Off the Shelf – Batgirl Vol. 1: Batgirl of Burnside

Batgirl of Burnside cover

Nutshell:  Another excellent revamp from the “New 52”, this time re-imagining “Babs” Gordon as a grad student.  Stewart and Fletcher’s savvy GenY spin on the story + Tarr’s beautiful art (love Batgirl’s leather jacket!) = a playful, but still butt-kicking, update. Grade: A

Best Lines:
“You are my favorite person in the entire world.  NEVER LEAVE ME.”
“Strange is your normal, Babes.”
“I’m past all the darkness.  I can see now that there’s a better way.”

Goodies: Excellent sketch gallery, variant covers. (My favorite — #40’s amazing “Purple Rain” variant cover; a part of Cliff Chiang’s “12-inch series”.  It’s purple-tastic.)

Story: Grad student Barbara “Babs” Gordon moves from dark and dreary Gotham to hipster haven Burnside.  But can Batgirl make the transition without losing herself?

Thoughts:  Re-inventions are de rigueur in the comic book world.  We come to expect ’em.  And while some aren’t so great (WTF happened to Lobo???), some are pretty darn cool (hello, Ms. Quinn!)  So getting a “New 52” Batgirl is no shock.  What is shocking is that the character is not only none the worse for wear, but her basic backstory is pretty much intact (okay, minus the whole Oracle thing…)

This is definitely a new Babs though; hookin’ up (sorta), hung over (most definitely) and a slave to her school schedule. College co-ed Barbara is funky (hipster knit cap, worn unironically!), fun (DrunkBabs!), but still fierce.  Facing off against anime motorcycle assassins!  A crazy cyborg! A D-bag drag racer!  And the PD, who see her as a vigilante. Then there’s the new crew, including Qadir, the college resident computer uber-engineer, and his sister Nadima (who just happens to be her RA.)  I kinda wanna be Nadima’s BFF, because she keeps sour cream and onion chips in her desk.  I’m also loving new roomie/old buddy/possible new Oracle Frankie Charles, not only because I love it when stories include folks of all abilities, but because she’s a woman who can hold her own alongside Batgirl and Black Canary.  Not too shabby.

As is just and right with all GenY/Z folk, social media, computer programming lingo, and general youthspeak are here, and feel authentic. (Says the GenX geezer.  Art-wise, Tarr has great way with getting to the heart of Barbara’s edidic memory, with art that keeps the action moving and is easy to understand (but still cool.)  Plus, the colors and shading are gorgeous.

There’s always a threat of storylines getting dumbed down when characters are aged down.  But Batgirl of Burnside easily rises above with meditations on the price of social media presence, how honesty can help/hurt friendships, and the ever-popular What Price Heroism.  All the pretty colors and shiny new storylines can’t hide the depth of the themes presented here.  Good work, all.

Yes, Batgirl vs. Burnside feels a bit like Harley’s Hot in the City, with shades of Ultron, but there’s enough of a twist to make it fresh.  My favorite of the stories included here?  “Secret Origins #10“, when we see more of how Babs made it through the Joker’s attack, and how she met Frankie.  Though the following issue chapter, “The Ghost in the Cowl” (aka Batgirl #40) brings this crazy/cool arc to a fantastic finish.

Publication 411: Collects Batgirl #35-40 and Secret Origins #10. Hits shelves June 16th, 2015.  Also available in hardcover, in addition to the usual TPB. Niiice!

Subscribe or Shelve: Some may not like the “teen-ing” up of Babs (even though she’s actually in her early 20s).  I say fie.  She’s no Harley — who is? — but I’m digging the revamp so far.  Keep the 21st Century/GenY savviness (it’s a word) paired with cool panels that peek into how Babs sees the world, and I’ll keep coming back.

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