Review: Batgirl: The Batgirl of Burnside by Cameron Stewart, Babs Tarr & Brenden Fletcher

Batgirl: Batgirl of Burnside (Volume 1)
Written by: Cameron Stewart
Art by: Babs Tarr
DC Comics
I received an e-ARC of this book from the publisher in return for an honest review.
Released May 27, 2015
176 pages
Comics / Superheroes / Bat Family

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Barbara Gordon is no stranger to dusting herself off when disaster strikes, so when a fire destroys everything she owns, she spots the opportunity for a new lease on life – and seizes it! Following the rest of Gotham City’s young adults to the hip border district of Burnside, Barbara sets about building an all-new Batgirl…and discovers new threats preying on her peers! As the new hero of Burnside, Batgirl gets started by facing twin sister assassins on motorcycles! Collects BATGIRL #35-40.

Somebody over at DC can’t seem to count very well. This graphic novel is collecting issues #35-40 and yet it’s calling it volume 1. Despite being a bit of a soft reboot for the character, it’s in continuity (sort of, I’ll explain) with the previous Gail Simone Batgirl run for the New 52, so this is really volume 6. Why are capes and tights so confusing?

Semantics aside, this volume of Batgirl is by a brand new creative team that is making Barbara Gordon younger, hipper and very much a young 21-year-old of now. This comic is now a little more oriented towards a slightly younger audience and Barbara herself often looks like a teenager despite her habit of wandering her apartment with no pants on. She’s moved to the hipster Brooklyn-esque neighborhood of Gotham called Burnside, where she rooms with a computer programmer, goes to graduate school, becomes obsessed with selfies and dates a cop. Meanwhile some ominous bad guy is weaving its way into her life and causing havoc for her and her friends.

I should preface this with saying I never read Gail Simone’s volumes 4 and 5 of Batgirl because the whole Death in the Family arc that ran across the various Batman comic lines in volume 3 burnt me out on the gloom and doom in Gotham. The Batgirl run especially made me feel ill one too many times and I had to walk away from my beloved Barbara Gordon and Dick Greyson for fear of what sick madness DC would put them through next. That’s why I was way into the idea of this newer, brighter, happier Batgirl.

But after reading it, I’m really still trying to wrap my mind around Batgirl of Burnside. Perhaps making a pros and cons list will help out.

Pros

  • OMG BLACK CANARY IS MY FAVORITE! From the moment Dinah shows up all grouchy and big sister-like, I wanted this comic to be able her.
  • Happier Barbara is a better Barbara.
  • The surround cast of characters is a diverse lot that includes the usual tech geek to help with equipment, a computer savvy programmer girl and a couple of hottie potential love interests.
  • The new Batgirl costume is really awesome.
  • I really liked who turned out to be the bad guy and the ultimate solution that saved the day.
  • The debate on whether vigilantes are helpful or hurtful to the city of Gotham is brought up by smart characters, but doesn’t get too philosophical to drag down the action.Candy colored anime girls on crazy motorbikes!!

Cons

  • There’s some problematic issues with a cross dressing character that caused waves with the single issue was released. I was aware going into reading the graphic novel of the issue and it still made me feel pretty icky reading it, especially on top of them more or less removing the transgendered character introduced in Gail Simone's run.
  • The writers turn Barbara into a self-involved Instagram celebrity that hangs out in bars with hipsters while in her Batgirl get up.
  • This really didn’t feel like the Barbara Gordon I’ve known and loved, but might be able to pass as a much younger version of her. I just had a hard time buying that this is the same girl that went through all the Joker madness from earlier in the series, and it took me some time to get over that.

I think overall – taken as a whole – I liked Batgirl of Burnside, but it did take me several issues and getting past the sparkly cross dressing madness before I felt the story really kicked into gear and became something enjoyable. The finally two or three issues were great, involving some flashbacks that tried to put this version of Barbara Gordon into context with previous events from the New 52. Babs Tarr’s art is bright and glossy and overall just happy looking, so I think it was just a matter of the writers getting a handle on who they want Barbara to be.

But really it should all be about Black Canary. Dinah is barely in the book, but I loved her instantly. I loved her character design, her wardrobe, and her big sister relationship with the far more immature Barbara. It’s because of her that I’ve already reserved volumes 4 and 5 of Gail Simone’s run to fill in the back story on how these two met and what the situation was prior to the move to Burnside.

I think overall this book stands up as a starter for potential Batgirl fans, even if you haven’t read any of the earlier New 52 books. It’s definitely a lighter and brighter version of Babs, having kicked the trauma and terror associated with Gotham. I hope future volumes will add back in a little bit more of her maturity without weighing her down. This probably would have worked better for me overall had it been a harder reboot, but I’m still looking forward to what adventures lay ahead for my favorite Batgirl and her cast of friends.