Friday, December 30, 2011

REVIEW: Batgirl: The Lesson

Batgirl: The Lesson is the final collection of Stephanie Brown/Batgirl stories, collecting together The Lesson, a multi-part arc in which Batgirl finds herself as a fugitive after being framed by a strange gang of villains, adapts to becoming a part of Batman, Inc. and also comes face to face with her past.

The story is, on a basic level, fairly simple. As Batgirl, Steph tries to save a fellow student from being attacked by a group of mysterious robed figures, but later he's found dead and Batgirl is the prime suspect. As she tries to clear her name, she must also find those responsible for the murder but also cement her relationship with Proxy as well as deal with Oracle, who begins to work with the Birds of Prey again. On top of that she's still hiding her status as Batgirl from her mother, which is made even harder by now being part of Bruce Wayne's Batman Incorporated, and she finds herself being sent to London to fight alongside Squire, sidekick of The Knight, in a rather bizarre story.

Truth be told, I found the arc to run on a little too long, or at least was told in a manner I didn't particularly enjoy. It seemed to be made of a few smaller arcs and it felt a little disconnected and perhaps a little unbelievable or, in one case, too convenient. As a whole, it also highlighted problems I have with comics like this - Steph is a little younger than me, yet she's pulling all-nighters, barely sleeping, seems like she's barely eating too, yet she's running around constantly and besting almost everyone in fights, not to mention the seemingly temporary recovery from a dislocated shoulder. Whilst I understand there's got to be some artistic license, I just find my disbelief really stretching with this run.

Yet for those faults, I still enjoyed it. I think with this run of Batgirl, it's not so much the story that's key, more the little moments. Steph has a constant stream of witty remarks, Deadpool-esque fourth wall stretchers and so on, and regardless of whether she's fighting Livewire or herself, it's always going to be a humorous adventure that's complimented by a great cast. Steph's youth and eagerness is contrasted beautifully by Oracle and her way of doing things, but also by Proxy's lack of confidence. The rivalry between Damian, Bruce Wayne's son, and Steph doesn't feature as much in this run, but it's interesting to see how their not-quite-a-friendship develops.

I did like most of the art in this collection, as largely it adds to the humorous nature of the series. The way Batgirl poses or has an expression adds more to the humour than most other aspects, and you really do get a feel for her character from it. In particular, I like the scenes where you see her wit and cheekiness come through because it adds a dimension to her character that doesn't come across too well in words.

That said, at times the representations fell flat. Whilst I don't particularly want to harp on about the size of breasts in comics again, I do wish that Nguyen and PĂ©rez were a little bit more consistent with it. Some times, especially out of her costume, she seems well proportioned, but as soon as she's in it her chest goes from modest to a little too big, although never does she hit the size of Power Girl. I found it more irritating than anything else, however. There were also times when the poses or more action-based sequences looked wrong, and perhaps a little gratuitous. No moment was worse than the fight on a school bus, however, as Steph's arms were drawn very poorly. They looked too short and looked like more of an afterthought.

All in all, Batgirl: The Lesson is another fun series of adventures with Stephanie, but ultimately it left a little bit of a sour taste in my mouth, one that sadly won't really be addressed in future issues due to the Batgirl mantle having been returned to Barbara Gordon as part of the reboot. With the usual jokes, tongue-in-cheek comments and jovial view of the problems that plague Gotham, it still offers a somewhat bright outlook and if nothing else, it's a long arc with great characters (and a few guest stars towards the end!) and some memorable moments.

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