Thursday, August 11, 2011

Back Issue Box: Detective Comics #508

I thought I would conclude my look at Supergirl interacting with characters returning to the DCnU by reviewing another team-up she had with the Barbara Gordon Batgirl.

One of the most controversial relaunches of the DCnU was the return of Babs as Batgirl. So much was written on it when it was first announced that I don't know if I need to recapitulate. But for me, I am pretty much against this particular relaunch. For me, Babs was such a stronger, more complex, and more interesting character as Oracle. She had rebounded from tragedy and remained a hero, made a difference. She was a role model for anyone with a disability, another subset of our population woefully under-represented in comics. She was a more influential character in the entire DCU in her role as Oracle. To put it another way, other people have been Batgirl. No one but Babs could be Oracle. That role defined her and she defined that role.

But moreover, DC had two new characters who had picked up the mantle of Batgirl and seemed to thrive. I don't know much of Cass Cain but she certainly has her fanbase. I have read and loved the Steph Brown Batgirl book. I never felt that there was a clamor in fandom to have Babs put the cowl back on. Babs was Oracle. And Batgirl was Batgirl.

Anyways, Barbara is going to return as Batgirl. I don't know if the new Supergirl is in the mood for friends so I don't know if we will see that version of World's Finest. And that's a shame because Steph and Kara were really becoming great friends. The Barbara and Kara friendship from the old DCU was well-publicized but there aren't many stories of the two teaming up. And so I present the first chapter of a three part Batgirl/Supergirl story from Detective Comics #508. (I will present the other two chapters soon.)

At this time, Batgirl was the back-up feature in Detective.

'The Attack of the Annihilator' was written by Cary Burkett and pencilled by veteran artist Jose Delbo.

This is a time in Barbara's life where she is no longer a Congresswoman and is instead an activist in Gotham, both in her public life and as Batgirl. And she has a confidante, a mechanic named Jeff Cotton who even knows her secret identity.

The plot of this story isn't earth-shattering or innovative.

A geologist named Kenneth Anderson has discovered a mysterious rock which he believes is of an alien origin. He also believes it holds unfathomable energies. But he is the standard disgruntled scientist, unhappy that his discovery has not garnered more fame and publicity. People seem more interested in issues like prison reform rather than 'unusual rocks'.  If people won't recognize his accomplishments, he will make them.

I do like the opening part of this scene where Barbara is holding a press conference about prison conditions and Gotham's need to improve them. There is something noble about her activism.

He bathes the rock in energy, accelerating its electrons.

Of course, this is comics. The rock emits even more energy, enveloping Anderson, mutating him into a sort of telekinetic telepathic freak. And with his new found power, Anderson decides to lash out against the world that has ignored him.

After her press conference, Babs notices that Linda Danvers is appearing on a local talk show discussing her soap opera role. (I never liked the portion of Supergirl's history as a soap opera actress. I liked her much more as reporter or grad student.)

The talk show is interrupted by the news of a monstrous appearing man floating over the streets of Gotham, attacking a local lab with energy blasts. Guess who that is. Barbara slips away and rushes to the scene as Batgirl.

And Anderson shows some significant power, firing hand beams and blasting off chunks of the building. Despite his power level, Batgirl actually confronts him, wrapping him up in a batline and flinging him to a nearby rooftop. But his power is too great. Using his mind, he snaps the rope and throws Batgirl off the roof seemingly to her death.

Luckily, Supergirl also heard the news report and was able to slip away from her interview to lend a hand. There is an easy and friendly camaraderie here with Supergirl casually discussing her secret identity with Barbara.

One of the ongoing themes in this story unfortunately is Batgirl thinking she is outclassed and worthless in comparison to Supergirl. You would think that if she sees Batman acting as an equal with Superman that she should recognize her value as a hero, her stature along side Supergirl. Instead (and we see it more in the subsequent chapters), Barbara feels almost ashamed of herself and jealous of Supergirl even while outthinking 'The Annihilator'.

Here Supergirl charges into combat with the Annihilator only to be taken out pretty quickly. He grabs Supergirl and drains her of her energy like the Parasite. With Supergirl defeated, Batgirl wonders what she is going to be able to do. What will she do??

This is a Batgirl story, not a Supergirl story, so I am not surprised that Supergirl gets taken out so easily. Batgirl needs to be the center of this story. And in the subsequent chapters Supergirl does get the opportunity to shine even if it tends to be as a super-powered weapon rather than a thinking hero.

I'll grade this story as a whole, after I review the third chapter. But there is nothing magical here with a pretty pedestrian plot and a average artwork. The only wrinkle is Batgirl's insecurities which are handled pretty well moving forward.

I won't be getting Batgirl in the DCnU. I liked Barbara as Oracle too much.


valerie21601 said...

I still miss the Power Girl and the Huntress team. I wish DC had allowed their friendship to continue on after the (first) Crisis.

I really did feel for PG when she got her pre-Crisis memories back and she totally recalled her best friend, Helena. PG tried to start up a friendship with her but post-Crisis Helena really didn't want to be her friend.

Anonymous said...

One thing that has remained unchanged from the bronze age til is the rock solidity of the Bargirl - Supergirl team. These two do their jobs with efficiency and dispatch and still manage to be exemplary gal pals.
Sorta makes their older male counterparts look like a pair of surly mooks.
Doesn't matter if it's Kara and Babs, or Kara and Steph the job always gets done.
I think DC missed an opportunity to create an all female super team book under the joint leadership of Steph-n-Kara. Batgirl has never had a team affiliation to speak up while Supergirl changes teams whimsically...they seem like a natural together.
While I'm interested to see what kind of a Batgirl Gail Simone would write. the loss of Oracle in the current re-shuffle is almost as painful to me as when the original Supergirl got killed. I suppose we should be glad she hasn't been killed off entirely, although in a way she has.
John Feer

Charlie said...

Actually the cover I remember it was Batgirl/supergirl issue. Anyone remember that one?

Anonymous said...

I'm sorry, but although I love Steph and she was a great Batgirl, as far as I'm concerned, Babs IS Batgirl. She is and will always be my favorite Batgirl, and I don't want her to get crippled and lose her cape and cowl again. This is one of the few things the New 52 made right, IMO.

Anyway, I love to see Supergirl/Batgirl team-ups. Kara and Babs and Kara and Steph are great together.

Hmm... When Kara died and Babs gave her eulogy, she remarked that Supergirl was not a lesser hero because she had great powers. I figure out she remembered her last speech to Kara back in COIE #4 and regretting every word she said.

Anonymous said...

"She was a more influential character in the entire DCU in her role as Oracle. To put it another way, other people have been Batgirl. No one but Babs could be Oracle. That role defined her and she defined that role."

Well, I'm sorry to say you, Anj, but history has proved you wrong. To start with, Barbara never showed she was particularly skillful at or interested in computer operation and hacking prior to the story where she took up the "Oracle" mantle. Next, there has been more Oracles since she gave up the mantle. Next, Cyborg is JLA's hacker and information brocker, so Oracle isn't needed at all. And last but not least, most of current heroes are capable of hacking into a database.

Knowing how to handle a PC could to seem impressive and unique at 1989. Now? Not at all.

There was never any reason because Babs and only Babs could be Oracle. Never. Nonetheless, she is the only Batgirl the general audience knows about, which is because DC saw that she became Batgirl again.

And this is the hard part Babs as Oracle fans don't want to face. Oracle is actually a demotion. Oracle isn't more popular or more important than Batgirl AT ALL, and it speaks volumes the Birds of Prey movie will ditch the role entirely.