Monday, August 25, 2014

POBB: August 20, 2014

Pick of the Brown Bag
August 20, 2014
Ray Tate

Pick of the Brown Bag returns with short yield of reviews including Batman and Robin, Doctor Who and Justice Inc.

Justice Inc. is the title of the latest pulp collage from Dynamite.  This project teams up Doc Savage, the Shadow and the lesser known hero the Avenger.  

The Avenger's adventures were written briskly by science fiction author Paul Ernst under the house name Kenneth Robeson.  The Avenger's true name is Richard Henry Benson.  A tragedy freezes Benson's face; changes his hair bolt white and turns his complexion to the consistency of putty.  The metamorphosis allows Richard to shape his waxy visage into any form he wishes, making him even more of a master of disguise than the Spider or the Shadow.  Benson's method of crimefighting involved luring criminals into the death traps they set for others, sometimes Benson himself.  During his adventures, Richard acquires several aides, and together they form Justice Inc.  

Writer Michael Uslan takes few diversions when introducing the Avenger to a new audience.  In the stories, Richard made his wealth through mercenary activity.  In Justice Inc., Uslan finds a possible motive in Richard's inherited wealth.  Richard is a legacy who finds the board of directors to his father's company wanting.

The events that catalyze the Avenger's creation were never explicit in Ernst's adventures.  We never learn what actually happened or the true identity of the culprit.  In fact, Ron Goulart, who took over the resuscitated series in the seventies promised an even deeper mystery to be had.  Anyway, the enigma allows Uslan a lot of room to ply his tale.  Through a seamless narrative, Uslan effortlessly merges the tragic hero's origin with the events in play here.

In the present, Doc Savage uses cutting edge science to prove a theory of time travel suggesting that everything that was, is and will be occurs simultaneously.  A barrier exists between the past, present and future.  Doc's experiment, the production of a stable wormhole, inadvertently captures a modern aircraft and sends it back in time to 1939.  Doc of course follows.

Back in time, Doc calls his friend Howard Hughes to prove his claims.  Hughes' knowledge of airplanes and his friendship with Doc prove invaluable.  In the story, we learn that Hughes was also instrumental in rescuing the Shadow from the Yucatan.  These events occurred in The Shadow/Green Hornet; also written by Uslan.  The Shadow therefore keeps tabs on Howard Hughes, and he gets wind of Doc Savage's presence.

Frankly, it just tickles me to have the Shadow mention Pat Savage, Doc's illustrious cousin.  Beyond all this, an old Shadow foe, one of the few to survive an encounter with the Shadow, also has his beady eyes set on the meeting.  Because of Benson's enemies, however, the traditional antagonist just may throw in with the pulp heroes.  Oh, and it's not Shiwan Khan, Shadow fans.

According to an interview in the CBG, Uslan was unfamiliar with the Avenger.  That unfamiliarity does not manifest in these pages.  His relative freshness to the series indeed may have actually been a boon.  I doubt a writer that was a fan of the Avenger would ever think to blend Benson's origin with Doc and/or the Shadow.  The story however works so well.  Uslan keeps the tales separate enough to assure individuality, yet still these tales entangle.  In other words, on one track the Avenger will be born.  On another track, he will be born in the presence of Doc and the Shadow.  On a third track, all three heroes will be combatting something wicked.

Double your Doctors, double your fun?  Titan takes over Doctor Who comics.  Rather than just stick with the current Doctor, Titan takes a gamble with number eleven David Tennant and number twelve Matt Smith.  If you're confused by the Doctor numbering, then you haven't seen "Day of the Doctor."  So, really.  You need to watch that right now.  I'll wait...

Alone, missing Donna, the companion who must forget, the Doctor hunts for an otherworldly threat while clashing into the life of Gabriella, the character most likely to become the Doctor's new companion.

Given the Doctor's more or less happy go lucky attitude, the story likely takes place between "Planet of the Dead," where the Doctor refuses companionship from the fit like a glove Lady Christina de Souza, and "Waters of Mars," where the Doctor makes a fundamental error in attempting to alter a fixed point in history.  His defiance of time haunts him throughout his final story.  The span is a good choice for a stable interlude voluminous enough to fill with adventures.

Our tale begins on earth in New York, at a laundromat, which is part of the problem for Gabriella.  Gabriella is dissatisfied with her life because her father mapped it out for her.  He forgot to include important aspects like fun and relaxation.  Trapped by the obligation of tradition, she wants out, and it's likely the Doctor will provide the exit.  

The pacing is really well done.  The Doctor darts in and out of Gabriella's life.  He keeps just missing his future companion until the very end, and I'm wondering if that isn't an allusion to "The Romans," a William Hartnell episode.

In any case, the story isn't as fluffy as the twelfth Doctor's tale.  The scary, subtle moments are effective and naturally build up the chapter into something bigger.  Writer Nick Abadzis' replication of Tennant's performance, right down to the raw heroism he displays at the cliffhanger also impresses with a dead on earnestness.  As you can see, artist Elena Casagrande nails Tennant's look.  The skill involved demands at least a try-out.

While technically accomplished, Al Ewing's and Rob Williams' Matt Smith inspired Doctor Who isn't quite as a meaty as Abadzis' monster-of-the-week.  The story starts off with Alice, the Doctor's soon-to-be companion, suffering through life.  

Colorist Gary Caldwell literally paints this episode in the gray, but because of artist Simon Fraser, the choice doesn't feel overdone.  The art convincingly portray's Alice's sorrow. The gun metal shades enhance the feeling.  Naturally, all of this changes when the Doctor chases a Rainbow Dog.

It seems obvious doesn't it? Gray life.  Boom! Rainbow Dog.  Ewing's and Williams' story is however justified.  This is what Matt Smith's reign as the Doctor was in metaphor.  A massive sudden blast of the color.  Jazz to elevator music.  Even in death, Matt Smith's Doctor maintained a remarkable optimistic attitude because it wasn't really the end. 

If you don't mind the derivation from "Vincent and the Doctor," without the poignancy, the story runs at a good tick, and it won't hurt you.  It's done in one.  It introduces the companion without muss or fuss.  The writers mirror Matt Smith's charm and charisma.  His Doctor is sort of an off the cuff authority figure.  He'll take command because nobody else knows how, but he really just wants to explore and see the wonders of the universe with a good friend.

Batman intends to infiltrate Apokolips to retrieve and resurrect his son Damien.  So, what else is new? For one thing, history is on his side.  Batman glimpsed the future by touching alien technology sufficiently advanced enough that it behaved like magic, with respect to Clarke.  So he knows that the future of all is predicated on Damien's return.

I still don't care about Damien.  I don't care if he stays dead or returns.  It's not important.  As a McGuffin, the cold tyke has been extraordinary.  First, Damien's death triggered believable Bat-Shit Crazy.  Next, Damien's repose drew the battle between Ra's Al Ghul and Batman.  That everlasting duel's gravity attracted DC stalwarts such as Aquaman and Wonder Woman into the fray.  The quest itself served to foreshadow the Justice League's interference with Batman's plans.  With this story, Damien's corpse catalyzes the reunification of the Batman Family.

This is mainly telling the reader of all the Batman titles, or even just the lion's share, what she already knew.  Somewhere down the line, the entire Batman Family buried the hatchet.  The chasm began with the Joker's final assault, and though Snyder intended for a chasm to develop.  It's doubtful he meant to widen it so much as his colleagues.  The reconciliation is evident in Batman Eternal set slightly in the future.  All the Batman Family appear to be on speaking terms. 

Batman and Robin is the missing piece to rationalize all the writing from folk that really just weren't privy to Scott Snyder's plans.  Of course, sometimes it was Batman and Robin writer Peter Tomasi that had to play catch up to the fringe, but Snyder's work was above all that.  He was the molder, not somebody that must follow the contours.  Now, it's Tomasi's turn.  Batman and Robin cannot help being big.  It must have far-reaching consequences because of its subject matter.

Few missing pieces in my experience have ever been necessary or even entertaining.  "Night of the Doctor" and "Day of the Doctor" are exceptions.  Batman and Robin is another.  Tomasi writes this story so well.  It's a tale where Batman doesn't throw a punch, but still resonates by admitting to his mistakes and opening himself up to his family.  

There's a stark difference between the new 52 versions of these characters and the post Crisis avatars.  Although Batman isn't the warmest individual in the DCU, he's nevertheless healthier than his predecessor.  This Batman is more familiar with his compatriots.  His agreement to "unconditional truth now and forever" is phenomenal in the context of the machine he became in the post-Crisis, and this is Tomasi's Batman.  It's all been about this.  Tomasi took Batman through a gauntlet and this story is the threshold.


Monday, August 18, 2014

POBB: August 14, 2014

Pick of the Brown Bag
August 14, 2014
Ray Tate

This week's Pick of the Brown Bag features reviews of Batman, Birds of Prey, Captain Marvel, Judge Anderson, Justice League United, Legendary, Princess Ugg, Smallville Chaos and World's Finest.

Justice League United pools the gang together and draws in the otherwise tangential character Keewahtin.  The tale opens with Alanna Strange, yes, they were secretly married, getting new duds.  I suppose I could say something trite like "This ain't your granddad's Alanna Strange," but that would just make me feel older than I am.  I encountered Adam Strange and Alanna via reprints in the Dollar specials put out in the seventies, not the originals.

Alanna wasn't a stereotype to begin with.  An alien from the planet Rann, she was often seen with a laser pistol in hand or holstered by her side.  The changes in this version of Alanna Strange amount to a duskier complexion and being Terran.  That doesn't fundamentally alter the character.   a gutsy, hands-on type of gal.  The new outfit compliments Adam Strange's new suit, but I prefer the Carmine Infantino fashion displays.  No bones to Mike McCone.  I do like the design.  It's just a personal preference.

Alanna encounters Keewahtin's best friend who puts her on the track of an illusory beast that League United will eventually fight.  Thank the cosmos it's not a Wendigo.  I'm really sick of every Canadian themed horror ending up being a Wendigo story.  There must be other legends.  Canada had their own comic strips and comic books, damn it.

Before United can face this beast, they must first pay their respects to Hawkman, who sacrificed himself to save the planet.  Getting off of Rann is the easy part.  This is not the action-packed issue of Justice League United you may expect.  It nevertheless entertains.  Writer Jeff Lemire amuses the reader through chemistry and character dynamics.

Not only does Lemire expand on the double-act between Green Arrow and Animal man.  He also pairs up Supergirl and Stargirl.  For the latter, the scene Lemire conceives respects both characters.  As a Supergirl fan, it's a delight to see Supergirl taking the lead rather than having her will enslaved to a Lucky Charms ring.  

Lemire furthermore hews the Martian Manhunter closer to his original characterization.  The new 52 Powers shook things up with the Manhunter by treating him as an aloof protector of the planet who was not Mr. Justice League afterall.  That's about to change as he takes the head of this new Justice League; yes, I know what the blurbs about the Future's End event state.  The Martian Manhunter has a secret plan to take over the world.

Are you pondering what I'm pondering, Pinky?

Ignore them.  Future's End is irrelevant.  It's a future that will be forgotten in a month, tops.

Legendary jumps a few months into the future, and my-oh-my, how things have changed.

Bill Willingham's and Davila's steam punk Red Sonja ends up being closer to the intent of Robert E. Howard's Ottoman Empire-era warrior.  I have in the past mistakenly misidentified the story as taking place during the Crimean War, but it's a sixteenth century tale.  So it must occur during the Ottoman-Hapsberg conflicts.  Sonja is either Russian or Balkan.

The Sonja that's most familiar to comic book readers isn't the figure from Howard's short story "Shadow of the Vulture," which is still available as of this writing at wikipedia.  Just follow the link from the entry.  Roy Thomas simply made Sonja a barbarian to conveniently place her travels in the realm of Conan, already a successful Marvel series.

Davila and Willingham mash her up again.  She still wields a sword but also a gun, like the original Red Sonja.  Her chain mail bikini still gleams, but she also wears modern clothing.  Her vocabulary and her speech also takes a spin away from the more glutteral barbarian speak.  So, this issue of Legendary is an even more pleasant a surprise, in the sense that it's not actually a reboot but a reset.

Sonja frequents a horror laden landscape due to the fact that the villains succeeded last issue with a black magic ritual to call forth a big bad.  Ironically, they gained victory by thinking outside of the villain box.  For the past six issues, they've been hunting Sonja for sacrifice, but reading the fine print in the ritual allowed them to skip that part, which they couldn't achieve anyway.  They instead found a suitable substitute for the individual roles of final sacrifice and bride.

Sonja's hatred for her horse offers a running joke as she treks through the badlands.  Sonja's animosity toward the equine differs strongly with the Sonja we've seen in the past.  Frank Thorne's Sonja really loved horses.  This Sonja is a practical woman, and her relationship with Clover, her horse is laugh out loud funny, as is her encounter with one Don Diego De La Vega.  That's right.  In a team up you never expected to see in a trillion years, Sonja meets Zorro.  If that doesn't tickle, why are you even in the comic book shop?

Princess Ulga in her almost eponymous title Princess Ugg relates why she entered Princess School to begin with.  Her mother had an epiphany.

Ulga attends the school to learn a better way, the way of diplomacy to seek an end to the war between the barbarians, properly known as Grimmerians, and the Fost Giants.  Surprisingly, Ulga already took the first steps to lead the Grimmerians out of the Dark Ages, so to speak.  Under her own initiative, she entered the school.  I assumed she was placed there by her mother, but this issue dispels that misconception.  Ulga's there by choice.  She's willing to learn in order to honor her mother.

Ted Naifeh and Warren Wucinich warmly illustrate the tale.  The artwork compliments the soft way in which the story unfolds before broadening into slapstick of a most entertaining kind, also involving a horse of course, of course.

I've never been a Judge Dredd fan.  I wasn't exposed to the character until he teamed up with Batman.  Judge Anderson appeared in that one-shot as Dredd's more reasonable partner and even developed a thing for the Dark Knight.  Dredd struck me as a tightass foil for the two of them.  Since that team up, I've become a Judge Anderson fan.  I've read the Titan reprints of her strip and as a result exposed myself to the hyperbole of Judge Dredd's universe, which despite being a send-up of 1980s conservatism works equally well as a backdrop for Anderson's cases.  The way I see it.  Dredd mostly encounters the absurdities of Mega-City One.  Anderson meets more cogent science fiction threats.

The characterization of Judge Anderson in her latest fuses quite well with what has gone before.  Writer Matt Smith opens with a short recap of Cassandra Anderson's beginnings.  He then segues to the present where Anderson experiences a psychic warning from the future. The portent immediately triggers action, cutting out oodles of potential padding and neatly sets Anderson up for the final act which removes her from the "comforting" element of Mega-City One and into a strange alien environment.

Though this is an American publication, fans of the British  Judge Dredd and Judge Anderson series will feel right at home with U.K. artist Carl Critchlow detailing every pouch and brass wing on Anderson's uniform.  

Captain Marvel concludes on a very high note with some moxie from the Captain and an elegant means to end the conflict between the Spartax Empire and the wayfarerers of Torfa.  

The Torfans were being poisoned by a big chunk of vibranium that the Empire wants to own; this information really spoils nothing.  The toxicity-as-sickness angle would have been obvious to any six year old.  So, the Empire used that excuse to force the Torfans off the reservation for good, and they didn't mind if the inhabitants died in the process. 

Carol had a problem with that.  So she takes the fight to the Empire and in an awesome display of power becomes instrumental in ending the conflict once and for all.  I'm very surprised when I can recommend each chapter of a comic book as a comic book and a trade.  Good on Kelly Sue DeConnick and superb artist David Lopez.

Birds of Prey ends daringly with writer Christy Marx attempting to humanize Amanda Waller.  It doesn't quite work, but I give her props for trying.  Amanda Waller, no matter the dress size, will never be considered human.

The character actually appeared in several media outlets.  In comics of course, Waller formed the Suicide Squad, and Batman expressed his mistrust and disdain as soon as he learned of the Squad's existence.  That's the kiss of death in comics.  If Batman doesn't like it, it must be bad.

Waller also appeared in Smallville and Justice League.  In both instances, she did horrible things.  In Smallville, as portrayed by the legendary Pam Grier, Waller gives the order to kill Chloe Sullivan.  Second kiss of death.  Superman of course stops her cold.  In Justice League, Waller decides to dismantle the team, as she will attempt to do in Justice League of America.  

Marx fights the gravity of a character that's always been involved in shady dealings.  As a result, the idea that she could care about Dinah's feelings is really hard to swallow.

This is the final issue of Birds of Prey.  So Marx also cleans up by finding a smart solution to the problem of Strix, a Talon associated with Batgirl and Catwoman and drives a temporary wedge between the friendship of Batgirl and Black Canary.  She doesn't even try to entertain the split as permanent.  It's at best a really vicious tiff.  Ultimately, Birds of Prey could have been so much worse, and I mean that in the most positive way.  Marx really needs to be on a title with lasting power because she is too good to lose.

Batman's an inventory issue with a confused pedigree.  The story's by Scott Snyder and Gerry Duggan, but it's written by Gerry Duggan.  Ah-hah.  I have no idea what that means.

Anyhow, Batman goes on the hunt for a serial killer.  You need very little continuity knowledge to enjoy this issue.  It's pure Batman vs. Evil Bastard.  Duggan however distinguishes his monster with a particularly interesting psychological need.

Batman's humanity peeks through the darkness of his cowl in his interaction with a young new 52 Leslie Thompkins and how he appears to attract canines.  Oh, and I'm not making a crack about Leslie Thompkins' age.  She has been rejuvenated and reworked way before the new 52 ever burst onto the scene.  

Artist Matt Scalera provides artwork that's at once expressive and unique without losing sight of the basics.  So, overall, if you're looking for a decent Batman story, with a more optimistic slant and striking artwork, you can't go wrong with this one.

Smallville: Chaos drops Superman into a world of trouble, or should that be worlds, plural.  Lex Luthor makes a terrific move that exemplifies his brilliance and frames his hatred of Superman; we'll call it strong dislike, for Lois Lane.

Before Luthor stages a coup at the SuperCollider that Ted Kord and Michael Holt built, Superman fights a familiar moon-faced foe.  Meanwhile, Wonder Woman and Steve Trevor visit the expecting Queens, Chloe and Oliver.  

Zatanna shows up when you least expect it, and Mercy helms the Watchtower while Booster Gold makes a strong cameo, in which timelines appear to be shifting.  Seriously.  Why aren't you buying this book?  Bryan Q. Miller juggles the massive cast with unparalleled expertise.  Everybody gets something to do and is in this book for a reason.

Continuing a Pattern, This Scene does Not Appear in the Pages of World's Finest

World's Finest surprisingly doesn't really focus on our favorite duo--Helena and Kara.  Instead, writer Paul Levitz introduces a new Power Girl, expertly drawn by Tyler Kirkham and Scott Kollins.

Normally such a move, despite it coming from a writer I like, would irk me, but the way Levitz relates the story and makes it seem a natural reaction to weird events kept me rapt.  That's not to say I would accept a new Power Girl even if she was bequeathed the title.

Jimmy Palmiotti, Justin Gray and Amanda Conner brought Power Girl back, restored her pre-Crisis memories and eliminated a whole heap of past interference.  They transformed Power Girl into the last survivor of the original DC universe and the smartest business woman on the planet.  Bam.  That made way more sense than Atlantean granddaughter of Arion.  

When the new 52 arose from the ashes of an incomprehensible mishmash, Levitz restored Power Girl as the earth-two cousin to Superman.  See, that's what Power Girl must be.  That's where her resonance springs from.  They could have made her black.  It wouldn't have mattered.  As long as she was the earth-two cousin to Superman.  So, yeah, I like Tanya Spears, but the only way I'll accept her as Power Girl is in the face of an earth-two Power Girl's continued existence.  Tanya would be an adjunct not a replacement.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

POBB: Batgirl Special: August 14, 2014

Pick of the Brown Bag
Batgirl Special
Ray Tate

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.