Batgirl Volume 1: Batgirl of Burnside Review

The Batgirl of Burnside is the second phase of the New 52 run and is a ‘softish’ reboot following Gail Simone’s Batgirl run which ended with Deadline. By a soft reboot I mean a very soft reboot, from the looks of it what happened in Gail Simone’s run were canon as there are mentions in Batgirl of Burnside throughout. However, what has dramatically changed is Batgirl’s appearance in the suit (which isn’t really a suit any more, more of an outfit), her personality has changed somewhat, her circumstances are now a bit more watered down and the calibre of villains is now much, much softer. Let’s break it down.

I totally loved Batgirl’s suit in the previous volumes and I equally like her outfit in Cameron’s as well. Both completely different and both very stylish. There is a plot device to explain the change of outfit as they were engulfed in flames following a fire at Dinah’s apartment, however it is a weak explanation as someone of Barbara Gordon’s intelligent not having backup suits is farfetched. Batgirl’s new suit is more style over substance but it does fit the narrative and the new direction superbly. Whereas previously I would have said she looked badass, in Cameron Stewart’s run I would call it ‘cute’. Not exactly a bad thing I must add as she looks particularly gorgeous in this iteration.

In Batgirl of Burnside, Barbara Gordon has moved to a nicer, quieter area to attend College (University) and to ‘move on’ from the events of Gail Simone’s run. She’s got new friends who are more immature and carefree and this reflects on the new Barbara. I liked it, to be honest but it has lost a lot of the darker tones of the previous storylines which may grate some people who loved Gail Simone’s work. However, I went in with fresh eyes and took it for what it is – another writer’s spin on the much loved heroin. She is still a strong willed, genius and caring character – but Stewart has watered down her edge – she is know much more accident prone, forgetful and careless. A point which I didn’t particularly write as it goes against Barbara’s personality as a whole. In saying that, I did like the Barbara that isn’t so whiney, miserable and mopey as she was a lot, Stewart made her young, free and innocent again which I enjoyed.

Batgirl’s new circumstances have changed to now be almost ‘safe’. Throughout Batgirl of Burnside she is never in any real danger and the villains only pose a minor threat at best. This was an area I didn’t like. Batgirl can handle herself in the worst of situations but she never really found herself in any danger at any point in the book. Stewart chose some kids with swords and a bike, a celebrity with a gun and an out of control AI of her own making as villains. Exposure to the public was about as serious as it got. Because of this, the plot seemed to be slow paced as there was nothing at stake – I did enjoy the minor twist towards the end but otherwise the plot was pretty much filled in with Barbara’s new personality and how her social life was getting and her newfound circle of friends.

From the start of the book all the way to the end were constant references to real life pop culture. Hashtags, dating sites, Instagram… you get my drift. Clearly this was a direction DC took to attract younger audiences but for older audiences like me I found the whole thing cringeworthy.

My standout area of Batgirl of Burnside was the art. I really, really liked it. It was fresh, modern and fit in perfectly with the ‘younger’ direction they were taking. My only criticism was that characters were often over sexualised and Barbara’s choice of attire was a bit out of character. It was cartoony and quite similar to Brubaker’s Catwoman.

Overall, Batgirl of Burnside is a dramatic change from the previous writing and art team and one that has many readers split. It’s not dark, edgy or dangerous but it is fun, fresh and an enjoyable read for casuals. You may get annoyed by the forced pop culture references but if you accept it for what it is you may just love it. Not a classic but pretty decent. I for one enjoyed it and will be getting the final two volumes.