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Batgirl #17: Bad Brother

Ray Fawkes' stint shows us that DC couldn't have brought back Gail Simone fast enough.

Batgirl #17

At some point, the folks at DC Comics decided they were going to fire Batgirl scribe and all around great writer, Gail Simone. I’m not sure if Batgirl #17 was written during those few days, but it will make all Batgirl fans happy that Gail will soon be turning on her laptop and clicking away at the keys for Barbara Gordon. Why is this such god news? Well, because Batgirl #17 is so bad it’s almost unreadable.

Ray Fawkes will be stepping into the Batgirl writer’s chair for two issues and, from what I can tell, that means lots of clichés and way more exposition than any one comic needs. From the opening page of Batgirl #17, Fawkes unloads his carbon fueled assault rifle of exposition at a rate that is unbearable. At first, it’s a running inner monologue from Barbara Gordon’s psychopathic brother Jim. Then we have a scene between Barbara’s estranged mother and the psychopathic son that goes on for too long. From there, we have Commissioner Gordon talking too much, back to Jim Jr. yapping away and, throughout it all, we have Barbara flapping her gums. Was Fawkes paid by the word? Why else would he overload a simple action comic with so much unnecessary text?

The plot here is paper-thin. Barbara is trying to track down the thugs who helped Joker and, in doing so, she begins to follow the work of an arsonist. Meanwhile, her brother walks around filled with “crraazzyyyy” speeches and little talks to drum home the point that he’s a psychopath. In the end, Batgirl finds some of the thugs, but they are taken out by a guy named Firebug who, in the very last panel, seems to set Batgirl on fire. Where did this guy come from? Oh right, the arsonist angle that slips through the cracks of a story weighed down by superfluous exposition.

Not only does Fawkes drown us in words, he also crafts them to be clichéd messes. Writer Scott Snyder presented the original idea of Jim Jr. being a psychopath during his work on Detective Comics just before the New 52. Snyder made Jim interesting, a normal guy with some abnormal ideas. I didn’t always agree with how fast the plot moved, but the character of the brother always rose above the standard “crazy” killer. Simone picked up on that idea and really nailed it in Batgirl #16 by making Jim unafraid of the Joker. He was cold, calculating and completely unimpressed by the clown That was different; it kept the idea of Jim afloat.

Fawkes steps in with Batgirl #17 and undoes Jim Jr. in two ways. One is this babbling monologue about his sister “in fire” and how she “dances” and all this other well-worn psychobabble that we’ve heard before. The other is a phone conversation between Barbara and her brother. Where Jim was once cold and always in control, he now says things like “You’re not afraid. You will be soon.” It’s the kind of pandering that we see too often where a killer is so easy to upset. Across the board, Fawkes just slops up the entirety of Batgirl.

Daniel Sampere’s artwork is better than Fawkes' writing, but it’s nothing to get too excited about. Sampere does very standard, factory-like pencils. His lines are bold, his work shaded nicely, but it does little more than tell the story. There’s no flair, no excitement behind his work and his movement leaves much to be desired. The fire scenes with Batgirl are nicely done, but overall this is just average work that any decently trained artist could pull off.

3

(1 Story, 2 Art)