Batgirl: Year One Review By Deffinition
If you’ve read my review of Robin Year One, then you know I loved the pulpy origin story that the book had to it. In the end I gave it an 8/10 placing it quite high towards the top end of books I’ve reviewed. This is it’s direct sequel, it follows the typical Batman origin title of having the character’s name then a Year One directly after it. Yes….we remember…Frank Miller’s book was great.
So, how does this work match up to it’s predecessor and the run this far. Read my full review to find out!
How Oracle Started
I love Oracle, she is one of Batman‘s closest allies and a valued member of the Bat Family so it’s nice to see her origins as Batgirl. The character over the years has went against the mould, often being seen as an inspiration for paralysed people and women. She really is great, so it’s a shame that the book opens in the same way that a lot of Batman books do. Villains crash the party, she jumps in…saves them..yadda yadda yadda. There’s clearly a lot of party poopers in Gotham and I really wish that for Barbara’s first outing they ventured away from the typical Batman stereotypes and had a fresh take on the characters.
She speaks on how Cassandra, The Oracle, could predict the future and how no one heeded her warnings. When her predictions came true people blamed her. It’s a nice little interesting sub text that has been added to the book, mainly because Barbara is warned time and time again of her future yet she rarely takes notice.
One of my biggest problems with the story is it’s constant use of foreshadowing, sure you can remind us of the future that awaits Barbara but across the volume’s 9 issues it becomes a bit heavy handed. We get constant reference of The Oracle, she visits disabled police and there are a multitude of homages to The Killing Joke. Little touches here and there would be fine, however it slows the pace slightly when we have to be told every 5 pages ‘BARBARA BECOMES THE ORACLE…SEE I’M MENTIONING THE ORACLE…ISN’T THAT CLEVER!!!’
Slow clap..yes…well done….can we get on with the plot.
Countering this, one of the strongest elements of the book is it’s tone of feminism and equality. Gordon laughs at the thought of her becoming a cop, her sensei says that she is too ‘girly’ and the FBI won’t let her join because of her height. We are with a character who wants to make a difference yet is held back everytime by people in society who just don’t believe in her. It really makes you root for Barbara throughout and when she eventually stands up for herself there is a true sense of achievement.
Like A Batgirl Out Of Hell
Showing crimefighting in Gotham from a female perspective is a nice twist on the Batman formula. Barbara’s heels snap, villains treat her differently and overal there is a tone to the book that not many people take her seriously. When she breaks into the JSA building to leave a message for Black Canary, another inspiration female super hero, we get the feeling that she wants to find a place in the world, to unite women and move forward.
Barbara is not just a femme fatale, she will take the bull by the horns and show that women can be just as strong as men (even if it means shes asking out co-workers all the time….eeeee what a little minx). She is an independent woman and she don’t need no man.
One of my favourite parts of the run is when Barabara seeks out her costume. A shop owner has a “Batman” one but it doesn’t really look like him as no one really knows what he wears. I always wondered about the costumes in stores in other stories so it’s great that we get a little nod to it. This leads into her attending the party from the beginning of the book, she hasn’t had a tip off that there will be criminals, she just knows it’s Gotham so….there will be criminals.
Wow, a true Oracle indeed…or lazy writing.
Another strong aspect of the book is in it’s art. It keeps much of the tone of Robin Year One and due to this doesn’t feel like it’s dour or depressing. It makes us feel like the characters are fun and because of this I had fun reading it.
Batgirl, Batman And Robin
Obviously if you’re in Gotham dressed as a Bat, if you’re not Batman then Batman is going to turn up. The dynamic duo try and take her down but she puts up a fight, even besting Robin. It’s great that she is constantly upping herself to beat adversity and it makes the character so endearing.
It’s refreshing that we once again get an introduction to the Batcave and gain insight into how a new comer would view it. The art takes centre stage here as we see in first person the landmarks of the lair. She’s blown away by just how professional Batman is, even if he does have a giant penny, the computer contains vast databases on all of the city’s criminals and it’s clear that there’s been a lot of thought put into it, juxtaposing her preperation.
The team ofcourse want to test her and the training area really allows her to demonstrate her abilities. In the end Batman decides that she is good, just not good enough. This once again mirrors the fact that every man in her life has tried to hold her back in some way. He evaluates that she has no reason to do what she does and this section of the book becomes it’s most interesting.
She even regrets being named Batgirl and wishes it was Batwoman….this is truly a tale of feminism.
Like A Moth To The Flame
Ofcourse every Batman (or Girl) tale needs a villain and this book centres around KillerMoth and Firefly. Not exactly the best of the bunch but they still have their moments throughout. KillerMoth is sort of like a twisted Bruce Wayne, a rich man with a huge amount of resources but nothing to really do with it so he turns to crime.
He nobley, if you can call it that, approaches gangsters and offers them protection. If the Masked vigilantes stand up for the citizens of Gotham then surely there needs to be Masks who also protect the villains. It’s something that I’ve never really thought about and it adds a bit of depth to what was before a bland and boring criminal.
When he teams up with Firefly we are given an interesting dynamic. Similar to Batman Terror they are sort of like Chalk and Cheese. KillerMoth is sort of a clown, he rarely get things right and is a bit of a joke. Firefly on the other hand is deadly, sadistic and a pyromaniac. I sort of got the feeling that KillerMoth was in over his head but then like a moth to the flam…oh I’ve already done that pun.
Pacing wise, after their team up I found the book to be a bit strange. For some reason they have two climaxes. One where Batgirl and Black Canary team up to take down the villains after they have kidnapped Gordon and one where Batgril tries to take down the villains herself. Both take place over 4 issues but they easily could have wrapped up the run with the first face off. Whilst Black Canary is a great person for Barbara to aspire to, it leaves it feeling flat when we realise it’s not the end of the tale.
Robin’s climax (no not like that, though they do share a kiss) is the stronger of the two. They go against the condiment king, yes he’s terrible, yes they know it, we move on to a bigger threat. It is a shame that writers never really break out the A listers for any of the sidekicks. When they do it’s to brutalise them i.e. Death In The Family. The book could have really soared at this point with an interesting antagonist but it’s happy being mundane.
We end on more foreshadowing and a warning. Barbara’s life will be dangerous should she endure. We know what is coming though so it’s not like we care at this point.
Overall the book has some really high highs and some really low lows. Perhaps with a more threatening villain this book could’ve really had impact to it. It’s a shame that Barbara’s first outing is so hit and miss especially following Robin’s. I do think there is enough here to bring readers in, whether you’ll remember it a week from now depends on you. Overall whilst I had fun with it I once again yurn for a classicly dark tale from the Batman Universe.
Barbara deserved so much more so from me it gets a……
Leave a comment whether you agree with my ranking or not.