Batgirl Vol 2 Knightfall Descends by Gail Simone, Ardia Syaf, Ed Benes and Vicente Cifuentes
This delightfully fun, very shiny graphic novel has three stories in it all about Barbara Gordon (Batgirl #1 for anyone who’s trying to keep that straight) and the people in her life.
The first one was pretty important, I thought. Considering comic books generally have a cheerful lack of concern about trauma, both physical and emotional it was a refreshing story mostly centered around Barbara’s struggle to become Batgirl again. As far as plot it’s a fairly generic story – weird baddie wearing a mask with sci fi tech and a load of henchmen.
Actually, it’s those henchmen who make the story interesting, because one of them worked for the Joker and was with him the day he shot and paralyzed Barbara. Layer that onto of Barbara’s frustration about her physical abilities and her fears that she’ll never be the Batgirl she once was and you have a really great, emotional story.
My favourite part is Barbara and Dinah (the Black Canary), who Barbara goes to for support. Dinah responds the way any good best friend would – by kicking the crap out of Barbara. Literally and also figuratively. This story also had a truly, spectacularly horrifying look at the childhood of James Jr, Barbara’s serial killer brother. I know that we all want to think that kids are born good, but really, there’s a lot of compelling evidence to suggest that’s not true and even fictional, illustrated portrayals of people who are not unwilling, but unable to feel empathy are usually very chilling.
The second story if Barbara’s Night of Owls, which I’d read before but I feel like I might have missed the subtly of the story. There are actually three heroines in it. One is a little girl, taken away from her family in Japan during the Second World War to make balloons that carried bombs across the ocean to the west coast of the United States and who is killed in Nagasaki. The second is a young girl who is one of the few victims of those bombs, but survived, and was taken in by Haly’s Circus and then recruited by the Court of Owls to be a Talon. And Barbara, of course, who’s fighting desperately to protect her city, but much more so her family.
The last story is Knightfall. After Barbara beats up some would be carjackers at a charity function, the one that ran is caught in a bear trap. Despite the fact that she recently smashed his buddy into a car, Barbara realizes that he’s just a kid who’s going to die if she doesn’t help him, but by doing so she crosses the Knightfall organization, a driven group of vigilantes who are trying to clean up the streets by killing everyone from murders to petty criminals.
This is a lady power story if ever there was one. Knightfall is a strong, albeit crazy, female villain, most of her crew is as well, and Barbara teams up with a gruff detective trying to come to terms with the death of her husband and Batwoman (in one of the most epic team-ups ever!! I mean, if you’re me and you really like the Batladies kicking ass). Anyway, it was the kind of story that had loads of kicking and punching and breaking faces but somehow I can’t see any of the Batboys, not even Nightwing, caring so much about a sixteen year old car thief the way Barbara does. I don’t know exactly what it is about the story that made it feel different, but it was great.
Everything I’ve read by Gail Simone has been incredible awesome. She’s so good at writing the women strong, empowered, fierce but not making them masculine. I think it’s hard to find heroines who haven’t had to sacrifice their femaleness in order to be better in fights.
I still kind of wish Barbara was still Oracle though.
Last movie I watched: Hotel Transylvania! So good!! Best kids movie ever, or at least up there. There’s no bad guy at all! And the story is still awesome.
Last TV episode I watched: Camelot. That was … a show that happened….