REVIEW: BATGIRL VOL. 4 – WANTED / AUTHOR: GAIL SIMONE / ARTIST: DANIEL SAMPERE, DERLIS SANTACRUZ, FERNANDO PASARIN / PUBLISHER: DC / RELEASE DATE: MAY 21ST
Gail Simone’s Batgirl has been one the few bright lights in DC's New 52 range. With refreshingly diverse and engaging characters and an uplifting yet pragmatic world view, the book has swung and punched its way through three excellent volumes so far. Unfortunately, Wanted does not carry on this fine tradition.
The book begins with Barbara Gordon, the titular Batgirl, recovering from the death of her psychotic younger brother; a death that she was in part responsible for. To make matters worse Commissioner Gordon is on the hunt for Batgirl. Not realising that he’s persecuting his own daughter, the grieving father is pulling out all the stops, making Barbara’s own angst all the more dramatic.
Thrown into this mix is a new take on a traditional Batman villain, namely The Ventriloquist. This version is a psychotic young lady with a variety of slightly confusing powers and a hideous little puppet which seems intent on hunting down and mutilating its victims. Simone blends the creepiness of dolls with a painfully thin and damaged serial killer to great effect. The problem is that the level of violence and gore is all too visceral and feels more suited to a blood-soaked horror movie than the character-driven action adventure crime dramas we’ve come to expect, making the whole thing jarring and inconsistent. Combined with the main protagonist’s growing feelings of isolation, this means that the book goes to a dark place and stays there.
The tale is also served poorly with messy art of variable quality. Much like the narrative, the entire thing is too dark and it becomes difficult to actually care about any of the characters as we can’t see the full range of their emotions. The character design of the new ventriloquist is very good with the smart suited puppet-contrasting strongly against the sickly and tattered puppeteer; it’s a pity that both monsters are drawn so poorly.
The book continues to shine in some respects; the Gordon family are interesting people and their struggle to come to terms with personal tragedy is very well handled, it’s just that against this we have a background noise of jumbled plotlines and clumsy metaphors. It feels like either there is one storyline too many in this book, or that the story needs to be longer and more complex. Wanted seems to suffer from creative compromise, and this is profoundly disappointing.