Review: Batgirl Vol. 6: Old Enemies trade paperback (DC Comics)

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Mairghread Scott and Paul Pelletier depart Batgirl, unfortunately, just as it was getting good. Scott spins a story often buffeted by unexpected characters and continuity ties, and in the end she ties up the final threads of the Burnside era well in a way that clears the decks for the next creative team. The final issues are unexpectedly moving. And where the story in Batgirl Vol. 6: Old Enemies struggles, Pelletier's art looks as good as ever (with inks by Norm Rapmund). Again, this feels like Scott and Pelletier finding their stride, and one can only hope that some of the situations and supporting cast established here carry over into the forthcoming Cecil Castellucci/Carmine Di Giandomenico run.

[Review contains spoilers]

Old Enemies is a seven-issue trade consisting of the three-part "Old Enemies" and the three-part "Terrible," bridged by the one-off "Blow Out." In this way, the book is exceptionally well structured; "Old Enemies" is strong and eventually quite shocking on its own, establishing Barbara Gordon's new status quo and cast well, and then "Terrible" raises the stakes further. Both stories are simultaneously so short on their own, but also so well realized and connected, that the book never seems to drag but at the same time I came away feeling like I'd been with these characters for a while. And not only does "Blow Out" connect the two, it also grounds Batgirl firmly in larger events in the DC Universe.

Scott's conceit in all of this is that Barbara Gordon joins the congressional campaign of an endangered politician, a nod to Barbara's own past-continuity congressional career. Indeed, a running thread is that Barbara has a lot of roles right now (some of which also have their own historical antecedents) including graduate student for library science and also CEO of her own clean energy company; by the end, Scott has stripped away almost all of that. I tend not to like, actually, creative teams leaving with mass deck-clearing, as that's the kind of thing that gives characters these multiple, often incongruous private lives (see also police officer/gym teacher/card dealer/cab driver Dick Grayson). For Barbara, however, this Burnside-era mogul identity seemed far-fetched when it was introduced and grew moreso the longer Barbara appeared to be a wealthy-CEO-in-absentia. For the company now to have been stolen out from under her — whether by nefarious means or otherwise — is something of a relief.

Scott includes as well Jason Bard, Barbara's continuity-removed love interest from that same congressional era. In the weird, winding world of DC Comics continuity, Scott uses here the Jason Bard rebooted for the New 52 who appeared in Batman Eternal, and whose big twist was, given that the character is historically a hero, that he turned out to be a villain. Scott proceeds to realign Jason with earlier conceptions, changing him over the course of the story from heel to, at least, "not so bad." Whether Castellucci will also keep Jason in the book, along with politician Luciana Alejo and others, remains to be seen.

Equally Scott takes a deep dive into Batgirl lore with the villain Cormorant, a 1980s assassin of few appearances who stalks Luciana Alejandro here. I'll grant that Cormorant's camouflaged, knee-padded costume is better than the Mountie hat with a bright red "C" that he used to wear, though neither one particularly evokes the seabird of their name. The foe aside — were not Cormorant a historical figure, he might seem comical — Scott's larger story of Barbara trying to protect Luciana and negotiate Jason Bard is good, as is Pelletier's art overall. The end is particularly bloody and surprising, ramping up the tension between Barbara and Jason in a way I thought Scott handled well.

In "Terrible," Scott reinvents the Terrible Trio, a group of gangsters in animal masks who've been portrayed at times hilarious and horrifying. I'm relatively sure this is the first time we've seen this grouping, with a female Vulture and the three occasionally at odds with one another. Scott's introduction of the doings at Gordon Clean Energy and what seems like Barbara's former roommate and business partner Alysia Yeoh bothering Barbara felt somewhat incongruous with the rest of the story for much of the book, but Scott draws powerful parallels in the end, especially Barbara's company being stolen from her set against Shark trying to choke her to death. From there, Shark's sacrifice is equally surprising, and Batgirl's guilt is well-nuanced, that her own selfless example would cause the death of someone else. It's a rare writer who can make the Terrible Trio affecting.

In between these two is "Blow Out," which reconciles Batgirl with the events of The Batman Who Laughs. I hadn't considered it until I read this issue, but in fact the last time we say James Gordon Jr., he was committing murders by proxy out of Blackgate prison in Batgirl Vol. 5: Art of the Crime, and so it didn't quite match that he should be cured and released as of Laughs; here Scott is able to at least acknowledge that this happened and also that happened. I thought her depiction of Barbara, James, and father Commissioner James Gordon going around on whether James Jr. is deserving of a second chance or not was convincing, and guest artist Elena Casagrande gave the whole thing a properly tense, gritty look.

Support Collected Editions -- Purchase Batgirl Vol. 6: Old Enemies

Batgirl Vol. 6: Old Enemies sees a Batgirl story told well within the confines of plausibility. Yes, we're dealing with master assassins and people with animal masks stuck on their heads and super-strength drugs, but all of this is still more "realistic" than the amorphous internet creature Batgirl fought last time around. My understanding is that we're probably headed for more amorphous internet creatures, but for me Mairghread Scott and Paul Pelletier had the recipe right — Barbara Gordon up against corrupt, mortal enemies beside some allies she can trust and some she can't. I don't know what model Cecil Castellucci will be following but I'd be happy if it was this one.

[Includes original and variant covers, cover sketches]


Review Date
Reviewed Item
Batgirl Vol. 6: Old Enemies
Author Rating
4 (scale of 1 to 5)

Comments ( 1 )

  1. I really enjoyed this run! Scott was great on Transformers and I'd love to see her pick up more comics work. (I think she's mainly a TV writer.)


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