Wednesday, October 31, 2012

SPOILERS: Batgirl Annual #1

Gotham is burning, and Barbara Gordon has no idea why. She's quick to find out that the people who have set numerous buildings ablaze are not arsonists, nor are they really criminals, they're homeless people, who have been scared/pushed into doing something as reckless and stupid, as well as having them be willing to go up against Batgirl. Babs uses this against the men she's found, telling them that the child she hears crying has taken priority, and tells the men to escape while they still can, as she saves a mother and her child. As Babs escapes the blaze, Catwoman watches on, and is none too impressed with Batgirl.

Elsewhere, at a prison some 30 miles outside of Gotham, Commissioner Gordon visits a very special inmate, who was picked up on the side of a road some weeks ago. It's Mary, the Talon who Babs fought during the Night of the Owls. Gordon tries to communicate with her, giving her crayons and paper to use, but gets no where with her, and tells the cop with him that he'll file a transfer to Blackgate in the morning. As the two men leave, another person sneaks into the cell, Catwoman, who has been hired to break Mary free.

Elsewhere, Babs finds Ricky, the kid who she saved from Knightfall, figuring she can use him as a source inside Gotham's shit, asking if he knows anything about who is getting the homeless to start fires. Ricky seems spooked, and begins to say that he knows nothing, as he writes a word in chalk on the side of a dumpster, "Owls." A bad feeling comes over Babs, and little does she know, Selina is breaking Mary out at the same time.

Babs begins to search for leads until she finds someone willing to talk. Elsewhere, Selina and Mary have made their escape, and Selina asks if Mary has any family to go back to. Mary crudly scribbles messages like "Family ded" or "No friends" which actually makes Selina pretty sad. Feeling bad for Mary, Selina givers her her hand, and offers up a pinky swear gesture, telling Mary she now has a friend.

The lead Babs got leads her right to the man who hired Catwoman, a man named Mr. Parsons, and conveniently enough, Selina and Mary show up at the same time. While Selina delivers Mary to Mr. Parsons, Babs eavesdrops, and overhears that Parsons is burning down homes that Bruce Wayne plans to buy up for his revitalization project, and the Court is planting evidence to make it seem as he was responsible. Selina can't go with burning down innocents' houses, and with that, Babs bursts in, as the duo begins their shaky team up.

Parsons has come prepared, with three extra Talons, and Mary turning on Selina at a drop of a word.  The fight goes to shit pretty quickly, climaxing at one of the Talons having a blade at Selina's throat. Babs tries a long shot, and begins to reason with Mary, telling them that her master will be burning families, just as hers burned. It works, and Mary saves Selina, and begins to work with them.

Parsons eventually puts a gun to Mary's head, that is loaded with liquid nitrogen bullets. But before he can do anything, he gets a call from the higher ups from the Court, alerting him to the impending police presence. The news isn't good, as the Court orders Parsons to off himself, in order to leave no ties, and like a good soldier (in the most fucked up sense) he does. The rest of the Talons look at their fallen master, and scatter.

The building becomes surrounded by the police, and in an action surprising to Babs, Selina offers to go distract the police, making Babs promise to get Mary to a safe place. As she and Mary leave, Babs comments to herself on Selina's heroism.


The Good:

I genuinely enjoyed the interaction between Selina and Mary. I feel as Gail Simone actually has a pretty strong grip on Selina Kyle... a lot stronger than someone. It was nice to see Selina portrayed in more the heroic light. The art was really beautiful too, and even though there was a second artist, I liked him as well. If you read the first issue of the Justice League Dark part of "Rise of the Vampires" it was those two guys, but Wijaya's work this time around had a much cleaner, rendered look to it.

The Bad:

Though I liked two the two artists... I like consistency more, something I've echoed many times. I realize these are about 18 more pages than a normal book, but how long has this been solicited? One would think there'd be enough (or should be enough) time given for one artist to complete the art. Also... I like Mary... buuuuuut I'm pretty sure that's because she's kind of a Cassandra Cain analogue, from the time before she could speak... and if Babs is sort of taking her under her wing (she'll be appearing in Birds of Prey, the solicit was wrong to name her Strix or whatever) then that drives home my point, even more.

The Bottom Line:

Overall, I thought this was a really good looking, well told story. Was it an absolutely necessary story to tell? Probably not. Was Babs the stand out star of it? No, that honor goes to Selina in my opinion. Was it fun? Sure, and it definitely ads to my growing enjoyment of the book lately.


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