Batgirl Vol. 1: The Batgirl of Burnside is a Stylish Triumph!June 10, 2015
Batgirl Vol 1: The Batgirl of Burnside, by Brenden Fletcher, Cameron Stewart, and Babs Tarr, brings a new look and swagger to everyone’s favorite red-headed Gothamite, Barbara Gordon. There’s a new resident in Gotham’s trendiest neighborhood and she’s about to dish out the hippest brand of justice Burnside has ever seen. The Batgirl of Burnside follows Barbara Gordon as she carves out a new life, however, tragedy strikes when her stuff goes up in flames. With all her work and gear lost in a fire, Barbara must reinvent her image and graduate thesis all while fighting a new mysterious enemy.
This new direction hasn’t been without problems but through it all Brenden Fletcher, Cameron Stewart, and Babs Tarr craft their vision without ever sacrificing who Barbara is at her core. From the very beginning, the Batgirl creative team set out to make a Batgirl for younger audiences. Along the way, they started a fashion revolution. I don’t think anyone was ready for Cameron Stewart and Babs Tarr’s Batgirl redesign. It not only fit the mood of the story but inspired a wave of new heroic looks. Barbara’s new outfit is such a great complement to the vibrant story and it helped convince new and old fans to get on board. Given the new tale the team was trying to spin, a new look for Barbara just made sense and it’s hard to see her wearing any other uniform.
Babs Tarr’s Batgirl art is stunning. Cameron Stewart played a huge part in with his panel breakdowns, but Tarr really brought the sass to the final product. The art looks different from traditional DC comic art, but it complements this new take on Barbara. Maris Wicks colors are an excellent fit for the upbeat tones of the series and the entire book is colorful and stylish. Personally, the best aspect of the art is the amount of eye candy in the book (I’m a girl let me have this moment). There are so many cute young adults from all walks of life and it’s unfair because I can’t live in Burnside. Aside from the eye candy, I think new and old readers can appreciate the vibrant life of Burnside; it’s not just a suburb of Gotham. The residents give Burnside a distinct personality, and Stewart and Tarr did an excellent job bringing that personality to life with their art. The Batgirl creative team has introduced so many new diverse characters, such as Frankie and Qadir, and I think it’s wonderful that people can see part of themselves in the residents of Burnside.
For such a bold new direction, the story is a slow burn and at times the book gets lost in the glamor of its art. Most of the major events get stuffed into the last issue, and having read the single issues it was tough to remain invested. Reading it in trade there’s less of that effect, but I think the reveal and subsequent battle with this new enemy could have happened sooner. However, the ending brings everything home in such a satisfying way that I can forgive pacing issues. Brenden Fletcher and Cameron Stewart incorporate several plots into the story and the book does struggle to find balance, but the team succeeds by making each story relatable. Barbara’s struggle with duty and self-identity reflect struggles young adults face, myself included. She wants to have fun, make new friends, and participate in the culture of Burnside, but she’s also a scholarship-holding grad student/superhero. Barbara is trying to find balance and when she does its a satisfying victory to read.
At the start of the series Barbara’s relationship with Black Canary, Dinah Lance, is on the rocks. It’s one of the major subplots of the entire arc, and it’s the part of the series I struggled with the most. Dinah’s anger at having her apartment burn down, along with Barbara’s stuff, is understandable. The way she treats Barbara in the story is harder to swallow. It felt out of character, but when best friends fight it can get ugly, scary, and a whole bunch of things at once. Perhaps that was why it was so difficult to accept. No one wants to lose their best friend, especially if they are being attacked both physically and emotionally. However, I feel like there could have been a different approach to their conflict. From a new reader’s perspective, the whole fight is a mess. Dinah is just the “old friend” who acts like a complete jerk, but these two characters have such a rich friendship. I know there’s a happy ending because Barbara and Dinah have the strongest friendship in comics, but having them fight felt unnecessary. Instead of going through a break-up/make-up scenario there are more positive ways to introduce new readers to a powerful friendship. As a fan of their relationship, the last thing I wanted to see was the two of them fight but the positive outcome makes up for my dislike.
I’ve always clinged to Batgirl/Barbara Gordon stories. The battles she’s fought often run parallel to my own struggles, so I see Batgirl as one of the most important titles out there. While I didn’t enjoy some of the characterization the importance of this tale far exceeds any complaints. It’s a story about accepting and loving yourself, all wrapped around the aesthetic of youth culture. Younger readers can enjoy Barbara taking selfies and busting jerks while older readers can appreciate the ramifications of vigilantism under the scrutiny of the Internet. There’s a little something for everyone and I look forward to seeing what the team brings next.
It’s not just a phase it’s who she is! Batgirl Vol. 1: The Batgirl of Burnside stumbles at times but stands firm in bringing a fun new direction the character. The creative team adapted with the book and their awareness of fan criticism and praise makes them a force in the DCYou. The Batgirl of Burnside is here and she’s here to stay!
TL;DR: Despite minor issues in pacing and iffy characterization, this new Batgirl tale is an excellent reintroduction to the character.
[Image from MTV]