov’s gun. This is not some random peeping tom, he’ll come back to the story and be the mastermind or something.
Nope. He’s a random peeping tom that never shows up again because #LOL #Random!
When your mystery is stupid, your detective looks stupid. It’s fine for Scooby and Shaggy to look stupid, that’s part of the shtick, but Batgirl should not be stupid.
Is this the same woman that pulled herself up from being paralyzed to the greatest hacker in the world? This is the woman that Ted Kord loved? This spoiled brat is the same woman that Booster Gold took a pounding to try and save?!
At first, I actually thought that Burnside was its own city, like Bludhaven. No, it’s a district of Gotham. Nothing about this place seams remotely like Gotham. Burnside has a silicon valley/ hipster vibe as opposed to the dark, mean streets of Gotham that we’ve seen for 50+ years. Gotham needs heroes like Batman and Batgirl, Burnside needs an uber.
Batgirl’s friends are annoying! Now some of my best friends are annoying, but even I can’t handle the pathetic, relationship drama in this series!
Why am I supposed to care about these people? Batgirl has this “Burger King Kids Club” group of friends that is unrealistic, and not very subtle. It’s great that you want to highlight diversity, but it’s clear that each of the supporting characters is only there to fill out multiple diversity checkboxes.
The supporting cast should be interesting, flushed out people, and they are not, they just show up for a few pages, complain about their lives, then leave. They are caricatures of minorities, not fully realized characters. They don’t feel like flesh and blood humans, just stereotypes with cheap drama. It looks like Barbra is just a spoiled white girl who wants to look “woke” by having superficial token friendships with minorities.
I would literally rather read a comic all about a bridezilla prattling on about wedding details. . . oh, wait I did!
Batgirl’s roommate, Frankie, is particularly annoying. In issue 18, Batgirl and her friends meet the worst kind of criminal imaginable: A Conservative!
Harley Quinn attacks with a deadly virus:
As Harley escapes, Frankie says this:
Then this happens:
But Larson isn’t content to tarnish just Batgirl’s name. In a cross-over comic written by Larson, Supergirl gets a telepathic communication from someone trapped in a lab. She explained that she needs Batgirl to help her get passed the Wayne Tech security.
So this is all about you. This isn’t about helping people. This isn’t about bringing those responsible for this human testing lab to justice. This isn’t even about alerting Wayne Tech to how their property is being misused. If it were, you wouldn’t care about “getting credit” or looking bad if you make a mistake, you would care about solving this problem with the most efficient means possible. Supergirl is saying that her ego is more important than people’s lives! This is how Larson writes a hero!