Pick of the Brown Bag
You would think I'd be enured to Gail Simone's sloppy writing by now. The hackneyed dialogue, the shitty characterization, the Swiss Cheese plots and the egotistical inclusion of Mary Sue characters still feels like being hit by a brick.
Batgirl is a travesty. Batgirl is so bad this week that it warrants a Pick of the Brown Bag spotlight. Beware there will be spoilers throughout the review. In fact, I'm not holding back anything. The plot, the characterization, the ending in particular reaches toxic levels. The artists however are free to go. The illustration throughout is excellent.
Filthy rich Charise is secretly Knightfall, the vigilante to end all vigilantes. She hates crime, which isn't a bad thing, but her methods are a little too extreme for the Batgirl.
I throw up in my mouth every time Simone has Batgirl referring to the car-jacker as her boyfriend, but I concur that bear traps for such criminals is a little much. The original Bat-Man, maybe even the Spider, would balk at Charise's philosophy. However, there's no consistency in her technique because Simone thinks it's perfectly sensible for somebody who hates crime to hire not just mercenaries such as Bolt, and I'll give you Copperhead, but also whack-jobs like the Mad Hatter and serial killers such as Mr. Ssazz.
Clayface is way more dangerous than the low-level thugs that Charise is determined to snuff out, but he's on her payroll as well.
Some Simone apologists may hypothesize this hodgepodge exemplifies Knightfall's madness. I say that's grasping at straws to hide the laziness in Simone's comprehension of characterization consistency.
If you want Knightfall to be a vigilante who spreads her money to get the job done. Fine. She hires professionals to clean house, but that should be the extent. She shouldn't be endangering the people she allegedly intends to protect by letting loose a cadre of superpowered, demented uncontrollable villainy.
Knightfall's too intelligent not to know the difference and too dedicated to her crusade not to see the danger of the tactic she currently employs.
According to Robert Ressler, the man behind the creation of the FBI's VICAP, a computerized database that compiles the profiling of serial killers, there are disorganized killers, such as those that leave pleas behind: "Stop me before I kill again," and organized killers that send messages to newspapers: "Catch me if you can, Mr. Lusk." Knightfall falls in the latter category. She believes what she's doing doing is right, but that doesn't mean she wouldn't be able to correct half-assed ideas.
As established, Knightfall lays out bear traps for idiot car jackers. She sees the Batman Family as an inadequate deterrent against crime because they will not end criminals just turn them into the police.
From Batgirl #11
Not only would Knightfall not work with Arkham Inmates and proven psychopaths, she would kill them herself. Knightfall is the type of criminal that would carpet bomb Blackgate if not for the massive loss of innocent life, i.e. the warders. Plain and simple. Simone lets the characterization get away from her.
However you feel about Knightfall's rationale, it's none the less rubbish letting she and her army get this far in the first place. The key is that these are mercenaries from around the world coming into Gotham. A convoy filled with armed men and kooks is going to attract attention, and its ripe for arrest. You need to explain how the personnel managed to avoid detection from Interpol, from the police and of course from Batman. How did they sneak into the city without setting off all these alarms? One mercenary can do it. Two and maybe a handful more, but a whole army--trucks after trucks--stretches the rubber band holding the suspension of disbelief to a dangerous level.
Speaking of Batman, where the hell is he? I could have accepted that Batgirl wanted to eliminate Knightfall herself, with new 52 reflection of the original Birds of Prey. Nevertheless, she called Batman for the boat, in what I hope is an homage to Charlie's Angels, which was better written by the way and a lot more fun.
So where is the man himself? Batgirl is friends with a character called Obscura, who apparently knows every woman in the DC universe. So, we get such luminaries as Starfire and Fairchild from Gen13 watching the home front.
I can understand that, but Gotham City is Batman's city, and the alleged intent of sisters doing it for themselves was broken the moment that Simone's ego took over to include her own characters. The Movement with the male Rat King or whatever the hell he's called shows up.
Right. The city's under siege, it needs the Prince of Vermin instead of Batman. That's like bleating for Air-Wave instead of Superman when Mordru is moving the moon. I didn't accept such nonsensical favoritism from Geoff Johns in JSA then. I won't accept such flagrant disregard and hubris from Simone now.
Even if we allow that Batman chose to ignore the potential of netting a whole slew of dangerous criminals, Batman should still be real interested in wringing the Mad Hatter's scrawny neck. That particular criminal murdered Natalya Trusevich, the Ukrainian pianist who fell in love with Batman. Batman was so involved with Natalya that he revealed his secret identity. He also broke off his on again/off again relationship with Catwoman to devote himself to Natalya. Batman should be keeping tabs on the Hatter. He should have known that Jervis Tech was back in town and plan a nice little bit of broken limb vengeance.
Let's argue that the really big guns Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman were on duty somewhere else, in space. Batman after getting the call from Batgirl and handing over the boat voyaged into space. Fine. Starfire seldom goes into battle without the Red Hood and Speedy. Starfire is part of a team. Red Hood is part of the Batman Family. So, why aren't Jason and Roy fighting alongside their teammate? Because they're men? You lost that right the moment Rat Boy showed up. So you're saying maybe the Movement is there as a favor to Batgirl. The Red Hood also owes Batgirl favors. Batman owes Batgirl favors. All right. Let's suppose the rest of the Outsiders were busy as well and that only female heroes, mostly, were available.
Any protest you want to make supporting Simone's style of writing fails miserably when this creature shows up.
That is Batgirl substitute number 157 created by Simone as her first Mary Sue in the thank cosmos it's Friday years of the post-Crisis. One group of creator owned characters saving the day is passable, but adding a second from the mists of obscurity is suspect. Of course, she's nothing in comparison to the current Mary Sue.
Nothing puts a face on the threat like endangering a beloved character. In Batgirl we get Ricky. Cosmos knows we never tire of seeing this heart of gold car jacking son-of-a-bitch that inexplicably became Babs' boyfriend through default. No, really. He's neither smart enough, strong enough, nor kind enough to be anybody's boyfriend. I'd sooner see Ambush Bug be Barbara's boyfriend. Ricky should be in jail, but you know what this also hammers home the inconsistent characterization. The legal system set Ricky free. It's doubtful that he could raise enough cash to pay the bond. So he's technically not a criminal. The legal system on the other hand condemned numerous wanted felons in Knightfall's employ. See? No logic.
Aside from the dearth of characterization, how's the rest of the book? The plot starts off well enough with Batgirl, Huntress and Black Canary in pursuit, boarding said yacht and cutting through Charise's inner circle, which includes a couple of Batgirl foes, only one of whom should be working for Knightfall. It's overall mediocre with good fight choreography. No spectacular moments and pedestrian dialogue.
It could have been an average unmemorable story, and we could have all gotten on with our lives waiting for Cameron Stewart to relaunch the title. The story however takes such a diversion that Oprah Winfrey should have showed up as Rod Serling. The whole tale turns into this sort of feel-good coddle-flop where the villain turns out to be just a teary-eyed, misunderstood working woman rather than a psychopath that makes the Shadow look warm and fuzzy. Words cannot describe this jaw-dropping idiocy. Take a look.
Our hearts are open wide...This wretched issue of Batgirl reinforces my belief that Gail Simone is a lousy writer, and those stellar early Batgirl storyarcs (pre-Ricky) were examples of Simone working her hardest, focusing, excelling beyond her usual level of claptrap and striving to get it right. She doesn't have the staying power. So the issues after that fluctuate from average, to bad, to ugly. This ugly issue represents the level at which Simone is at her worst.