“Batgirl” #14 by Gail Simone, Ed Benes and Daniel Sampere in with the “Death of the Family” crossover that sees the Joker wage an all out war on the Bat Family in order to unfetter Bruce Wayne from the elements of his life that make him weak. The Joker kidnaps Barbara’s mother and twists the situation in a very strange way at the end of the issue. When a stranger calls and henchman smashes through the door, our heroine springs into action.
Barbara is crushed by the phone call that informs her of her mother’s dangerous situation. She rallies herself to handle the situation, which quickly escalates when some of the Joker’s goons storm through her front door. She easily dispatches them but the manner in which they emotionally crumble seems way too easy. Perhaps the Joker needs to invest in some real muscle that won’t cave and give up after one broken leg. The violent desires of Barbara are close to worrying as Simone demonstrates what the Joker is already doing to her.
Batgirl then leaps into heroic action and some of the issue unravels to a degree. How Batgirl knows where to go is a mystery because the goon doesn’t tell her the location of her mother. The person on the phone luring her in isn’t Joker and yet, he claims he was waiting for her. This would seem in keeping that his Goons arrived for her but then the phone call seems fortuitous as well as superfluous. There is a panel mid-action with the Joker where Batgirl holds up her mobile phone to talk to the person once more and it begs the question, did she have him on the line the whole ride in, or did she call him back. It doesn’t add up and feels placed as an afterthought to plug a hole.
The finale twist certainly comes out of left field and is just crazy enough to be a Joker stunt. This feels like something that would have occurred in the Silver Age and is the best part of the issue. There is every reason to ignore the faults of this issue and still tune in next month to see what happens next.
The art teams get to handle entirely different sections of the book and this is a smart move. Ed Benes handles the Barbara and henchmen scene while Daniel Sampere draws the Batgirl and Joker scene. This helps to avoid comparisons between the art as both sequences already feel so different. Benes draws a very vivid Barbara in a fluid world. Sampere uses the page differently and while his Joker is creepy, it does feel slightly off. A few too many lines on the face and it pales in comparison Greg Capullo’s masterful handling of the character in “Batman.”
“Batgirl” #14 builds up to a great end sequence of pages, but the getting there is filled with a handful of problems. The issue can mostly be summed up as Barbara is attacked and then tracks the Joker down. Considering the scope of “Death of the Family” and how well the Joker was handled by Scott Snyder, this instalment is a little flat and easy. It feels like all lead-up, delaying the real issue until next month.