By: Gail Simone (story), Alitha Martinez (pencils), Vicente Cifuentes (inks), Ulises Arreola (colors)

The Story: Is it a requirement that every Gotham crime-fighter also be an independently wealthy scion?

The Review: Coincidentally, just as Batman and Robin has been pointing out the Bat-family’s excessive violence, Batgirl does the same thing here—or, at least, it’s questioning how effective their methods actually are in addressing Gotham’s problems.  With a crime rate that persistent, even with all the vigilante intervention, you have to start wondering if they’ve been going about this the wrong way all along.

I mean, does cracking down on petty car thieves really make a difference, especially when all you’re doing is bruising up sixteen-year-olds before sending them to prison?  And is it worth it when the only victims here are, as Batgirl puts it, “some rich couple’s status ride?”  Speaking as a person with a background in urbanism, let me assure you that it does not; locking up these kids keeps them off the streets for a while, but they come back savvier, colder, angrier than ever.

Maybe that’s why Simone spends quite a bit of time laying out the civilian efforts to reform Gotham in this issue.  Even prior to the relaunch, just after he came back to the living, Bruce Wayne has funneled resources into giving new life to the city from the ground up.  Here, we learn that to do so, he has to break down existing neighborhoods just to get to that ground.  And while Alysia’s views on the matter may be cynical (“How has having saviors from above worked out for us so far?”), she cuts to the truth of the matter: Gotham won’t be saved by a handful of people, whether they wear capes and masks or tuxedos and bowties; it must save itself.

So yes, perhaps this Charise Carnes does have the right idea in her bottom-up approach to revitalizing the Cherry Hill district of Gotham.  I personally think the concept of a volunteer corps is a winner (given the right resources, of course).  But then she ruins her credibility with a horrifically hardline stance on anyone who doesn’t follow the rule of law to her liking.  Let’s set aside the mystery of whether she actually murdered her family or not and just focus on the man she’s got chained up nekkid (not naked, which implies grace in one’s nudity) in a cage at her own house.  Discovering his identity will be crucial to figuring out where this socialite stands.

In the meantime, feel free to hate her personal guard, who apparently double-time as a vigilante group with the highly evocative name of the Disgraced.  I haven’t been feeling any of the villains she’s created for this series thus far, and I find it hard to change my mind for a band which includes, in Babs’ own words, a “bargain-basement Hawkman.”  But you know, I suppose it’d be a misnomer to call them or Knightfall villains, wouldn’t it?  Since their goal is to eradicate crime, “antiheroes” seems a more apt term.  It’s not like we haven’t condoned or even admired vigilantes who lean towards killing before.

Martinez’s work, with few exceptions, is a carbon copy of regular artist Ardian Syaf’s.  Pretty to the point of being cutesy, its sense of action is adequate, not striking, and its handling of emotion is rudimentary at best.  You get a couple characters in tears this issue, yet they don’t look genuinely grief-stricken; they just look like faces with tears on them.  And I’m going to take a stand and say right now that Arreola needs to stop with all these distracting glows and color effects.  Every panel I keep thinking, Where’s that green/blue/purple light coming from?

Conclusion: While the discussion of real-world issues is pretty thoughtful, it raises more questions than it answers, and the superhero stuff feels flat at best.

Grade: C+

– Minhquan Nguyen

Some Musings: – With tats to the wazoo, half a shaved head, and multiple piercings, Ricky (also known by his street soubriquet as “Killa Anon”) would be in the real world what lawyers consider “not trial material.”

– Letterer Dave Sharpe, that is the most lifeless, unconvincing “Help meeeeee” ever.