Batgirl Vol. 3: Death of the Family by Gail Simone & Ray Fawkes – Graphic Novel Review [Bane of Kings]

Batgirl Vol. 3

Milo, aka “Bane of Kings”, writes a review of the third Volume of DC’s New 52 Batgirl series, written mainly by Gail Simone. If you haven’t read Batman Vol. 3 and Batman Incorporated Vol. 2 (or at least know of the events that happen in the series unless you want to skip #18 ) I wouldn’t recommend reading this book until you have caught up. 

An excellent collection that continues one of the best DC series out there – Batgirl ties in very well with the Death of the Family arc as well as strongly progressing with the James Gordon Jr. arc – making this a must read for any Batgirl fan.” ~Bane of Kings, The Founding Fields

Story: Gail Simone, Ray Fawkes, Scott Snyder | Art: Ed Benes, Daniel Sampere, Greg Capullo, Julius Gopez, Jonathan Glapion, Mark Irwin, Vicente Cifuentes, Admira Wijaydi | Cover:  Ed Benes | Collects: Batgirl #14-19, Batman #17, Batgirl Annual #1, material from Young Romance #1

Batgirl stars in these epics from #14-19 of her monthly series, plus BATMAN #17, BATGIRL ANNUAL #1 and a story from YOUNG ROMANCE #1, all spinning out of “Death of the Family.” The Joker is back, and Barbara Gordon must confront her past as she deals with the crazed criminal responsible for crippling her. Plus, once the dust settles, Barbara must deal with her family demons as her psychotic brother James Jr. comes after her.

Gail Simone is one of my favourite writers at DC Comics at the moment and having recently jumped on the Batgirl series with the beginning of the Wanted story-arc I thought that I’d revisit the series’ previous Volume when it showed up on NetGalley for me to review (and any issues that weren’t collected in the NetGalley Volume I went back and brought  myself), as there were still some bits that I wasn’t to sure on. I won’t spoil anything here for readers not up to date with the Batgirl series but it certainly answered several questions, providing a much needed catch up and some much needed enjoyment from one of the best Gotham-related titles around outside of Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo’s Batman. I’m glad to say that it doesn’t drop in quality here, providing a very entertaining and grimdark storyline for Barbara Gordon, which sees her character go through hell after each issue.

Batgirl Vol. 3Those expecting the main section of this graphic novel to be focused on the Death of the Family arc will probably be disappointed. It gets pushed to the side here with the bulk of the narrative focusing on Barbara’s battles with James Jr. This thread carries through several issues that sees the confrontation unfold with some tragic results that really set the stage for the next Batgirl storyarc. It’s also tied in together well with the Death of the Family arc – you’re not reading the Death of the Family arc and then the James Gordon Jr. arc for example, as both storylines are linked throughout the graphic novel.

Also, I’d like to raise  a problem that I had with this Volume. It’s the only Gotham-related storyline that’s still feeling the effects of the Night of Owls crossover event three collections in, and it doesn’t really have any solid connection to the two main story-arcs presented in this Volume, serving as setting up the next Birds of Prey arc (which I haven’t had the chance to read) and it allowed Catwoman to have the spotlight in a title outside her own series which is refreshing as I’ve been turned off by Ann Nocenti’s rather weak prose. However – whilst the artwork by Admira Wijayadi is the best thing about this Annual, it serves as an odd start to the book and doesn’t really work.

But the rest of the main narrative is a success. The three part tie-in to the Death of the Family narration really works well with the combined strength of Gail Simone and Ed Benes. Whilst this graphic novel suffers from consistent changing of artists (other Bat-family books also suffer from this problem, such as Nightwing and Talon for example) this story remains one of the two main highlights of the book. The other highlight is the James Gordon Jr. storyline,  that really impresses. Having read The Black Mirror before reading Death of the Family it really helped keep me up to date about James Jr. – a character whose origins as a villain were fleshed out by Snyder and I felt that Simone nailed the portrayal of the character really well, and the overall narrative was pulled off pretty strongly to boot.

Most of the action here focuses on Barbara Gordon dealing with her past. We see her battling her brother and the Joker, the villain who crippled her. This is a lot for Barbara to deal with as one would expect and to make matters worse, both characters are done really well here. Simone’s Joker is eerily similar to Snyder’s, very creepy and very terrifying. She gets the character spot on here with some stunning scenes – and equally she manages to make the reader want to root for Batgirl, providing a complex and nuanced character with great depth and skill. She’s certainly not a two-dimensional character – and Simone continues to write Barbara’s character very well throughout the entire narrative.

If you’re looking for one of the best tie-in to Death of the Family then look no further. Not only are you getting a strong Barbara-focused storyline but each  tie-in fits very well to pull off an amazing read. The switch to Ray Fawkes is another thing that prevented this collection from being truly great – most readers will be aware of the controversy that resulted in Simone being booted from Batgirl before being reinstated after a fan backlash, and whilst yes this does mean that the writing does not remain the same quality throughout the book, it’s still a thrilling read that’s pulled off mostly exceptionally well. Certainly a must for any Bat-fan, but it might be wise to check out Death of the Family Volume 3 and Batman Incorporated Vol. 2 first to get the full story on what’s going on.

VERDICT: 4/5

Milo, aka Bane of Kings, is a SFF/Comic reader, and watches a lot of TV. His favourite authors are Neil Gaiman, China Mieville, Jim Butcher, Brandon Sanderson & Iain M. Banks, whilst his favourite TV shows are Battlestar Galactica (2003), Person Of Interest, Firefly, Game of Thrones, & Buffy the Vampire Slayer

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