Now that’s what I’m talking about!!
Batgirl #15 is the gut punch and groin slap I’ve been waiting for from Gail Simone. I haven’t been very kind to Batgirl post the first few issues, because the story couldn’t find it’s voice. It felt thrown together, as if Simone was still stinging from having to give Barbara Gordon (aka Batgirl) back her legs and make her a super hero. I gave up after a few meandering issues but figured the return of the Joker was a good time to give BG another shot.
I’m so glad I did. Simone fires on all pistons with this issue. Not only the main story between Joker and Batgirl, but also a creepy and disturbing subplot focused on a past session between Joker and his Arkham psychiatrist. I won’t get into the details of the exchange but it’s some of the best writing Simone has done on Batgirl. Joker is disturbing here, more focused on horrifying his doctor. There are times with the Joker when the madness clears up and just the sheer rage and hatred of everything comes through. Simone captures that perfectly.
While that subplot simmers the brain in dark juices, the battle of Joker vs. Batgirl is raging steadily. The clown prince had kidnapped Barbara’s estranged mother, and Barbara is pissed. Confronting Joker at a roller rink, Batgirl learns of his bizarre plot to propose to her. Three things work really well in Batgirl #15. The first is the aforementioned subplot. The second is how Simone pushes Batgirl into a rage. When she realizes that Joker is never going to let her mother go, she snaps. I love how Batgirl decides right then and there that Batman is wrong, Joker needs to die. You’d expect that from Damien or even Dick, but not Batgirl. What’s even better is that this is exactly what Joker wants.
The third effective part of issue 15 is Barbara’s psychopathic serial killer brother James. He becomes quite insulted that Joker has decided to kill his mother and sister, mainly it seems because James wants that joy for himself. When James stands up the Joker, it’s one of the coolest moments in Batgirl since issue one. Now I’m really interested in James again, and my mind spins with the idea of Joker and Barbara’s brother engaged in a game of cat and mouse.
Daniel Sampere’s art is nicely executed, but nothing to really get excited over. Sampere is great with the Joker from the past. His work on Joker’s face during the sessions with the shrink really convey the hatred and cruelty the Joker is capable of. When Sampere draws modern day Joker with his cut off face tied to his skull, it’s less successful. The disturbing creepiness of Greg Capullo’s Joker in Batman is lost to a more conventional style. It works and tells the story, but it never pops off the page the way Simone’s writing does.
Tragically, Gail Simone was just fired from Batgirl. Not stepped down, not decided to leave, DC fired one of their best writers for some unknown reason. I’m really at a loss for why. Yes the story had a hard time finding its legs, but I always checked back because I have faith in Gail Simone. She is one of the best, something she no longer has to prove.
I find it curious that Jason Aaron fucked up both Wolverine and Incredible Hulk, Grant Morrison has shit-canned Action Comics, Tony Daniel couldn’t find a real voice for Detective Comics and David Finch nearly derailed Batman The Dark Knight, but none of them are fired. Even if they’re moved to different books, it’s handled with a lot more respect than Simone received here. A more cynical man, like myself, might believe it’s because she’s a woman writing strong female characters instead of victims. Regardless, DC have screwed the pooch hard this time and once Gail Simone leaves I will not pick up another copy of Batgirl.
(5 Story, 3 Art)