Ah, the final volume of New 52 Batgirl and the final one by Cameron Stewart, too. You may have read that I have not been enjoying his run at all and find the overall direction they have got Barbara Gordon on to be all wrong (in my opinion). Batgirl of Burnside fared a bit better than Family Business but all in all It has not been a patch on Gail Simone’s work. Anyway, enough about the run in general let’s get down to the review of Batgirl, Volume 3: Mindfields!
Mindfields collects issues #46-#52 to complete the New 52. Mindfields begins with a short story called Gang War, which once again puts Batgirl into a somewhat non threatening situation and definitely not a ‘gang war’. However, it has been used as a plot device to introduce The Spoiler into the Mindfields and she does appear frequently from then on. Sadly, Gang War reintroduces the flaws in the previous issues by telling us the Stewart doesn’t think Batgirl can do anything alone – first she is rescued by a throwaway character in Lewis and then by Spoiler herself. Although team work has always been a strong point for Batgirl she has also been a fiercely independent force and straight away in Mindfields you see the opposite.
The constant one liners, cartoony art just serve to water down Batgirl and I was hoping for a bit less in Mindfields. Batgirl also complains about tiredness in this issue but all that did was get me wondering if she has actually done enough to become tired in the first place?
The next arc, Police + Thieves, is where it starts to get interesting as Barbara investigates possible corruption inside the GCPD as someone is hacking her own information about the mysterious Negahedron. It’s great to see Spoiler knocking about as I fond memories of the character pre 52 as Spoiler, Batgirl and Robin. During this we learn that Vol 3 Mindfields happens exactly the same time as Bloom as she catches up with her Dad. Bluebird features heavily in the plot which I feel is a bit meh as every single one of Batgirl’s allies are female which is very un-diverse if that’s even a word. The story here is actually pretty good but Stewart failed to keep the tension up for too long before the whole thing succumbs to cartoony, teenage girl nonsense again.
At one point the artwork literally changes for two pages inside the same issue. The final nail in the coffin for Police + Thieves is when the subject of ex boyfriends comes up. This was a storyline with so much promise that sadly went downhill. Old Friends quickens the pace which is most welcome and in all honesty is a much more enjoyable issue as we the reader finally gets to see a bit more of “The Fugue”who’s behind all of the mind tricks affecting Batgirl – the art is a bit edgier (but still cartoonish) to accompany the adrenaline fuelled plot and there are is somewhat of a twist involved but sadly the action peeters out a bit too quickly and as soon as it gets somewhere it finishes.
Mindfields continues exactly from where Old Friends leaves, the theme of girls, girls, girls continues heavily in this trade paperback as not a single male helps the team from start to finish. On one hand that’s great for feminism but on the other hand it is very much imbalanced. Is it a problem? No, not really but it feels very forced throughout and perhaps the titular issue is where it really starts to show. In this issue, Babs is out for the count and it’s up to Operator and Black Canary (who once again looks hot, showing too much cleavage) to get her out. I wanted to put the book down at this point as it started to move too far away from reality to make any sense.
The villain of it all, Fugue’s, backstory and desire for revenge is loose and flimsy at best. Although he does have a ‘genuine’ motive to do what he does, he still shares the same motive as hundreds of other people who have not turned into super villains. Stewart really did a poor job of constructing The Fugue as a villain the reader could take seriously. Some of the flashbacks are cool and seeing Batgirl in various classic suits drawn in the modern style was a joy. The concept of what’s going on is great but the execution and attention to detail is atrocious to say the least. Sadly.
The battle with Fugue continued into Open Mind where there’s a conclusion and it’s actually an enjoyable issue which showed that Stewart can indeed string a decent story with a satisfying twist and ending. Throughout Open Minds are versus match ups of the female cast against the past villains of Stewart’s New 52 which were seriously cool and I love them. However, what’s marred Open Minds as well as the issues preceding it is the fact that Barbara Gordon is never in any real danger and the stakes never get that high meaning that Stewart is unable to create any substantial tension.
The Gladius Offensive and Turning the Page are the proper conclusion to the whole Batgirl New 52 saga by reintroducing Gladius and her gang back in the fold as she wants to get her hands on this mythical Negahedron which is never really explained at any point. It’s same old same old low threat caper which at this point was very exhausting to read, I had had enough here and wanted it to end. Things escalate without explanation, characters are dropped out of nowhere (Luke Fox) and it’s overwhelmingly female. Barbara is never in any danger at any point and it all just ends with a minor bang. The art, though, turns up a notch in my opinion here but it’s too little too late for me.
Gladius plot with Gotham Academy made her look like Voldermort to Batgirl’s Harry Potter and to be honest it just about sums up Stewart and Fletcher’s tenure as writers – they were happy to write Batgirl as a soft hero who fights against B class villains far away from any real danger in Gotham City.
The final issue, an Endgame tie in, was by far the best issue in their entire run, and that’s saying something as there was only one line of dialogue!
Overall, this book along with the whole Stewart run was just not for me. I didn’t enjoy the direction they wanted to go with Babs and I clearly was not the target demographic for her image relaunch. What a shame after everything Gail Simone did. However, the conclusion does mean a change of writer so look forward to our review of Batgirl Rebirth Volume 1 in the near future!
Last update on 2020-08-04 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API