Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Jim's Comic Reviews, Batgirl #13

Batgirl #13 picks up where #12 left off.  The issue opens to find Barbara nearly incapacitated from a knife-wound inflicted by Knightfall in the previous issue, desperately clinging to consciousness as her attacker continues to press the fight.

This issue serves as a wrap-up to the Knightfall storyline and lead-in to the Death of the Family crossover event, and is a collaborative writing effort from Batgirl's regular writer Gail Simone, and Scott Snyder who helms the crossover.  As a tie-in to DotF, however, you only get a single page...and that's fine.  Ms. Simone has hit her running stride with this character in this story, and there's no sense in derailing it for the sake of the tie-in, regardless of my faith in Snyder's storytelling.  It seems Mr. Snyder and co. are accounting for the needs of the story as it exists over the desire for crossover sales or creative hubris, which is refreshing.  

The art in this issue is very good.  Benes is proving a welcome addition as penciller and inker to the title, having recently put forward a rather elegant effort with the #0 issue of same.  Although there is that tendency to place the camera rather strategically to showcase Barbara's lady parts, it's only a few panels, and it's a far cry from the blatant cheesecake of Benes' early days on Birds of Prey in the old DCU. Further, we're getting a lot more emotional depth and eye for tone and pacing than we did back then.  What comes through here is the strong, determined, and committed character Simone is writing, not the fact she has a cool outfit that's a color change away from nudity.  For example, Benes spends a protracted sequence of several panels to depict Barbara fighting her way to her feet after nearly succumbing to unconsciousness, and the fatigue, pain and determination to succeed at all costs to herself are all brutally evident in her expression, the slowed pacing really bringing it into focus.  This is the kind of close-quarters combat where Benes' work shines.  In the past, I've had problems with his seeming inability to do the sort of wide-angle establishing shots frequently needed for an ensemble title without making characters look out of place or not in touch with their environments...I think he does much better on a solo book like Batgirl, and look forward to more of same. His work as an inker is also looking rather layered and gives the book a textured look that lends to its gritty, hard-hitting gravitas.  As colorist, Arreola gives us a competent delivery that never strays far from realism, but lends to the sort of episodic crime-drama feel Simone's writing goes for.  Like the pencils, it's going for story, not gimmicks or pretense.

So yes, I recommend the book, especially to fans of the character that perhaps didn't make the leap across the reboot based on earlier issues in the title.  4 out of 5 stars.

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