Batgirl has been one of the most celebrated of modern comics when it comes to strong women and celebrating diversity. With a new volume launching off with Barbara Gordon traveling Asia I had to pick it up. As I longterm resident of Japan I was happy to see Okinawa as the first stop. Did the comic live up to its reputation or did it phone this one in.
Batgirl #01 (2016)
Writer: Hope Larson
Artist: Rafael Albuquerque
Colors: Dave McCaig
Quick Review: Nothing in this comic feels natural. Stilted dialog. Overly posed art. Gaudy colors. All that said, it wasn’t necessarily a bad comic but it certainly was not a good one. Really if it weren’t for the Japan connection I wouldn’t have enough interest in it to really comment one way or the other.
Analysis: I mentioned it was bland, right? It felt more like an outline than a story. Nothing interesting happened. None of the characters were particularly engaging. There was a lot of exposition that didn’t add up to much. Someone is after a McGuffin and the reason we are supposed to care is that it ties into a new character from the past. There really isn’t even enough story here to pick apart.
Also, hey look, Japan! Complete with a schoolgirl fighter and a ninja. And they eat food that looks like Japanese food someone learned about by reading a book and never actually eating it. I just kept on thinking how in the 80’s there were comics set in Japan that replied on castles and squiggles for writing. Somehow this feels like a step back because at least those were trying in an age before the internet. While this is similar it just feels so lazy. Add in a conspicuous lack of backgrounds an ugly colors and you get a comic that doesn’t even give nice visuals. Sure, Albuquerque is a good storyteller and nice with figures but here they just feel very empty.
It looks like the next issue is heading to Singapore, which begs the question why come to Japan? With no authenticity, no story build and not much of a reason to be there why start off there? Did they just really want a stereotypical schoolgirl versus ninja fight? With Babs’ reason for moving on being the spotting of a poster, I just don’t get it.
Wrap Up: Is irony the word I’m looking for? I want to describe the feeling that comes with a revamped comic being hailed for representation and then being relaunched just shy of featuring a cast of buck-toothed, camera wearing stereotypes. Maybe that is too harsh. Maybe this is just a boring comic that phoned everything in knowing that with a hot character and a hot artist it wouldn’t need to do much. It fails by not even trying.