Monday, October 13, 2014

The Pull List: Batgirl #35 Review

It's taken me quite a while for me to come to terms with the fact that I am part of the Millennial generation, even if I am at the tail end of it (1983, bitches!). Now, it's kind of one of those things where I begrudgingly look at my life situation and think, "Ugh, YES, I feel what these 20-somethings are feeling." However, this is not to say that I don't find my younger counterparts to be equally baffling and irritating, as evidenced by a recent obsession with VHS tapes. Like, really, Millennials. Do you know nothing about the crappiness of VHS tapes? Half of the ones you're purchasing for ten cents each don't even work, and there's a good chance that - even if you were able to find a VCR that wasn't complete junk - whatever you were hoping to watch has been taped over by someone's mother's soap operas or The Price Is Right.

Ahem. Anyway. Batgirl. Right.

Via Paste Magazine
Cover Art by Cameron Stewart
After the doozy of a one-shot from last month, I am damn near relieved to see the new direction Cameron Stewart and Brenden Fletcher are taking Barbara Gordon, even if it is trending toward the Too Trendy, and Babs Tarr's art is so. fucking. refreshing.
Via Comics Alliance
Via The Word of the Nerd
Look at Maris Wicks' colors! Look at the movement! Just look!!! It's such a departure from the Nolan-esque artistic choices in many DC comics as of late, especially when it comes to anything related to Batman, and for me, it is a welcome change. Instead of Barbara going off to train under Bane (???), Babs is now a college-aged crime fighter, who signs up for online dating (it's for a case, alright?) and struggles with money and damaged relationships (hi, Dinah!) while living in the trendy part of town. While I may be eight years out of college, I can still identify with her plight, minus the dating part, since I am of the wedded persuasion, or living in an area that is considered "cool." Hey, my apartment's directly on the bus line and has all utilities included; what more could you ask for?

And this doesn't even include her first "villain!" I think that Stewart and Fletcher took a page from Faction's Hawkeye by choosing a more realistic (for comic books, anyway) adversary than a supervillain with delusions of grandeur. Riot Black (probably not his real name) is a dude straight out of my worst disco-douche nightmares.
Credit to Babs Tarr and DC Comics
Also, is that Sailor Moon's transformation pen tattooed on his side???
Mad props to Tarr for drawing the most revolting toolbag I've seen in comics for the past couple of months, and I don't even mean that sarcastically. I'm not sure if I could have designed someone more obnoxious. Basically, Black runs this website, "Are You in the Black Book?" where he uploads scandalous and/or humiliating pictures that he has stolen; he's the personification of revenge porn, in addition to being lame enough to speak in hashtags. Now, I don't know when this issue was finished, but, like Genius coinciding with the Ferguson riots, it seems absurdly prescient being released shortly after the recent celebrity nude photo leak. Then again, this is something that so many of us, especially those who use social media, must deal with on a daily basis. Hell, it's something my mother warns about: what if someone got a hold of your most personal information? And what if that someone wasn't the most magnanimous human on the planet? If you're Barbara Gordon, you kick the guy's ass and then proceed to trick him into deleting his own data hive.

The new Batgirl definitely isn't for everyone, obviously, since no comic can really be universally loved (I'm one of the apparently rare people who doesn't really care for The Walking Dead, neither the print nor live action versions), but a lot of the criticism is coming from long-time fans of the series. There is merit in some of their points: it's almost as if a 21-year-old tech-savvy hipster vomited all over this first issue, and artistically and thematically, it doesn't match the tones of the other books in the Batman universe. Others prefer Babs' old costume, featured below, to the new purple one that's at the top of this post.
Via Comic Vine
Like I said in my rant at the very beginning, I don't necessarily fit within the Millennial demographic that the new Batgirl is trying to capture - I find text speak in real life to be obnoxious and I thought coffee shops went out of vogue a few years ago? - but that does not mean that I didn't enjoy the hell out of it. I felt like I could relate to Barbara in a way that I haven't for a while. For too long, writers - at DC, Marvel, and indie comics alike - have relied on simply making their titles gritty and dark, supposedly "real," but it became tedious and depressing, enough so that I started picking up Bee and Puppycat, Adventure Time, Tiny Titans, etc. to bring myself out of the gloom. I have to be able to feel a kinship with the characters I follow; it's a big reason why I was such a fan of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Sure, the apocalypse is coming, but dammit, Buffy still has finals to take! More often than not, I am more concerned with the deeply personal conflicts that are the backdrop of the main storyline, because, you know what? I've never had to physically fight a supervillain, but I have had to stand up to an asshole (or two) that was simply being an asshole.

As far as the tone goes, I like that it's so different from the other Bat books. It's an issue that I have with large comic book universes, because there's this assumption that they can't exist separately from each other, giving each titular character room to grow while managing to tell the story of multiple facets of their shared world. Burnside is a college town, a suburb of sorts that doesn't have the same type of violent crime that Gotham proper has. An incredibly dark approach would seem forced and probably would have caused me to completely drop the book from my reading list (I've got Men of Wrath, Birthright, Wytches, and plenty more to fulfill my need for harsh themes, and anyway, I think Batman has that plenty covered.). The entire world surrounding Gotham can't be so bleak that even just one comic title doesn't have permission to be that one bright spot, right?
Via Batman News
Continuing on the "going against the dark and gritty" train, I, for one, love the more low-key, obviously handmade purple costume that Babs dons in this issue. Yes, it's not armored, but it's definitely more appropriate to the above-mentioned tone. If she were to wear her previous Batsuit, it would be like taking a gun to a verbal sparring match - completely overdone and, quite frankly, a little ridiculous. The basic design was maintained, and I figure, as long as Batgirl doesn't have to fight any armed Arkham Asylum (former/escaped) residents, it should suffice as a comfortable disguise for now.

While the first issue wasn't perfect - um, so the dude expecting a cute redhead to meet him can't figure out that the masked redhead is that very same woman? okay, then - it bodes very well for the series as a whole. The writers have a very clear idea about what they want to do with Barbara and know exactly who they want to attract. However, despite Batgirl being written for a younger audience, I encourage any older fans of Barbara Gordon to give it a chance. A lot of times, all-ages comics (or young adult, or children's) are scoffed at because they are deemed lesser than their adult-themed complements - less mature, less topical, less useful. This bleeds over (and into) the literary world, as adults who read and enjoy young adult fiction are mocked because they aren't reading a "more serious" book. But there is freedom writing for and about younger people; it seems that you can explore certain topics - um, poverty and violence in The Hunger Games, anyone? - that seem that much more terrifying if they are experienced by children or young adults. It can be a more effective approach than taking a thirty-something and placing them in a death match. I'm not saying that Batgirl is a literary masterpiece, by any means, and if you read it and it's not your thing, that's perfectly fine. There won't be any judgment coming from me. But to dismiss it as simple tripe, unworthy of your time or attention, is shortsighted, and you may miss out on what is quite possibly one of the most fun books to come out in a while. And to be honest, there is absolutely nothing wrong with wanting a little lighthearted fun on your pull list.
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