By: Gail Simone (writer), Ardian Syaf & Vicente Cifuentes (artists), Ulises Arreola (colorist)
The Story: As if Gotham doesn’t have enough problems without an Occupy movement.
The Review: Back in the days when I was blithely pursuing an English major, totally ignorant (or at least in denial) of the fact that I had no idea what to do with it once I got it, I took a class focused on modernism and post-modernism in literature, during which I was introduced to the stream-of-consciousness narrative style. Frankly, I’m not a fan. It really takes an unpredictable voice to make it work, otherwise it just drones and rambles and grows horrible monotonous.
Unfortunately, quite a bit of what I’ve read on this series and also The Fury of Firestorm: The Nuclear Men (Simone’s other title) has done just that. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: Simone just doesn’t write this internal narrative stuff with the same dazzling energy as she does dialogue. So much of Batgirl’s commentary feels more like repetitive, redundant blather than insight, either into her character or the situation at hand. A good sample of what I mean is when she witnesses a mafia boss headshot his three sons: “His family. His sons. These were his sons. Okay. It’s Gotham. Crazy lives here on a long-term lease. That’s Gotham. But this…I don’t know what this is. I think I’m gonna be sick.”
The core problem of all this is that it breaches one of the fundamental rules of storytelling: show rather than tell. Taking the sample I’ve given you, Batgirl spends a lot of time and text trying to convince us how awful it is that a father would kill his sons in cold blood—and on its face, it is pretty awful—but the fact is our acquaintance with these men last no more than a few pages, and we never see a sign of affection between them the whole time. In fact, if Batgirl didn’t tell you their blood relationship, you’d think they were nothing more than common partners in crime.
About the only time Batgirl’s narration gets some zip is when Simone lets Babs reacts to what others are saying rather than doing. There’s a simple reason for this: since comics are a visual medium, we can already see what people are doing; we don’t need it described to us. But since characters can’t exactly express out loud everything they’re thinking as others speak, it’s quite fun to read their unsaid thoughts. When Babs’ mom tells her how she wants them to be friends, Babs’ “And it’s allll about what you want, right?” captures her resentment and sarcasm perfectly.
We get yet another shiny new villain in this issue, just as challenging and even more obtuse than the last. Our few glimpses of the maiden with vari-colored hair gives us no idea what she’s after, but she seems to be of a liberal bent (“American-made cars, guzzling gas and nearly killing innocent women. Tsk.”) and she must have some kind of magnetic personality, given how quickly others spontaneously spring into action to defend her, including none other than Bruce Wayne. That twist, at least, is something worth waiting for in the next issue.
Syaf hasn’t really delivered anything worth raving about, but he’s always been a reliable partner of art for Simone’s words. One thing that struck me as I read this issue, though, is his preference for drawing Batgirl from the bottom down, which seems a rather contrived way to swing about town. There are other logically nonsensical stylistic choices he makes however, nearly all of which appear on the first page: the flock of bats leading Batgirl’s way; where the heck she’s swinging from, considering her tremendous height above a bridge, etc.
Conclusion: I dunno. While the reading hasn’t been terrible by any means, Simone still seems to be struggling to capture the spark that will make this title live up to its hype.
– Minhquan Nguyen
Some Musings: – No offense, Alysia, but the logic that “older is always better” is a largely upper/upper-middle class pretension. Unless you can prove to me this building is better looking and has more history to it than simply being old, I’d tear it down for an urban renewal project any day.
– Anyone have any clue or speculation as to the significance of “338”?