After relaunching back during DC Rebirth soft reboot Batgirl’s latest ongoing series ends with its 50th issue. To mark the end Cecil Castellucci is going to get to do so in grand style with an oversized issue. Now given that Barbara Gordon played a big role in the ending of “Joker War” it’ll be interesting to see if Batman #50 sets up what her life will be like moving forward. Will we see Barbara decide to continue to be Batgirl or will she move toward becoming Oracle or a mix of both? Let’s find out with Batgirl #50.
Writer: Cecil Castellucci
Artists: Emanuela Lupacchino (Little Wonders); Marguerite Sauvage (Stay Centered); Aneke (Game Night)
Inker: Wade Von Grawbadger (Little Wonders); Mick Gray (Little Wonders); Scott Hanna (Little Wonders);
Colorist: Jordie Bellaire (Little Wonders); Becca Carey (Game Night)
Story Rating: 7 Night Girls out of 10
Art Rating: 8 Night Girls out of 10
Overall Rating: 7.5 Night Girls out of 10
Synopsis: At Gotham City Graveyard Barbara and Jim Gordon bury James Gordon Jr.
Barbara does her best to pick up her dad’s spirits after burying her brother by taking him to a diner Jim took her and James as kids. Jim isn’t up for his spirits being lifted with Gotham City’s current state and blaming Batgirl for James’ death. After hearing her dad rant for a while Barbara finally has enough as she mentions how far she’s gone to protect him and help the city. Barbara decides to leave before things get more heated,
As Barbara walks through the city she reflects on how recent events have caused everyone to reexamine everything about the status quo including heroes. When she comes across a protest Barbara decides to join in.
Later, as riots begin to break out Barbara does her best to offer to help to others around the city as part of Congresswoman Alejo’s office.
Babara comes across Jason Bard trying to offer some help to Ryan Wilder (first appearance in the DCU and will be the new Batwoman in the CWverse). Ryan says she doesn’t need Jason or Babara’s help, especially with how the Congresswoman hasn’t help the homeless situation in Gotham City.
At Barbara’s apartment, Barbara and Jason cook dinner together while talking about the protests going on in he city. Eventually Jason says he accepts full responsibility in framing her dad and wants to show Barbara he has changed. Barbara hesitates to move forward with a romantic relationship because she doesn’t think things can work without him knowing she is Batgirl. Just as they kiss Barbara gets a call and she apologizes for having to go.
At the Batcave Batman gives Batgirl, Nightwing, and Robin (Tim Drake) an update on his situation as he has gone from being a billionaire to millionaire and no control of Wayne Enterprise. Batgirl tells Batman that if he wants to save the city he should uses his remaining fortune and connections to actually help people so they don’t lose everything to big corporations after everything Joker did to the city. Batman is not sure about that. Batgirl reminds Batman that even doing something like donating $20,000 to a homeless shelter will help more than what he is doing right now. Hearing her out Batman donates the money to a homeless shelter.
As Batgirl is about to leave Nightwing tries to talk to her. Batgirl says that things can’t just go back to normal between them after everything that happened and Nightwing will need to earn her friendship back.
Over the next few days Barbara balances time her between working with Congresswoman Alejo, helping out the GCPD, and saving people as Batgirl. After a while of doing this Barbara is able to find a moment to rest and reflect on everything that has gone on in her life and in the city.
Later that night Batgirl goes to Jason’s apartment. Batgirl apologizes to Jason for how thing went with them as she now knows how Jason is trying to honestly be better. Jason admits he is a bad person but is trying to actively be good. Jason thanks Batgirl for talking to him and pulling him back up off the streets.
After Batgirl leaves Barbara shows up at Jason’s front door. Barbara tells Jason that she doesn’t want to do anymore running and wants to move forward with a relationship between them.
The next day while at work Barbara gets into an argument with Congresswoman Alejo over what they should be doing to help the situation moving forward. Alejo believes they should focus on working within the system by going to a fundraiser with Gotham’s elite while Barbara says they should instead change the system.
Just then a protester throws a rock through one of the office windows. Looking outside Barbara tells Alejo that they have to show that she needs to show the people she is a leader working for them.
Hearing her out Alejo goes outside and tells all the protesters that she also wants change to happen iin Gotham City and wants to represent the change everyone wants to see. Alejo, Barbara, and Jason then join the protestors in marching through the city. As they march Alejo mentions that Barbara has a future in Washington if she wants it.
Jim sees his daughter taking part in the protest and pulls Barbara aside to talk. Barbara asks her dad not to go to the fundraiser and join the protest. Listening to his daughter, Jim joins the protest. Jason is surprised that Barbara was able to get her dad to join in the protest.
Later, Barbara continues to help the city working with Congresswoman Alejo’s office and protecting the city as Batgirl. As she does so Barbara believes she is ready for whatever comes next. End of main story.
The Good: Batgirl #50 is not the perfect ride off into the sunset final issue that we normally get. In the wake of “Joker War” there was really no way that it would have been right for this volume of Batgirl to end in such a way. Instead what we get is an ending that positions Barbara Gordon to potentially take multiple different roads as Gotham City is in the midst of its greatest change.
That is where Cecil Castellucci really excels with Batgirl #50. Some of the recent issues of Batgirl have sort of got lost in a rush to get to the end but here we see how all that rushing did help shape Barbara’s current future. There has been so much that Barbara both as a normal person and superhero that she has had to overcome. Taking the time to have Barbara time to assess what she wants to do with her life was the right call.
In doing so Castellucci is able to place a deeper focus on how Barbara may very well be the most grounded person in the Batman Family. She is someone that has been raised in Gotham City and has spent almost her entire life there. Through that and being the daughter of the GCPD Commissioner, Barbara is well aware of how helping the community is as important as being a superhero. Establishing that by having Barbara walk through Gotham City to not only see how people are reacting to the aftermath of “Joker War” but also actively join and help was a great statement.
Spending time actually seeing how the people of Gotham City are responding to all the chaos created by “Joker War” was extremely refreshing. With how that story showed Joker taking complete control of Gotham City one thing that was missing was how people living there reacted. We never got a sense of how terrifying things were for a normal person living in Gotham City. Having Batgirl #50 spotlight this was a good way to get the reader to connect with how seriously bad things are in Gotham City as Joker really did burn the previous status quo down.
Starting the main story of Batgirl #50 in that way made the eventual scene we got between Batgirl and Batman to have greater meaning. Because unlike Bruce Wayne, who we saw only addressing his superhero and financial status in Batman #50, Barbara understands that as the Batman Family they can’t just worry about top level stuff. If things are to change there needs to be help from a ground level. Bruce coming around to this was a great way to show how much conviction Barbara spoke with throughout this scene.
This led well into the final scene with Barbara and her boss, Congresswoman Alejo, getting into an argument of what their office should be doing. As we know with a typical politician, Congresswoman Alejo saying they have to work within the system by continuing to attend fundraisers with the elite was not surprising. It did come across as against what should be happening with all the unrest in Gotham City.
Through all of this Castellucci did a good job setting up multiple directions for Barbara to take moving forward. We see how Barbara understands that being Batgirl is not the only way she can create change. With how things are Barbara will need to use all of her skills and abilities to help Gotham City recover and become better. Which will make things interesting if Barbara does return to being Oracle, continues being just Batgirl, or goes further down the political route similar to her Silver Age counterpart.
It was also refreshing to see Barbara exploring a relationship with Jason Bard. Castellucci shows that there is a lot of potential with Barbara opening herself up to someone other than just her parents or the Batman Family. With Jason, he represents a new start for Barbara as she grows as a person who is looking towards the future. Taking this chance at least shows how Barbara will not be afraid to take chances.
Emanuela Lupacchino delivered on the art side of things for the main story. It all had a good flow that kept the dialogue heavy Batgirl #50 going at a steady pace. All the artwork complimented what characters were saying and how Barbara was feeling at different points in the issue. Lupacchino did a particularly good job getting across how there is a lot of tension in Gotham City post-Joker War. The unrest felt real as the city recovers from being burnt down.
While the main story was solid the two back-up stories, “Stay Centered” and “Game Night,” were the actual standouts of Batgirl #50. The “Stay Centered” story did a good job showing all of the work that Batgirl puts in. Bringing in other DC Universe superheroes to team-up with Batgirl shows how Barbara matches Dick Grayson as one of the more connected heroes in the DCU.
The artwork by Marguerite Sauvage is what really made “Stay Centered” such a standout. The artwork had a fresh look from what we expect from a DC title, especially one in the Batman Family. It fit well with Batgirl’s world as Sauvage got over the various skills the character has.
The “Game Night” back-up was also refreshing as it has been a while since we saw Barbara with the Birds of Prey. Setting things up with a DnD night with the Birds of Prey, that also included Stephanie Brown and Cassandra Cain, was a good change of pace. Both Castellucci’s dialogue and Aneke’s artwork worked well together to tell a story of heroes just hanging out trying to have some fun together. The chemistry between everyone worked well and makes me hope we get a Birds of Prey team with this roster.
The Bad: Where the main story does not completely work is the rushed resolution around the tension between Barbara and Jim Gordon. Castellucci sets up a big story around the aftermath of James Gordon Jr.’s death that does not really get a resolution. Its almost as if Castellucci ran out of time even though Batgirl #50 was an oversized issue. There should’ve been more time spent here.
It would have been especially nice if Castellucci spent more time getting inside what Jim Gordon was thinking over the course of this story. All we got was an angry Jim Gordon that suddenly has an anti-vigilante outlook. Not enough time was spent showing how this is possibly an extension of his experience with Batman Who Laughs and his son’s death to make how quickly he comes around to joining the protest Barbara takes part of come across as meaningful.
Another part of Batgirl #50 that did not work as intended was the tension between Barbara Gordon and Dick Grayson. What made this particular scene fall apart was how Barbara through the fight she had with Dick in his face even though she knew very well that Joker was mind controlling him. The whole way Barbara said this made her look like a terrible person. Which just further shows how there seems to not be as much communication as there should be between all the writers working in the Batman Family titles as characters continue to sound differently between titles. Reading Batman #100 & 101, Batgirl #50, and Nightwing #75 are all strong examples of the disconnect between the writers working on the franchise.
Overall: Batgirl #50 is not an ending that nicely wraps things up. Instead this final issue focuses on showing what Gotham City post-Joker War looks like. In the process Cecil Castellucci explores how Barbara Gordon will be able to do different things to help shape the future of Gotham City in and out of her Batgirl adventures. The back-ups included in this oversized issue help make Batgirl #50 a satisfying conclusion to this volume of the series.
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