Batman Confidential #21

The main attraction of "The Bat & The Cat" has been Kevin Maguire's art, but Fabian Nicieza's writing on this story's been sadly over-looked. The missing notebook plot was never a concern--we knew she'd get it back--but the picaresque nature of the story gave Kevin Maguire a ton to draw, and as the story's finally wrapped up, it's become clear that the story was about Barbara Gordon's sense of self, specifically as a female.

It's basically a smart "chick lit" style story, stuffed inside the Batman universe; Sex & The (Gotham) City. Gordon slowly comes to terms or at least wrestles with her own growing independence and the overt differences between herself and the more assertive and sexual Catwoman.

Issue 18 famously begins with a chase through an orgy, which forces Batgirl to expose and confront issues about her body and sex, while issues 19 and 20 have her fighting men who won't pull their punches because she's woman and also, witnessing the messed-up realities of sex slavery. This final issue is her endurance test, a video game-like dash through Arkham Asylum, fighting villains popular (Joker, Two-Face, Clayface, Scarecrow) and obscure (Catman, Cavalier, The Signalman, and Blockbuster) and trying to decipher the Riddler's games. And she succeeds. In the final pages, she even gets the respect of Catwoman, but not without some continued digs at her body image: "Robin has better legs", Catwoman quips.

Barbara, happy to have the approval of her enemy and to some extent, role model, bounds off the building and Macguire's complements the emotional peak of Nicieza's writing by finally drawing a conventionally heroic-looking frame of Batgirl. It's maybe the only conventional-looking image in the entire series and it's well-chosen.

The next page shows her flying, repeating Batman's words for her ("Smart. Resourceful. Tenacious.") and connecting her confidence to body-image ("But I've got better legs than Robin") but still being realistic, too ("Although, admittedly he's got a tighter butt" continues her thought from the previous page). She puts dad's notebook back and prepares for a much-deserved sleep, which Macguire illustrates with a bold and jarring, quasi-Manga style frame of Barbara, mask off, beady-eyed, hearts floating around her head: "BED!". The same girl who was just beating the shit out out of super villains, now excited to take a nap in her parents' house.

1 comment:

Viagra said...

Batgirl is not one of my favorites in the Batman Universe but i had fun with this one let me say. specially with the ending, we see that after all the ass-kicking action she still is BatGIRL and the "BED!" line id the proof of this.