Review: Batgirl # 1
Submitted by: Kelly Aliano, PhD, Comics News Editor
26 July 2016
Full disclosure: this was my most anticipated DC book this week. “Beyond Burnside, Part One,” by Hope Larson with artist Rafael Albuquerque, takes Batgirl out of her hipster neighborhood outside of the center of Gotham and throws her back into the center of the Bat-verse action. Batgirl seemed primed for a “rebirth,” as the Burnside incarnation of the character had a very particular contemporary, hip, social media-savvy appeal that may not have been sustainable for the character long term. The book emphasizes Barbara’s desire to leave Burnside behind, but sets up a narrative remote from both Gotham City and her follow Bat-folks. It is great to see her new beginning in action, but it is hard to see how this will establish her presence in the larger DC Universe moving forward.
Barbara Gordon reconnects with an old friend, Kai, while travelling, who she introduces to a “Batgirl” of Asia, called “Fruit Bat,” who began fighting crime back in the 1940s. Much of the book focuses on Barbara and Kai’s reminiscences as well as their visit to Japan as tourists, eating and drinking and fighting jetlag. She then gets the pleasure of meeting Fruit Bat, only to be attacked by a schoolgirl-looking villain. Batgirl finds herself fighting with Fruit Bat, proving that Barbara Gordon is not the only heroine to be able to step out of her wheelchair. After the fight, it becomes clear that Kai is not all he seems, yet it is he who confronts Batgirl with her secret before she has time to interrogate him.
Batgirl has always been one of my most beloved DC characters. I admit that “Batgirl of Burnside” necessitated a period of adjustment for me, but I came to appreciate its fixation on the contemporary and on the kind of “girl power” aesthetic that it often exuded. This new chapter is definitely that: NEW. At this early point, it is hard to establish where it is headed, but the story, characters, and artwork are compelling enough to keep me reading. The Verdict: Batgirl seems one of the most “reinvented” of the Rebirth characters, shedding her Burnside identity and heading abroad. While the fresh start is appreciated, the book does seem remote from the rest of the DCU and definitely is an introduction, one that does not quite hint at where it is headed long term.