Over the years, I’ve always been skeptical of the idea of DC making stand-alone movies for characters like Nightwing and Batgirl. That speculation, though, came from an era in DC’s film history that delivered, in my opinion, some of the worst superhero movies we’ve ever see. However, with recent movies like Birds of Prey, Shazaam!, and the upcoming Suicide Squad, it looks like things may be finally heading in the right direction.
Someone that is helping with this turnaround is writer Christina Hodson. The woman who wrote the best Transformers movie in Bumblebee is also responsible for Birds of Prey and the highly anticipated Flash movie. So what’s next for Ms. Hodson? You guessed it: Batgirl.
With the announcement of Hodson writing the movie and the talented Leslie Grace (In The Heights) putting on the cape and cowl, my confidence in the film started to rise. However, starting from zero, I still found myself unsure of how a stand-alone story for the character would work. So, instead of remaining skeptical until we see a trailer a year from now, I decided to read one of Batgirl’s stand-alone adventures. Doing so lead me to Batgirl Vol. 1: The Batgirl of Burnside. An incredible story that proves once and for all that Barbra Gordon can be more than a character lost in Batman’s shadow.
The story begins with Barbra Gordon, now in her late-teens/early-twenties, beginning her new life away from Gotham. She finds herself in the “cool” neighborhood across the bridge (no, not Metropolis) called Burnside. After moving in with Frankie, a young woman she met while at physical therapy, Barbra begins the nearly impossible task of balancing a social life with not only being Batgirl but also going to college. Having written a possibly world-changing algorithm, Barbra has a thesis to prepare… there’s just one problem. With a new town comes new villains. In particular, a low-level cybercriminal named Riot Black manages to steal Bab’s computer. On it, her life’s work: the algorithm. With the help of some new friends, Batgirl tracks down the whereabouts of Riot Black, but before that, a costume change.
Arriving at Barbra’s doorstep is none other than former teammate and best friend Dinah Drake, AKA The Black Canary. It seems there was an accident with Batgirl’s suit that was stashed away at Dinah’s place resulting in a fire, and she now needs a place to stay. With the added stress of school and now realizing that she’s burned her best friend’s home down, Barbra’s frustration level is at an all-time high. With a newly crafted suit, though, she’ll be able to direct all of that stress towards Riot Black. But, little does she know, her fight with Riot Black is only the beginning of her problems in Burnside.
Something I really enjoyed in this comic overall was how clever it approached all of the fights. Whether it’s with Riot Black or the Mouth-Death Twins later on in the story, Batgirl never simply punches her way out of a problem. There’s always a nice mixture of intelligence added to the solution. I think something that can often be forgotten about with all of the caped crusaders is that they’re some of the most intelligent people in the world. For Barbra Gordon, in particular, she’s the daughter of Commissioner Gordon. Her inability to deduce her way out of a challenging situation would feel like a misunderstanding of the character. Thankfully, any concern one might have of the writers not understanding Batgirl never crossed my mind. All of my hats are absolutely off to writers Brenden Fletcher and Cameron Stewart. And while we’re in the neighborhood of paying compliments to the creators of this book, Babs Tarr’s art is sensational. The Batgirl of Burnside is about a young woman hoping to escape a brooding city and a life she once existed in for something more alive and upbeat. Tarr’s work really does a great of discovering what a happier world would look like for Barbra while still feeling like it’s just across the river from Gotham City.
Overall, I love everything about this story, so much in fact, that my excitement for the Batgirl movie is actually pretty high. While there’s no guarantee that writer Christina Hodson will follow this template for her story, it’s good to know that a story like this is capable. Having the restraint and, quite frankly, the ability to tell a Batgirl story while seemingly never taking the easy way out is surprising and incredibly refreshing. Nightwing is easily one of my favorite comic characters of all time. Still, I was relieved that he never makes an appearance. I know people are already speculating about who might show up in the Batgirl movie, but for me, I hope that Hodson manages to tell her story in the same manner. The name on the poster says Batgirl, and that’s who should be the star of the show.