If you’ve seen my header it’s probably apparent to you: I’m a big Batgirl fan. So there’s a good chance that I’ll read and review just about anything Babs related, albeit with very high expectations. And when I saw Batgirl gracing the cover of this 2009 trade, collecting Batman Confidential 17-21, I got really excited that this would be a “part two” to my favorite trade ever, Batgirl: Year One. Moreover, Fabian Nicieza is one of my favorite writers, especially for his recent writing on the Red Robin series.
Usually my high hopes pay off, but regrettably, that wasn’t the case here.
In Batman: The Cat and the Bat, Barbara Gordon discovers that Catwoman has stolen a notebook from Commissioner Gordon. Worried that it has secret information, possibly pertaining to the Bat-Family, Babs suits up and chases after Catwoman, leading to a wild chase through Gotham, against the Russian mob and all of Arkham Asylum as well.
Within the first couple of pages it’s made apparent that Babs is still new to crime fighting, and I got the feeling this was supposed to act as a sequel to Batgirl Year One. And for the most part, writer Fabian Nicieza has it down: she’s young and inexperienced, but with plenty of fighting smarts and intelligence. She and Catwoman contrasted really nicely, and I enjoyed the banter that went on between them. The fact that they ended up having to work together was rather cliché, but it works, to the point that there’s even some Superman/Batman dialogue going on:
Even though Catwoman is more of a theif than an all-out villain, Babs’ abilities are still put to the test when she takes out multiple high-scale villains that are locked in Arkham. I won’t reveal who’s behind that one, you’ll have to read it and see! But I will say that wherever there’s Babs, there’s a Joker reference. And I must say this one’s the best I’ve seen, and that’s saying something.
But as much as I enjoyed the plot, the art truly kept me from enjoying the trade. For the most part, Maguire’s art is pretty solid; the fighting scenes look very natural and clean, and his style reminds me of Batman: The Animated Series, particularly Catwoman’s costume, and I immediately hear Kevin Conroy’s voice in my head as soon as Batman starts talking–a rare occurence, but extremely awesome. So then, why do I have such trouble with it?
Well, let’s just say that Batgirl constantly looks like she is going to sneeze, or maybe has dung under her nose, and other times, she looks downright ugly.
Okay fine, so maybe here she’s in pain. But how do you explain,
Ugh. It’s her nose. She has a man’s nose. I mean, if you’re going to go with a different look than Chuck Dixon’s, fine. I respect that. But at least make her look female.
Of course, it is apparent that Batgirl is still a woman, through Nicieza’s extremely stupid excuse to get her naked in the second issue (if you must know, she has to follow Catwoman into a Hedonist Society gathering). I know sex sells. But if Gail Simone were writing this, she could make the plot compelling enough without all that gratuity. It gets better in the later issues when Batgirl’s kicking butt at Arkham. But still. I didn’t need it, and the story didn’t need it.
I’ll be fair here: I’ll prefer this to the recent crap out right now, as Stephanie Brown makes a lame excuse for a Batgirl (and yes, you did hear that from me). As much as I liked the story itself, Maguire’s awful rendering of Batgirl kept me from enjoying the trade as a whole.
Except this one spread: