"The Doctor is Insane"
Writer: Dylan Horrocks
Artists: Adrian Sibar(p), Andy Owens(i)
Publisher: DC Comics
Batgirl is trying to fit into a world she barely knows. Batman wants to protect her, both as a teacher and as a father. Together they fight crime in Gotham City. That's it really. Cassandra is taking her first tentative steps towards dating, but her potential boyfriend is Superboy and that doesn't sit well with the Dark Knight. Meanwhile a new villain, who unfortunately calls himself Dr. Death, is packaging biological agents into soda bottles and selling it to every street punk and Mafioso.
What gives with the story titles in comics these days? The cover of this month's issue of Batgirl reads "The Doctor is Insane", which is a fairly clever bit, but when the credits roll on page three there's the title says "Death in a Bottle", since I'm new to Batgirl I have no idea if this is a one-shot issue or part of a larger story arc. Sure this is nothing new to modern day comics, but it's kind of glaring when you pick up a book you don't normally read and try to make sense of the characters and their present situations. Or maybe I'm just too dumb to comprehend modern day comics, hard for me to tell.
What's even harder for me to tell is whether Batgirl is a serious take on super-hero crime fighting or a satire of the costumed community. Writer Dylan Horrocks presents several outrageous scenes, wherein Batman and Batgirl team-up to thwart the Russian Mafia, an Asian gang and a mad scientist who markets nerve agent in soda bottles. What's really odd is that none of these groups seem to know who Batman is, conveying genuine surprise when staring into the cowl, "who are you?" they ask. Dude, the Bat has been haunting Gotham City since your grandfather was skipping Algebra classes.
Then there are the character moments where we see Batgirl, an illiterate orphan, trying to cope with a world she barely comprehends. There is a nice scene where she asks Oracle, Barbara Gordon, about boys and relationships. Horrocks does a good job of conveying how segregated Cassandra's past life has been from that of normal, everyday society. Interestingly, Batman is a significant character in this issue; he is the obvious father figure and makes it clear that Cassandra is both his pupil and his adopted daughter. Yet Batman's character is almost contradictory at times - he argues with Oracle about controlling Batgirl's life, telling Barbara that Cassandra should be left to make her own decisions - but moments later he's barking at Superman because Superboy recently made a move on Batgirl. On one hand it's just stereotypical, overbearing parent stuff, but because it's Batman there's a certain freshness to it, perhaps because Batman is cast as a human being, not simply the crime fighting robot he's so often made out to be. Am I getting way too serious about this stuff for anyone?
The art team of Adrian Sibar and Andy Owens is quite good. They seem to be channeling former Batman/current Superman artist Scott McDaniel and his blocky exaggerated style - but there's also an Indy and/or Manga influence to the fight scenes that I rather enjoy. Sibar's action sequences are pretty zany and Owens lends just enough blacks to anchor the scenes and keep the eye moving. Very soon, however, Rick Leonardi and Jesse Delperdang jump ship on Nightwing and take over the art on Batgirl - no complaint here, since I think that Leonardi is one of the best comic book artists working today and should be a great fit here.
Dylan Horrocks tries to juggle contradictory moods and situations. One moment the emphasis is on absurd, Saturday morning cartoon action and the next I'm presented with an introspective character moment. Doesn't always work, but overall I really enjoyed this comic and the art is energetic and exciting, if nothing else. I like that DC puts forth so many female driven super-hero comics, but I tend to wonder how many girls are actually reading them – anyone knows the answer to that I'd like to hear it. The obvious thrust of this story is the diabolical Dr. Death, but it's not that Kevorkian guy you're thinking of. Dr. Death is a toxic agent entrepreneur who seeks to sell his services on the underworld open market, if there is such a thing. I actually found this to be much less interesting than the character stuff, but you gotta have a bad guy in a super-hero comic, I guess. Batgirl is fun and light - even if wants to pretend it isn't sometimes.
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