Thursday, November 10, 2011

Paul's Picks!

Well, it's that time again folks: Wednesday! And you know what Wednesday is?... Well, of course you do, you're reading a blog about comics, so you obviously know it's New Comics Day, a.k.a. Paul's favorite weekly holiday! And in celebration of this weekly, well, celebration, Paul is here to give you his favorite book of the week.

Batgirl #3 by Gail Simone and Ardian Syaf

Wow, what a week of comics! When I got my pulls from the Great Escape Comics in Bowling Green today, I didn't really know what to expect. Some weeks, I can almost predict which book is going to blow me away, or at least be my pick. This week however, I'll admit I was a little surprised by my favorite book. Isn't that one of the best things about comics? While some are almost always going to meet the mark, it is those surprisingly great issues that keep me coming back for more, such as Paul Cornell's Demon Knights. The sometimes laugh-out-loud-worthy banter by these characters, along with the fantasy-style setting that you can only get here, make this book a must have for anyone interested in branching out.

However, while I would love to call it a four way tie, only one book can rise as victorious. For me it came down to Green Lantern and Batgirl. In the end, I had to give Gail Simone her props. I'm certain there will be many weeks going forward where Johns' book takes the lead, but this week Simone took her series to a new level. When I grabbed Batgirl #1 back in August, I was incredibly curious to find out what was going on. After all, the once paraplegic Barbara Gordon was taking the mantle back on for the first time since The Killing Joke (which if you haven't read yet, GO. READ.). For any DC fan, this was a huge deal. As a matter of fact, this change was easily one of the most shocking revelations in the DCnU for me. How does Barbara go from the wheelchair to the rooftops? How will she "get back on her feet?"

This book has many questions to answer, and the fans are patiently waiting to see how this and many other stories that have significant changes are going to pan out in the DCnU. In issue #3 Gail Simone takes on this responsibility with the greatest of care, making sure that she is not only developing the story, but that she is also developing the character. This is not Barbara Gordon: Oracle, the strong, confident victim who has made the proverbial lemonade and become a vital part of the resistance in Gotham city. No, this is Barbara Gordon: Batgirl, the gun-shy, unsure, got-something-to-prove girl who is taking on a case that may very well be a bit too much for her. From the very first issue we got the feel that she is not sure of herself. Watching her freeze when the Mirror pointed a gun at her let us know from the very beginning that this was not an origin story, as some of our other new 52 books have been, but rather a book about a hero trying to regain what she once lost.

Up to this point, Batgirl has had her share of action. She's fought serial killers in issue one, and she has a crazed new assassin (the Mirror) after her throughout this arc. Issue #3 begins with an action packed sequence, picking up where the cliffhanger left us at the end of issue #2. However, while this issue starts off with a bang, it's not the action that makes this book so great. As a matter of fact, I'd argue that, in terms of the Mirror story arc, not much really happens in this issue. Instead, Simone spends her efforts developing Barbara for us, letting the reader see deeper into her psyche not only as Batgirl, but as someone who has been given a second chance. She is faced with the decision of what to do with her life now that she has been given her legs back. Gail Simone is showing off why she is one of the most prolific and accomplished female comic writers in the business here, since this is some of the best writing I've read in this relaunch. I feel like I am connecting with her character on a personal level, something that has been totally absent from many of the other books. Don't get me wrong: I have no problem with some face-value butt kicking action in comics, sometimes that's all we want or need. But this is something deeper, something great that I'm looking forward to discovering as a reader.

Of course, Ardian Syaf delivers as usual, with some great panels. While I'm not blown away by it, his art certainly gets the job done. I personally feel that they first two issues were better on his part, but that's in great part due to the fact that there wasn't as much action and the like to draw this time around. Where the load is often shared (somewhat) equally between the art and the writing, it's ok to lean more on one or the other from time to time. While Syaf's drawing may not be anything life changing, it's certainly adequate for a great story. It gets the point across, and it's usually fun to look at.

Gail Simone managed to pull me in to the point that I'm no longer someone wondering if I'll keep this book on my list. I'm hungry to see where she's going with this story and this character, who is being more honest with the reader about her self image and self doubts than any of the other characters that I'm reading about right now. We're not just seeing the pages in action, we're seeing into the mind of a very likable character. For all of the female readers out there who may have felt slighted by Red Hood and the Outlaws or (surprisingly) Catwoman, look no further than this book, it's exactly what the doctor ordered. Go, buy it. You know you want to.

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