Last month, writer Marguerite Bennett got another shot at writing a Batgirl story, having previously worked on the Zero Year tie-in Batgirl #25, which really wasn’t all that good, like most other Zero Year tie-ins unfortunately. Her issue last month followed a similar pattern of writing some really bland stories, although her Lois Lane one-shot earlier this year was a bit better. Thing is, her issue really made me miss series writer Gail Simone on the title and thankfully Gail returns this week and the series is back to being awesome. Gail has shepherded Barbara in her solo series throughout the New 52, and it is pretty great to see her deliver once again.
Batgirl #31 puts Barbara up against one of the coolest and creepiest characters in all of DC comics: Ragdoll. First time I read about Ragdoll, he was in Gail’s Secret Six series from a few years back, which was a supervillain team book of sorts featuring characters such as Ragdoll, Deadshot, Bane, Catman and others. I read the first volume last year and it was kind of fun. And the character has been missing in the New 52 as far as I know, showing up only in one of Peter J. Tomasi’s Arkham War issues for Forever Evil. In this issue, Gail gives him a great outing and artist Fernando Pasarin also excels in making Ragdoll really badass and also really, really creepy.
As I usually do for this book, let’s start with the cover first. This one is by Alex Garner once again, who has already turned out some pretty incredible covers for this series over the last several months. The masked Ragdoll looks really crazy and uncaring, and Batgirl looks like she is really not having a good time at all. The cover is pretty much about how the tables are turned on Batgirl midway through the issue, and I like that, since previous covers for the series have shown off Batgirl in a very positive, and often badass, light.
The story itself is thus: Barbara’s activist roommate Alysia, along with some friends, is hired to break into the Gotham offices of a multinational and plant a really nasty stinkbomb that will make the building uninhabitable for a week. Despite their better judgement, the activists agree but things go south once they are confronted by Ragdoll, who has been hired by the company itself to stop them at all costs. And eventually Batgirl gets involved and what we end up with are some really cool action scenes between the two of them.
Gail’s characterisation of Ragdoll is pretty awesome and is largely consistent with how he was shown in Sinister Six. He has a somewhat weird way of talking and that is communicated well in this issue, which is good. It marks him out as a bit different from most other villains and certainly is novel in that in the New 52 Batgirl hasn’t faced anyone like him yet. She’s gone up against lots of crazies before, yeah, but no one like Ragdoll, that’s for sure.
There’s also a subplot here involving some mysterious person who is shadowing Barbara in her civilian identity. The why and how are a mystery for now, and provides a nice enough hook for future issues, especially considering that the story with Ragdoll isn’t over yet, if the finale scene here is anything to go by. Plus, we get to see how Barbara’s friend Ricky is dealing with being shot by Barbara’s father, and what direction all that is going to go. One thing is for sure, Commissioner Gordon is in for a hell of a time, especially considering what is going on in Batman: Eternal with him.
Fernando Pasarin is once again the penciller here with the rest of the team that includes inker Jonathan Glapion, colourist Blond and letterer Dezi Sienty. In keeping with their previous work on these series, this team delivers an amazing issue once again and the best part definitely has to be how Ragdoll is visually portrayed. He is a super-contortionist, able to twist his body into shapes you’d never imagine and seeing his scenes here gives you a really creepy vibe all the way through. I actually did shudder in several scenes because of how he walks and attacks people.
So much to love in this issue and it is pretty much as awesome as Gail’s previous creepy story two-parter that involved the Ventriloquist, issues 20 and 21 if I recall correctly.