Oct 28, 2014

[Comics] Batgirl: Year One

ComiXology sales have been obvious lures to pick up various comic book titles, especially various mini-series. I don't seriously follow too many on-going titles outside of the Transformers comics, so it's a lot easier for me to get into short story arcs with a definite beginning and end. And while some are just okay, others are real gems that I'm glad that I was finally able to "get my hands on," even if just in a virtual sense.

Batgirl: Year One is a somewhat older title that was part of the larger effort to update and align the origin stories of various DC characters after the Crisis on Inifnite Earths event that pretty much overhauled the known DC universe. And if anything, this was a rather vivid retelling of that tale in a way that nicely touched on various aspects of her original origin story (or even stories), but also made sure to add a more modern spin to things.

The story is pretty much timeless and it's a brilliant read even after all this time. The action was pretty vivid and the writing was quite compelling - resulting in a rather delightful comic book experience.

Synopsis: Batgirl: Year One is a 9-part comic book mini-series  originally published in 2003. It was written by Scott Beatty and Chuck Dixon with art by Marcos Martin and Alvaro Lopez.

The story begins with Batgirl already engaged in a fight with the villain Killer Moth. But we quickly flashback to earlier events that discuss how she came to put on the Batgirl costume to begin with. Thus we meet Barbra Gordon, daughter of Gotham City Police Captain James Gordon. She has just graduated from college but has been hoping to follow in the footsteps of her father. However her father is against her joining the police force and she is ultimately disqualified from both the GCPD and even the FBI because she is unable to meet the minimum height requirement.

Given her continued desire to help and her frustration that the established system has denied her various options, she ends up looking to the exploits of costumed superheroes as inspiration, particularly Black Canary. Thus she tries to get the attention of Black Canary in order to hopefully become her apprentice. But her efforts go unrewarded and her father tries to cheer her up from her slump (without knowing the cause for it) by inviting her to a police-sponsored charity masquerade ball. As a joke she dresses up in a Batman-inspired outfit, but instead finds herself making the decision to step up to the plate when Killer Moth and his goons crash the party.

First, I really liked the art style in this series. It was very bright, vibrant and somewhat reminiscent of the look we've seen in the various comics inspired by Batman: The Animated Series - you know, all those comics with the tag"adventures" at the end. This is not to say that everyone looked like simple cartoon characters or anything like that, but it was a distinct style that played up the fact that it was a comic book depiction and not a supreme effort to push the realism aspect to things.

The comic followed the largely introspective dialog style that I've seen in a lot of depictions of Batgirl. What I mean by this how she seems to have a lot of internal dialog on-going during all the action and whatnot as depicted by little journal excerpts (complete with a pseudo hand-written font) showing us what she's thinking during any particular scene in the comic. You could worry that it might get a little wordy or even somewhat cerebral, but I think it added a nice balance to things. Many of the "Bat Family" don't engage in a whole lot of banter these days, so it helps to add flavor to the largely silent action panels with all this narration.

The overall story was very nicely done, I felt. They made sure to give Batgirl a good reason for her decision to become a superhero and the tied the character's story to various gender-related issues which remain very relevant. They made her more than just a Batman fangirl and instead presented her as someone with very strong sense of justice and an honest desire to help make the world better.

The Batman angle was both intriguing and also inevitable given her chosen identity. And the back and forth between Batman and Gordon as the two discuss the role of the Batgirl and Gordon's unspoken suspicions that she's really his daughter. Even the whole process of indirectly training her and using Robin as a way to reach out to her certainly made for an interesting narrative framework.

I also liked how the story kind of gave some general sense of dignity for he often ridiculed villain Killer Moth. And while I don't necessarily think this book makes him some serious badass villain. It could have been pretty simple to just reimagine his character entirely in order to make him less comical but instead this story honored his original concept and made it work for the nature of this story. I won't say too much beyond that - Killer Moth's own little journey also helps a lot with how the story plays out.

Batgirl: Year One was a lot more enjoyable than I had expected - shows what I know for not trying to read up on the character sooner. It's a great book for all Batgirl fans and even all Bat Family fans and it does a lot to flesh out just why she's so awesome. Thus the comic series as a whole gets 5 daring risks that Batgirl takes early in her career out of a possible 5.


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