Sunday, April 21, 2024

Batgirl fights for the soul of Burnside

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Well that was…I don’t really know another word that comes to mind other than slightly anticlimactic.

Considering how big the buildup was attempting to be established how Ethan was going to be different, perhaps an anti-hero or a new kind of villain all together, I was sadly pretty disappointed. Instead of an original take on a villain or even a hero who had so much potential to be a turnaround for the series we were sadly just given a very cliché bad guy who thinks he’s doing the right thing with both some jealousy problems and daddy issues. His only saving grace was that his ultimate masterplan was actually pretty creative, if not motivated by a systematic approach we’ve seen all too much before. I’d like to say that I enjoyed this arc, despite its many flaws but the honest truth is that it started so well, but simply lost its luster as each issue went by. I’m hoping now that it’s finally over, we’ll get something better.

The last time we saw Batgirl, she finally came face-to-face with Oswald Cobblepot in order to stop whatever Ethan and his company were up to. Apparently he had used his data mining information in order to gather information on certain people attending the Iceburg Lounge. He released troublesome data to a select few people’s cellphones in order to get them riled and incited a riot, all to disrupt his father’s organization. All the while the Penguin see’s it no more than a cry for attention. After getting tired of being blown off by Babs, Ethan sends an intern to break up with her for him, yet still gets unnecessarily jealous when he sees her with Dick Grayson to the point that he tries to get her killed. Mind you he’s using the internet to do this. By the end of the issue, Ethan confronts his father face to face as under his new pseudonym, Blacksun and promises a reckoning against Burnside and Batgirl.

Blacksun Victorious 

This finale starts up exactly where the previous issue ended, with Ethan revealing his alternate persona to his father. Only now Batgirl decides to crash the party as Ethan shows off what his data mining goals truly were and how powerful they can be. Turns out the countless number of apps he’s released have consumed the minds of his buyers so much that can literally evoke any one single emotional response at any given time.

At this time he decides to throw a party for his father and Babs…a party consisting of an angry mob. Seems that he’s no longer interested in trying to impress dear old dad and opts to just kill him instead. Against Batgirl’s better judgement, she saves him, while Oswald decides that he’s sick of this game and refuses to give any help to Batgirl.

Say what now?

Not soon after she picks up the chase on Ethan as he drives away on a motorcycle, giving a typical, this is my super villain masterplan and now there’s no way you can stop it! Turns out he wants to use his power of information to expel all heroes and villains from Burnside to make it peaceful again. No, this is what I mean when I said that whole cliché villain mentality. We’ve seen this all before—the villain sees humanity as being humanities worst enemy and wants to save them from themselves, whether by destruction or enslavement, it’s all the same. Yet the threat he poses is still pretty bad when he has the entire city keeping Batgirl off of him.

Prodigal Son

After he gets away, Babs has to scramble in order to find a way to locate and stop him. But how can you stop the power of the internet when it’s everywhere, literally? Like all villains who think overly too much about themselves, it’s quite easy to use this against them. One of Ethan’s biggest issues is his jealousy; it overwhelms anything else going on his mind that it almost drove him to murder. A constantly-used theme with Barbara in this series is her special memory, which she taps into every now and then for useless information that actually helps her more often than not. With this, she remembers that there’s a spot in the Pine Park in Burnside that has zero internet service, two birds one stone.

Jealous much?

Obviously the park was where Babs needed to get him, but getting him there that’s where the jealousy trap came in. With deduction she figured that it was Dick that Ethan saw Barbara with and decided to borrow a certain boy wonders normal outfit and motorcycle for a test run. As thought, Ethan takes the bait and chases after the would-be Dick in a jealous rage for taking Barbara away from him, while she leads him on a merry chase to the park. When he gets there, a fight ensues with one of Batgirls experimental weapons that fry’s his suit…and him. By the end of the comic, Barbara is back to social life and Ethan is in the hospital suffering from third degree burns on ninety percent of his body. Pretty dark considering where this Batgirl run has led us. At least they give us an epilogue suggesting that we may see a return of Ethan after Penguin finally decides that this is his son.

The Art

One of the saving aspects of this run was the art. With so many people working on the different aspect of this books visual representation work harmoniously together. At points it looks anime-esque, but with a lot better shading and a much better look at expression and technological elements. This is especially important considering this arc was themed heavily on the use and misuse of technology. The many chase scenes in this book were exciting, a hard feat considering there’s not really much you can do with basic chase scene. The preludes and follow up to each one keep you engaged and give the promise of something more to come.

Rude and crispy

Final Thoughts

I’m glad to see this arc end, not because it’s all bad, but because this series needs to make a serious change of direction in plot and tone. The biggest frustration is the wasted potential. Throughout not only this arc, but the entire run as a whole, there were so many moments where I thought to myself “hey I wonder where else they could have gone with this decision”. But not all of this can be blamed on Hope Larson; ever since Batgirl went to Burnside, the character has fallen to some rough patches.

My only hope is that Larson can learn from mistakes made by the previous series, and her own, to bring Batgirl to new heights. I’m not looking forward to the next in the hopes that we will finally see some change.

Final Score: 6.5/10

DC Universe Rebirth Batgirl #11: Son of the Penguin, Finale
Script: Hope Larson
Pencils and Cover: Chris Wildgoose
Inks: Jon Lam
Colors: Mat Lopes
Letters: Deron Bennett
Images Courtesy Of DC Comics

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