Batgirl: Endgame & Batgirl #40
Reviewing ‘BATGIRL: ENDGAME' by Cameron Stewart, Brenden Fletcher & Bengal and ‘BATGIRL' #40 by Cameron Stewart, Brenden Fletcher, Babs Tarr & Maris Wicks.
First things first…
Everyone. Just think about that word for a second.
Say what you will about THAT Rafael Albuquerque cover, and i'm sure you will, it seems everyone has, the fact remains that it is certainly a cover with a powerful image. Not only does it reveal how deep the original story it references has burned itself into the collective psych of a cultural community, but the varied and polarizing reactions to it show how much we, as a society, have changed since the 1980s and the Avant Garde movement in comics that gave birth to groundbreaking adult orientated titles such as Watchmen, Swamp-Thing and The Dark Knight.
A few decades on from the days when comics and graphic novels were seen as an art form to be taken seriously, and in an age when such material would be flagged up as for ‘Mature Readers'(a bizarre turn of phrase if ever there was one), it feels that to a certain extent, we have come full circle. Comics, once the exclusive domain of children and young adults, are now for everyone and everyone all at once, young, old, black, white, gay, straight…whatever, certainly with regard to Marvel and DC. There are no boundaries, no lines in the sand, and if there are, those lines are all too easily crossed and when that happens, things go very bad, very quickly. Everyone wants freedom of speech and expression, which is an honorable thing, the right thing, but everyone is also often all too easily offended for that to truly happen.
For a piece of art, a piece of ‘comic book' art at that, to place it in its proper context, to garner a response from every media outlet from CNN to Twitter to The Guardian and back again, is no mean feat, and yet, more than anything, it just seems to reflect a collective need for society today as a whole, to find something, anything, to be shocked, dismayed and reviled by. Everyone, it seems, has an opinion on this, and everyone, it seems, is right in theirindignation of everyone who disagrees with that opinion. There is no such thing as ‘bad art', in fact, the only ‘bad art' can be said to be that which does not evoke a response in the viewer, something which clearly, this art does. These responses, be they from Fanboys, Flippers or Feminists, ultimately, all sound the same, coming as they do from a society no longer tolerant of itself or the individual and collective concerns of others.
THAT cover is offensive when placed on a book that is primarily aimed at a certain demographic, that demographic being teenage girls and young women, but place THAT cover on a book aimed at a male audience of a certain age and one that has grown up with comic books, it simply becomes a well crafted homage to a classic Batman Story.
Wrong book. Wrong time. Wrong place, and as soon as everyone realises that, the better.
But I digress…
Batgirl: Endgame is one of four individual, stand-alone tie-ins to Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo's sprawling epic that is currently running in DC Comics flagship Batman title (the others being Detective Comics, Arkham Manor and Gotham Academy).
What sets this particular story aside from the others however, and makes it somewhat unique, is the manner in which it is told. Foregoing the traditional format of comic book storytelling, writers Cameron Stewart and Brendan Fletcher, regulars on the ongoing Batgirl title, have chosen to tell the tale silently, with no dialogue and relying on purely visual exposition. To attempt something as simple, and yet as complex, as this deserves credit alone, but to carry it through with such finesse is some achievement.
A huge factor in the success of this book is the art of Bengal, a French artist who lends a distinctly European flavour and style to, what I consider to be, possibly the most beautifully realised depiction of the Batgirl character ever seen. Bengal is content to let this wordless story unfold through his masterful use of facial expressions, hand and body movement. His attention to detail in his figure drawings is simply stunning, often letting his characters act out their roles against plain, simple backgrounds to great effect. His use of colour and tone set up the changing moods throughout the book, shifting the story on skilfully, in cinematic fashion.
The premise of the book is simple and basically there is not much to reveal, but, from what is perhaps not the most ingenious of plots, there emerges a thoroughly engaging study of a character with a very bright future.
Further evidence that Batgirls' star is on the rise comes with Batgirl #40 and the culmination of the opening story arc that began in issue #35. Again penned by Fletcher and Stewart, this issue completes the ‘reboot' of Batgirl, pulling together the various threads and plots that have made this one of the most enjoyable and intruiging reads of the past few months.
It seems a shame that many have dismissed this title as a lightweight, female orientated book, overlooking it perhaps in favour of Marvel Comics' Silk or the ubiquitous Spider-Gwen, two books that owe much of their success to this title and yet pale in comparison. Along with Secret Origins #10, a now hard to find book, the creative team behind Batgirl, that incorporates Babs Tarr on art duties and Maris Wicks on colours, have breathed new life into a much troubled character, both in print and out of. The writing has been consistently on point, fresh, humorous, intelligent and done with a real love of the medium of comics, and never has an artist been so suited to a book as the talented Miss Tarr is to this, consistently bringing the cast of this book to life so vibrantly with wit and flair. While this new creative have not been afraid to reference the past, including the events of The Killing Joke, it has been done intelligently, respectfully and without fuss, making this a book that, perhaps, everyone can enjoy.