Batgirl Vol. 1: Beyond Burnside
Written by Hope Larson
Art by Rafael Albuquerque
Colours by Dave McCaig
Review by Stephanie Cooke
DC’s Rebirth reboot surprised the heck out of me in a really good way. Many of the titles are actually good and DC is slowly working some of the old fan favourite continuity back in the mix, erasing the mess that was the DC New 52. To be fair, the New 52 really wasn’t so bad and gave us a lot of really solid titles, including Aquaman (no really), Animal Thing, Swamp Thing, Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo’s Batman, and Batgirl… most notably to me, the Batgirl of Burnside by Brenden Fletcher, Babs Tarr and Cameron Stewart.
Here within Rebirth, the story hasn’t really been reset, thankfully. The previous creative team rebuilt Barbara Gordon quite a bit, trying to erase the horrible Killing Joke continuity that’s plagued her character for ages. For Batgirl: Beyond Burnside, writer Hope Larson (Who is AC?, A Wrinkle in Time) more or less picks up where the story left off but picks Babs up and drops her into Japan, citing a change of scenery for her to get away from the drama that has surrounded her in Burnside. Boys, supervillains… you know, the usual stuff that a young adult deals with. Unfortunately Babs doesn’t know the meaning of a vacation and after running into a troubled childhood friend, she’s forced to make Batgirl an international vigilante and get some upgrades to her fighting skills by learning and competing in the MMA.
I really wanted to like this story. I really, really did. And it’s not that I didn’t like it, it’s more that I felt like it wasn’t a very satisfying arc. Outside of Babs herself, we were missing the characters that helped give Babs more heart, like Frankie. She’s in it but barely. The Batgirl of Burnside shines with her friend by her side and it noticeably took away some of the emotion of the story without her. I get that Larson is trying to build up her Batgirl but to me, Frankie is now a vital part of Babs and helps make her who she is.
I felt like writer and artist weren’t quite in sync here either and neither was colourist Dave McCaig. None of it is BAD, but it felt like they weren’t working as a team to better the story overall, they were just sending in their parts for a paycheque. Albuquerque is an artist I’ve been following for quite a while now and I LOVE HIS WORK. American Vampire, Eight, and Huck both are just extraordinary and feel like they’re stories that he wants to tell. On Batgirl, Albuquerque’s feels stiff and lifeless. McCaig’s colours didn’t really feel right either to me. They felt a little too neon or something? When McCaig colours some of the villains (such as The Schoolgirl), the pastels really work and the palette compliments the story. I know that McCaig is a good colourist so it seems bizarre to me that it felt so off for this story.
Ultimately I think the thing that really got to me was again, the lack of heart to the story. I didn’t care about the characters, I didn’t care about the villains, and I definitely didn’t really care about what the end game was when it came to the finale.
Skip it. I was disappointed by the story here and don’t really consider this particular arc vital to Batgirl. It doesn’t have a lot of significant impact on her continuity and doesn’t set up a lot one way or the other for the subsequent issues. I’m definitely going to check out what follows this arc because I think Larson may have just needed a little bit of a warm-up with the character. The whole creative team is excellent but it feels like they need to work on their dynamic together. I look forward to seeing what they do together in the near future.