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COMIC FLASHBACK #14:Batgirl (The New 52) Volume 4-Wanted

Gail Simone is clearly someone who is not afraid to go dark with her work. Her story telling on Batgirl is relatable, charming, features brilliantly structured story telling, as well as magnificent portrayals of iconic DC/Batman related characters that are real and honest, but damn is it as dark and violent as it comes.

It’s brilliant, though.

Wanted, as always, keeps the darkness coming, and Simone puts up against our heroine antagonists that are well-developed, bring a lot to the story,  are deliciously complex and above all else truly horrible. When you have a trade paperback that opens with a child poisoning everyone at a birthday party that she is attending, then you know that darkness is the order of the day.

You can never go wrong with horror tales that features ventriloquism or evil dolls, from Stephen King’s X-Files episode Chinga, to Richard Attenborough’s chiller Magic, which the opening chapters of Wanted reminded me a lot of, and Simone handles the psychological horror of it all brilliantly, not only reminding one of the Anthony Hopkins starring movie from 1978, but also uses the story to satirize elements of reality television shows featuring Simon Cowell.

There is a palpable sense of horror running through the first three issues of this collection, that for all the action and adventure elements, as well as the wonderful character drama, that it sometimes is easy to forget that Simone’s writing really brings to the forefront the horror genre throughout, and her work is not afraid to go for the scares, a lot of which are brilliantly written by Simone and represented visually by her artists.

Overall, the issues collected in Wanted are a mixture of smaller story arcs as opposed to one giant arc, but each of these issues are wonderfully crafted and brilliantly told and at the heart of it is the three-part story of Wanted itself, which brings many threads that have been running throughout Simone’s run to a shattering crossroads that is absolutely euphoric to read and take in. It is of course increasingly dark and intense, a descent into darkness and terror that you sometimes never really want to end.

Gail Simone's run on Batgirl was truly unafraid to touch on stories that bordered on the horror genre.

Gail Simone’s run on Batgirl was truly unafraid to touch on stories that bordered on the horror genre.

There are so many plates for Simone as a writer to juggle that if the story were to fall apart it would at least be understandable, but she manages to successfully keep everything going. Almost as if seeing two cars about to crash into each other and know that there is nothing you can do to stop it, there is a sense of inevitability to the twist and turns that befall Babs, Ricky and Jim Gordon through the story. It can only ever go one way and yet, despite how horrible it is to see these thing happen to people you really come to care about, even if they are characters on a page, you cannot help but keep reading as well to see what happens next.

The final four panels of Wanted:Part One have a devastating power that leaves one’s jaw on the floor. Fernando Pasarin’s artwork, the simplicity of Simone’s dialogue, and the final image itself, with no dialogue bubble whatsoever, begs the question; what next?

Amazingly, Wanted never lets up for one second, building scenarios and set pieces that are quite frankly amazing. At the heart of it all is, of course, Babs. This conflicted, emotional portrayal of Barbara Gordon is without doubt one of the best things about The New 52. I know many had criticisms of what The New 52 did with certain characters (I for one was not a big fan of its portrayal of Superman, but that’s a story for another day), but Batgirl (and Batwoman, too) were given some A-class treatment here, given to writers who clearly had love and respect and knew what to do with them and make them engrossing and wonderful characters to be with.

Babs’ anger and frustrations at the circumstances that befall her here have a palpable edge and bleed from the page, from Simone’s writing to the artwork on each panel.

Wanted is blisteringly good. It’s never too long and it runs at just the right length and the prolonged set piece of its final issue, as Commisioner Gordon is attacked by Knightfall’s associates and must rely on Babs to rescue him, is a grandiose set piece finish and brings many themes and ideas to a shattering head. It could fall apart, the final part of the story does rely on a plethora of villains, many of whom have been popping up all over Simone’s run, but the story is cleanly told, is never cluttered and Simone is in control of everything here.

For all the action, gorgeous artwork, and suspense of ferocious intensity, it is the final moments between Barbara and her father that are the most important and brilliant. I won’t spoil it, but its powerful stuff, amazingly written and the emotion within practically bleeds of the page.

Not to take anything away from everything else going on around it, in fact Babs’ battle with Shauna Belzer is a great slice of dark fun, but Wanted is an epic in comparison and feels as if it’s truly something that Simone has been building up to, which is really fantastic.

I feel like I should be getting tired of mixing superlatives when talking about this run, but I can’t help it, it is a comic book of excellence.

 

 

Possibly the geekiest man in all of Ireland, I have consumed too many television shows, movies, books and comics to know the difference any more between being geeky and not geeky. Very proud of my geekdom, it brought me together with my one true love, and if that’s not a great reason to be geeky, I don’t know what is. Could also beat anybody in an X Files trivia contest. True scientific fact.
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