The New 52: Batgirl, Batwoman, Catwoman, and Birds of Prey

Let’s take a look at the distaff side of the Batman group of DC’s New 52:

Batgirl

Batgirl has been a member of the Batman family for half a century, perhaps best known from the third season of the 1960’s Batman TV show. She is Commissioner Gordon’s daughter, Barbara. In Alan Moore’s classic 1988 story, The Killing Joke, the Joker shot her, leaving her paralyzed from the waist down. In the intervening years the wheelchair-bound Barbara Gordon became the computer hacker known as Oracle, and was a member of the Birds of Prey team. In the New-52 revamp, Barbara miraculously regains her mobility in a single panel of Issue #1 and, seemingly without rehab, dons the old costume without missing a beat (perhaps we’ll see the full story in a future flashback). Well, almost. Writer Gail Simone does something interesting with the backstory: Batgirl now has a lingering phobia towards guns, especially ones pointed at her. This could give the series some depth not normally seen in superhero comics. Adrian Syaf and Vicente Cifuentes provide adequate art, making this a solid mid-list title.

Batwoman

This is a beautifully drawn story from co-writer and artist J. H. Williams III that picks up where the critically acclaimed Batwoman: Elegy left off. Co-written by Haden Blackman, Batwoman looks to combine action with some supernatural goings-on, with some serious character dynamics thrown in. Openly gay, Kate Kane, AKA Batwoman, will also serve as a relevant real world character. I expect Batwoman will be one of the top books in the New 52.

Catwoman

Writer Judd Winick and artist Guillem March present Selina Kyle, AKA Catwoman, as a super-sexy, super-intelligent cat burglar who gets mixed up with the wrong crowd. When her apartment and everything she owns gets blown up in the first few pages, she infiltrates a Russian mob party to get the skinny on where their loot is so she can replenish her reserves, but things go astray and she barely escapes with her life. The basic premise looks like it could be interesting, à la the disguise-happy Sydney Bristow on Alias. The problem is, though, that the entire first issue is filled with page after page of pin-up poses of Catwoman in various stages of undress, starting with her half-naked escape from the skull-masked goons who trash her home and continuing with her provocative seductress disguise. Showing her best friend as a plain-looking frump intensifies Selina’s hyper-sexuality. But then things get really wonky—the first issue ends with Batman dropping in on Catwoman for no discernible reason other than to give Winick and March an excuse to have her jump his bones—generating a lot of controversy among fans. Maybe people just don’t like the thought of Batman having sexual relations. Maybe it’s the way it was presented without context. Maybe it’s the way it plays on the fetish aspect of the two costumed characters. While not a complete failure, Catwoman will have to work hard to justify continued titillation (or not, if enough 16-year-old boys keep on buying it).

Birds of Prey

Birds of Prey is a covert all-female team operating in Gotham City—a female A-Team with superpowers—featuring Black Canary, Poison Ivy, Rose Tattoo, Katana, and a new character called Starling. The first issue, written by Duane Swierczynski with art by Jesus Saiz, focuses on Black Canary, whose power is super-screaming, and Starling, powers unknown, but definitely a bad-ass. There’s a cameo by Barbara Gordon, AKA Batgirl, who used to be a member of the team as Oracle, the wheelchair-bound computer hacker, as she declines to continue with the team. The first issue features a lot of action and an explosive cliffhanger, so this could turn out to be a decent book, but I think it will probably turn out to read better in the collected trade edition.

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