Tuesday, July 5, 2016

'Batgirl: Year One' is a must-read for Barbara Gordon fans

What was I thinking in 2003?

Why didn’t I get each and every one of the nine issues of Scott Beatty and Chuck Dixon’s BATGIRL: YEAR ONE? And why in the name of all that is holy to fanboys and fangirls did it take me sooooo long to read this delightful story?

Needless to say, YEAR ONE is a fantastic story in every aspect. And the plot, characters and pacing aren’t the only superb things here.

Marcos Martin’s pencils with inking by Alvaro Lopez are a great complement to each other. There’s not a stroke out of place. Truthfully!

Intentional or not, Martin’s art mixes the simplicity and street grittiness of David Mazzuchelli’s BATMAN: YEAR ONE artwork with the playful yet somber — if that combination is even possible — of “Batman: The Animated Series.” The last page of the last issue will blow you away.

But please don’t turn there first; take the journey with Barbara “Babs” Gordon and that splash page will be even sweeter and more mind blowing.
Colorist Javier Rodriguez makes it all pop.

While the color palette is often dominated by shades of muted gold, brown and/or tan, splashes of color like Robin’s costume Batgirl’s fiery red hair or blue cape make the artwork jump off the page. Rodriguez is a master at coloring flames, motorcycle headlights and blended background colors.

BATGIRL: YEAR ONE expands obviously on Barbara Gordon’s origins.

Done from the first-person perspective, we hear Babs’ no-holds-barred take on the Dynamic Duo and every character she encounters.

Best yet, Beatty and Dixon — two of the most well-versed “Batman family” writers of the 1990s — really make it sound like Babs is talking to us. They have a great handle on her voice and personality.

Batgirl/Babs has always had more than her share of flair for being sassy. And despite her photographic memory, her brilliant mind and instinctual ability to handle herself in tough situations, Batgirl/Babs also has been a tad insecure.

Dixon and Beatty give us all this, delivering a very relatable and believable Barbara Gordon.

(Wildly enough, that’s exactly how Gail Simone wrote Babs and Batgirl during her tremendous run in the New 52-era BATGIRL series — a definite must-read for Batgirl fans.)

What surprised me in YEAR ONE is I discovered a young woman who is more determined than I ever knew.

Here's what I also discovered: Babs also is a bit of an instigator (she dressed up as Batgirl at the masquerade ball to get a dig at her dad about his working relationship with his “secret pal,” Batman). She isn’t sure what to make of Robin — much less Batman — and is brazen enough to break into the Justice Society of America’s headquarters just so she can seek a mentor in Black Canary.
Collage courtesy of the Mystery Comics website
Here’s the part of the YEAR ONE characterization of Babs/Batgirl I love the most: She can’t help but fall for Robin (whom she sweetly, although sardonically, has nicknamed “Pixie Boots” — at least in her own thoughts). Yesss!

The ying and yang of Babs’ complicated relationship with Robin/Dick Grayson started after they first met!

In addition to Beatty and Dixon’s dead-on characterizations, they treat us to great cameos (Vicki Vale!), an explanation on how a low-paid librarian living with her father managed to get a fancy Batcycle and too many other gems that are too numerous to mention, but they had me pondering deep, geeky notions about the Bat-universe.

More importantly, I found myself laughing out loud, smiling and doing a fist pump in the air.

YEAR ONE is a must-have, not just a must-read.

Take it from this lifelong Batgirl fan, you should snag a copy — sight unseen, whether you’d heard of this limited series before or not. It’s right up there with BATMAN: YEAR ONE and a few other seminal and powerful Batman publications and storylines.

BATGIRL: YEAR ONE is so much fun, it’s like a film you just finished seeing and want to experience it again. Now. 

It’s only been in recent years that I finally came to the realization I’ve loved me some Barbara Gordon for many, many years. (Always have, come to find out!)

But this origin story had me fall in love with Babs all over again. I'm confident YEAR ONE will do the same thing to you.

Grade: A

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