Review by Will Morgan
Whether intentionally or not, this final volume of Gail Simone’s ‘New 52’ Batgirl carries the Girl Power theme to an extreme. We open with an alternate-world version in which Batgirl and her bête noire Knightfall, rechristened Bluebelle and Daybreak, are besties in a utopian Gotham as the darkness of the city’s true face begins to seep in around the edges of the bright n’ chirpy façade. It’s tautly written and strangely compelling, with the similarities between our heroine and her arch-enemy brought into sharp focus.
Returning to the regular continuity continues from Wanted, the reader is momentarily befuddled by what appears to be yet another parallel, in which Batgirl and her fellow protectors of Gotham are vampires, preying on the citizenry they’re sworn to protect.This is simply the delusional viewpoint of the story’s antagonist Silver, who like many self-appointed world-savers believes himself to be working for the greater good. Batgirl teams up with the female assassin of the Court of Owls (who acquired a codename, Strix, over in Birds of Prey while the reader’s back was turned) to thwart him, but is also forced to use the resources and intel of Knightfall, in a rankling compromise. It’s to Simone’s credit that the supernatural element, including a walk-on by DC’s go-to vampire lord, Andrew Bennett, doesn’t come across as incongruous. In a poignant two-parter, Batgirl tries to help an increasingly-erratic Poison Ivy, whose remaining connection to humanity is rapidly fraying. Simone’s established skills at provoking sympathy for evil characters are tested again, and pass with honours.
The involvement of Bab’s roommate Alysia in eco-protest leads to a clash with Simone’s version of Rag Doll from Secret Six, who fits flawlessly into the bizarre kaleidoscope of Gotham. Knightfall’s machinations lead to a full-on showdown between Knightfall’s army of metahumans and Batgirl’s own connections – primarily Black Canary and the Huntress, in a gracious nod of acknowledgement to those who remember Simone’s earlier Birds of Prey series. There’s a satisfying tying-up of all the dangling plot threads, as Simone leaves Batgirl in fine shape for its next creative team.
While sometimes gore-heavy, Simone’s run on Batgirl is intricate, intelligent and consistently challenging for the reader. The writer kept a number of narrative plates spinning with admirable dexterity, and, except for jammed-in company-wide ‘events’ (there’s one such in the final pages of the book, something to do with Futures End – it’s easily ignored), a consistently high standard. Perhaps it’s knowing that Simone was such a hard act to follow that led the incomers to take the character in so drastically different a direction when they took up the thread, but that’s a matter for another review.
There’s an embarrassment of extras here, perhaps to clear the shelves of all remnants from Simone’s reign. Multiple variant covers, with themes such as Steampunk, Scribblenauts, Robot Chicken, Selfie, etc. – cover sketches and concepts by Alex Garner and Clay Mann, and thumbnail pencils by Robert Gill.