[24 June 2014]
We’ve all had bad days that have put us in bad moods. It doesn’t how rich someone is, how attractive they are, or how much power they wield. Sooner or later, they’re going to have a day where it feels like the universe is conspiring against them. On those days, we are all in our own Jason Bourne movie and the CIA is way more competent. We’re constantly on the brink of tearing our hair out and punching the nearest brick wall. From high school to retirement, these are the kinds of days where we wish we could crawl back into our mother’s womb and get away from it all. In that respect, we can all relate to the day Barbara Gordon is having in Batgirl #32.
Since regaining the use of her legs and becoming Batgirl again, Barbara Gordon’s have has been in flux. She has had her share of good days and bad days. She became close friends with her roommate, Alysia. She reconnected with her mother. She even found time to turn a former car thief into a boyfriend in Ricky Gutierrez. But lately, the bad days have been outnumbering the good by an increasingly wide margin. Between her brother dying, her father going to jail, and her boyfriend suing her father, she’s on a bit of a losing streak to say the least. Short of losing her cell phone, Batgirl is on the brink and Batgirl #32 promises to give her a violent shove.
She deals with many sources of frustration, as is to be expected of anyone in the Batman family, but the most pressing comes from Knightfall. By most standards, it’s a standard crime syndicate. By Gotham City standards, it’s the most dangerous kind of crime syndicate in that they’re more competent than those that rely on freeze rays, poisonous plants, and laughing gas. Their competence has allowed them to evade Batgirl, staying a step ahead of her no matter what she does. It’s like running a race where every other runner has a head start. Needless to say, this leaves Batgirl pretty frustrated.
But beyond her work as Batgirl, she also has some very different kinds of frustration adding to that violent shove. In addition to her father being in jail, her boyfriend, Ricky, is suing him for shooting him in a horribly mismanaged raid that occurred several issues ago. Any kind of frustration is difficult to deal with, but it can always be made worse when lawyers are involved. It’s an effective one-two punch for Batgirl, her personal life and her professional life working against her in ways that no amount of spa trips could hope to alleviate.
These are some big, heart-wrenching issues that are attacking Barbara Gordon on all fronts. Yet it doesn’t stop there. Even the little things are adding to her frustration. She comes home hoping to unwind, or at least get away from anymore brick walls to punch, only to walk in on her roommate getting intimate with her girlfriend. On any ordinary day, it would be one of those things that she could probably laugh off. But on a bad day like this, it might as well be an extra punch to the jaw after she has already lost a few teeth.
At this point, Batgirl’s life is more than just a string of unfortunate events. Bad luck only goes so far. Even casino owners understand that. But it starts to get a little excessive when one of Barbara’s old friends, Munira Khairuddin, tracks her down while she’s out for a morning jog to clear her head. She’s not looking to catch up over a cappuccino and a beagle either. She actually drugs Barbara, abducts her, and tries to recruit her into some elite counter-terrorism squad that requires that she sever all ties to her family and become a ghost. It’s like someone having their identity stolen and being forced to work for the identity thieves.
Munira claims she wants to enlist Barbara because she’s they were college friends who respected each other’s skills. She also warns her that Knightfall is about to launch some massive attack on Gotham that would be on par of Pablo Escobar taking hostages at the White House. Her sales pitch is pretty lousy. She basically asks Barbara to join a version of the NSA with guns and even less accountability. She even warns her that refusing this offer has consequences, which gives the impression it’s much of an offer. Maybe Barbara would have actually considered it if she weren’t having such a lousy day. To be fair, Munira has no idea how rotten her luck has been lately. But the damage is done.
At this point, the plot has gone beyond Batgirl just having a string of bad days to piling on. She’s having a rough time. There’s no need to reinforce it anymore. It’s expected that superheroes have more bad days than most people and some of their worst days make for great stories. This issue did a nice job building on Batgirl’s recent hardships, but the level of torment inflicted upon her just becomes excessive, so much so that it loses its impact. People can only relate so much to bad days that involve abductions, lawsuits, and promiscuous roommates. Like football team that gets blown out for nine straight games, it eventually loses its impact.
To Batgirl’s credit, she deals with this uninterrupted string of bad luck better than most people could ever hope to manage. That’s why she’s part of the Batman family. Dealing with bad days isn’t just part of the job. It’s as useful as any grappling hook. She eventually enlists help from other female heroines, including Black Canary and Huntress. Most people in bad moods are content punching more walls rather than seeking help from friends. It offers at least some hope that Batgirl’s string of bad days will end at some point.
Batgirl #32 succeeded in taking Barbara Gordon to as low a point as she could have without another visit from the Joker. It added both personal and professional struggles, sometimes excessively. While the impact of those struggles became muted at times, it still strikes all the right chords. Now anyone who has a bad day has much less reason to complain. If Barbara Gordon can get through this issue without punching any brick walls, then nobody has any excuses.
Published at: http://www.popmatters.com/pm/review/182786-batgirl-32/