I find myself in a funny position regarding this book. I've never been a Tony Daniel hater - I've actually liked most of his stuff - and I was pleased when the initial feedback regarding his first issue in the New 52 was generally positive. Then I read it for myself, and I'm not so sure I like it so much. It seems excessively gruesome, with the Joker literally losing face in the end. I mean, really – having the skin flayed from his face by a new villain called “The Dollmaker.” He likes it. He says it felt "fangasmic." Before that, though we got to see a Joker whose characterization seemed a bit too “hoo hoo hee hee” for me – I found myself thinking of Cesar Romero, of all things, and that ain't a good thing. Granted, this Joker is a bloody fiend – but the giggling fool aspect can go too far, verging on silliness. It just seemed off. But most of all, I'm not so sure about the characterization of Batman himself, who seems quite different from the one I've seen so far in Flashpoint #5 and Justice League International #1 – the two places I've indisputably seen the “current” DCnU Batman. That one seems somehow less the brooding Dark Knight than we've seen in recent years – although there was movement away from that already pre-Flashpoint. This one, however, not so much – in fact, maybe he's closer in spirit to the one appearing in the new Justice League #1, set five years in the past. Which makes me wonder if a brief rumor – based on a statement by Tony Daniel that he later retracted – that Detective would be, like Action Comics, set sometime in the “past” for its first story arc, may indeed be the case. It's hard to tell. Yes, Jim Gordon appears younger, but so does he in Batgirl, which is presumably set in the “present.” Batman's interior monologue intimates that he and the Joker have been foes for six years already, however. I would actually be fine with an extended time-line for Batman, beyond the five years that the New DC superheroes have been “public,” since the first adventures of the Justice League. A decade or so would seem to be necessary, in fact, to accommodate the careers of Dick Grayson, Jason Todd, and Tim Drake as Robins before the current Robin, Damian Wayne. (And that's ignoring Stephanie Brown's brief tenure, if that – or she – even still exists.) There's been some talk that Batman did exist as an “urban legend” before five years ago. On the other hand, what happens to the Joker at the end would seem an odd direction to take the character for a story set in the past. Without a doubt, I am curious where this is going, and that is a good thing. I will be back.
I'm not going to belabor the fact that, as cruel as it would sound were we talking about a real person, I wish DC had left Barbara Gordon a wheelchair-bound paraplegic. She was such a good character on so many levels as Oracle. But they have instead de-aged her to her early twenties at most, three years after being critically injured and paralyzed by the Joker brought her first career as Batgirl to a sudden end. Batgirl is back now, following a still-unexplained recovery. The word “miraculous” is indeed used. I'm sure we'll learn more. But, pardon the pun, she's still not very steady on her feet. Throughout this issue we get to “hear” via her internal monologue how unsure she is – overeager to get back into the superhero “game,” but out of practice and even fundamentally unprepared. Especially when the villain aims a gun at her just like the Joker did – causing her to freeze up and allow him to murder his victim right in front of her. And that's the cliffhanger ending. In between her first and second outings as Batgirl, we get to see Barbara moving out of her father's home, striking out on her own, taking an apartment with what looks to be the beginning of a new cast of supporting characters. It's all written by Gail Simone, which means it's really good. And it's the Batgirl we have now. I can live with it – but I miss Stephanie.
Thanks for reading -- and Cheers!