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Batman Strikes #45

Posted: Saturday, May 17, 2008
By: Ray Tate

Jai Nitz
Christpher Jones, Terry Beatty (i), Heroic Age (c)
DC Comics
"Gotham Girls: Honor Among Thieves"

When The Batman came along I wasn't all that pleased. I saw it as an affront to the Bruce Timm series, and I pretty much still feel that way. Maybe had it not debuted as Justice League was finishing its first season, I might have felt warmer toward the show. In any case, I watched one episode and didn't like what I had seen. That was enough.

DC's cancellation of the Bruce Timm Batman tie-in books further rawed me considerably, and I decided to ignore Batman Strikes. It would take a helluva lot for me to pick up a book that's based on an animated series I didn't like and sported a design I pretty much loathed.

Jai Nitz crafts a Batgirl centered tale, and given the special Batman Confidential arriving concurrently, I took a little more notice of Batman Strikes. A flip through indicated that Christopher Jones and Terry Beatty weren't totally adhering to the abhorrent style of the series and sometimes even fell into Timm habits. While a The Batman fan might take such deviations as a downside, I saw the break from visual formula to be more of an asset.

Bruce and Dick are taking a working vacation to Tibet. This leaves Batgirl in charge. I like that Bruce trusts Batgirl enough to leave Gotham City in her more than capable hands. I like that he is also smart enough to know what would happen had he chauvinistically ordered her to go home and take a bubble bath.

Nitz makes Batgirl an imposing crimefighter. He exemplifies her ability in panel after panel that details the aftermath of each successful foray. He also gives her a humorous and boisterous mien that fits not just the current incarnation but also alludes to the classic.

I'm still not particularly keen on the design of Batgirl, but Jones and Beatty dull down a lot of the sharp angles that I'm used to seeing in clips and previews to diminish the manga idiosyncrasies in her look; the skirt still unfortunately identifies her as a Gatchaman reject, but that's not the art team's fault.

Thanks to the collaboration, Babs in this incarnation actually comes off as a younger version of the Timm Batgirl, and that works for me. Batgirl meets up with numerous characters, and everybody seems to warm to her. They also defer to her despite her youth. That's not exactly realistic, but it's a cute twist and also observes Gotham's respect for Batman. If Batman trusts her, they should trust her.

Batgirl soon connects with Catwoman and Harley Quinn. Both characters are drawn in The Batman mode, but again Jones and Beatty tone it down so the players do not look like caricatures. This makes them as visually tolerable as the genuinely striking Batgirl.

Catwoman and Harley are out not for kicks or felony. Instead, they wish to rescue Poison Ivy. Nitz, Jones and Beatty inform the new reader that Batgirl and Ivy know each other. They skillfully accomplish the task in one panel.

That one panel combined with Batgirl's commentary ("We have a history") did make my eyebrows raise. Is that lesbian subtext I'm reading and seeing? The looks in the flashback appear a little deeper than what I expect from friends. The participants' playful dialogue could be interpreted in two different ways, as well as the word 'history'. There's also the Timm factor to consider. Batman the Animated Series and its tie-ins suggested Harley and Ivy were lovers.

Putting aside the orientation questions; Batgirl's dialogue rings true to the form of the classic. The plot to Batman Strikes is a good one, and the surprise ending adds another dimension to the story as well as bumping up Batgirl's intellect. This issue of Batman Strikes is recommended for Batgirl fans.



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