By: Gail Simone (story), Ardian Syaf (pencils), Vicente Cifuentes (inks), Ulises Arreola (colors)

The Story: Nothing more awkward than two women showing up with the same outfit, right?

The Review: If nothing else, the increasing number of spin-off titles from the Big Two prove that yes, indeed, there can be too much of a good thing.  That seems particularly the case with derivative characters, especially when you have two red-headed women swinging about town in skintight black outfits with bat insignias on their chests.  Call it redundancy or lack of originality, but you can see the inherent problems with this situation right away.

Even though Barbara Gordon as Batgirl predates Kate Kane as Batwoman by decades, it’s been a long time since Babs actually had a night on the town in the outfit, while Kate’s had something of a meteoric rise in the last couple years.  That all has everything to do with the creative forces behind the characters.  Greg Rucka, J.H. Williams III, and W. Haden Blackman have, through powerful writing and art, raised Kate’s profile well within the atmosphere of DC’s A-listers.  In contrast, Simone has struggled to find a voice for Babs, established as she is, and Syaf’s merely decent artwork gives Batgirl a distinctly B-list look.

Simone obviously has enormous respect for Batwoman; she has Babs all but gawk at Kate’s skills and competence in battle.  Call it rustiness or a situation where the girl really can’t compete with the woman, but even within the story, Babs seems out of the other Bat-lady’s league.  In a whole issue, she doesn’t do much to set herself above or even apart from Batwoman; you don’t get a clear sense she brings something to Gotham that Batwoman doesn’t.

If the series has had difficulties selling its protagonist, that has nothing on its revolving door of absolutely lackluster villains.  Lately Simone’s been on a kick of victims-turned-criminals, with the traumatized (or simply deranged) Knightfall being the most extreme example.  Yet no matter how many atrocities she visits upon Ricky, the hapless car thief, that doesn’t make you take her any more seriously.  Insensitive as this may sound, it just makes you want to roll your eyes.

With their ringleader so worthy of mockery, the Disgraced can only have it even worse.  Simone makes some laudable attempts to give them backstories, but her efforts to make the trio any more than forgettable mini-bosses is pretty futile.  Unfortunately, Simone relies too much on telling after the fact to draw out their tragic histories, and the brevity with which she tells them only makes it even less likely you’ll be moved.

Syaf makes a go at some dynamic, Williams-esque paneling in the title double-page splash, but his just seems superfluous and unnecessary.  You really don’t need four panels to depict a gun falling through the air, especially if the only difference among them is the gun’s rotational position.  You also don’t need to two panels showing a lamp falling over.  And all those multiple panels are worthless if they don’t clearly convey what’s happening in them.  Is Batgirl back-flipping for no reason or fancily dodging an attack?  Finally, I’m just going to say it: get Arreola off this title so I never have to see random purple hues or blue glows ever again.  Also, tell him to make the lighting consistent throughout a scene.

Conclusion: Though tempted to stick around to see what Simone can accomplish with frequent and sympathetic collaborator Ed Benes, I think a year’s worth of disappointment is enough.  Functional should not be the standard by which this writer operates with this character.  Dropped.

Grade: C-

– Minhquan Nguyen

Some Musings: – “We’re just doing what you people do.  All we’ve done is corporatized it.”  Well, that’s a rather awkward comment, considering the continued existence of Batman Inc. in this world.