Spring Break Reviewstravaganza Part 1: Batgirl Special (1988)

Written by Barbara Randall|Pencilled by Barry Kitson|Inked by Bruce D. Patterson|Lettered by John Costanza|Colored by Carl Gafford|Edited by Dennis O’Neill

If I have my facts right, it was the Right Honorable Christopher Jehoshaphat Sims, of the King’s Royal College of Batmanology who said that Mike Baron’s Punisher run is a collection of the best Eighties action movies never to see the inside of a VHS player. In keeping with that comparison, this special is DC’s great undiscovered Lifetime Original Movie.

We start off with a beautiful Mike Mignola cover of Batgirl jumping through a window, glass flying. It’s some good shit. The box where a barcode would go instead has the warning that DC COMICS AREN’T JUST FOR KIDS! Oh, how that would prove to be so, and definitely not in the way they intended.

We start out with… well, we start out with a Jolly Rancher ad with art by Don Martin himself. Now I want some 24-year-old Jolly Ranchers. Anyway, the story starts out with Batgirl flashing back to a nebulous “four years ago”, where Cormorant(I’m still not sure whether that’s supposed to be his given name or his codename, but it sounds dumb either way), just so you know he’s cartoonishly EEEEEVIL, is holding a gun to a little girl’s head, and telling Batgirl to come out with her hands up. He is also a dead ringer for Sergeant Slaughter, of WWE fame. She steps out, without her hands up, and surprise, surprise, the puppy-kicking maniac shoots her(this is supposedly because she was the real target, but I doubt that). She goes over the edge, but catches a flagpole, so Cormorant(who I’m just going to call Sergeant Slaughter from now on) thinks he’s killed her. She’s left crying, hanging to a flagpole one-handed, about how he’d “killed part of [her], reduced [her] world to a haze of pain and self-protection”. She goes on to be paralyzed with fear at the very thought of him.

If that reminds anyone of the latest Batgirl series, it came to mind for me, too.

We then return to what I think is supposed to be the “present day”, where a man is face-down dead in what is supposedly her library. Hey Babs, it’s called the public library for a reason. It’s not your library. It’s everyone’s library. Anyway, she narrates about how Sergeant Slaughter has been “killing [her] in [her] dreams ever since”. Every time she’s scared, she thinks of him. Every time she dreams of him, she wakes up shaking. And she knows it’s Sergeant Slaughter, because he left his hat. And, swear to god, she says she hopes his head gets cold without it. So she has someone call the police while she steals evidence. The police get there, determine the cause of death to be the knife sticking out of his back, and say that it looks to be a “hit and run”. Yes, that’s a grievous misuse of the term, but whatever, it’s only a murder.

Later, Babs uses the library computers to hack into the police database and find out that the murdered man was the son of “General Scarr”,the person who hired Sergeant Slaughter to kill her. Also, the guy was a repeat offender who kept not getting convicted, and all his crimes were against women. So she assumes Sergeant Slaughter was sent to kill him when General Scarr(Who I’ll be calling Doctor Evil, because it doesn’t sound as obviously, lunkheadedly villainous) decided his son was a liability.

So she suits up, in a weapons check where “[her] personality is also checked, reined in — [she’s] all business on a case.”

Oh, so she’s all business on a case? I WOULD HAVE NEVER FUCKING GUESSED. I THOUGHT SHE JUST WENT OUT AND PRANCED AROUND IN A CAPE ALL NIGHT, AND CRIME FIGHTING WAS NOTHING NEAR A PRIORITY. THIS WAS CERTAINLY SOMETHING YOU NEEDED TO FUCKING TELL US. NOT LIKE SHE’S A PROVEN SUPERHERO OR SOMETHING. Christ almighty.

So after said weapons check, she… wait, she takes a nap? She takes a nap. She takes a nap because she’s “so tired and scared [she’s] got to sleep, or [she’ll] tremble [herself] to death”.

BARBARA GORDON: FEMINIST ICON, EVERYBODY!

So she lays in bed, thinking about how big and scary Sergeant Slaughter is and what if he hurts her again?

Meanwhile, the killer has stricken again, leaving the note “I don’t care for killing, but it must be done. This man and others like him have committed foul crimes against women and gone free. If no one else will come forward to stop the abuse, the fear, then I must. I am justice.” The news media nicknames her(yep, it’s a her) “Slash”.

Slash.

Pictured above: the true face of evil.

So back to Barbara. Her old friend Marcy comes over, causing Babs to remark that it seems “kind of early”. At 9:50 AM. I woke up at 4 PM today, and that seems ridiculous.  Also, apparently Marcy knows Barbara is Batgirl, and is steaming mad about it. Why does she know Barbara is Batgirl? I thought the same thing. So apparently Batgirl was a game they played when they were younger, and they had a little Batgirl doll. Babs brings out said doll, and instantly Marcy understands. They proceed to catch up on old times. Then a man is murdered in the street by Slash, and nobody notices until she gets away. And, guess what, Slash has a superhero outfit of her own.

So back to Babs and Marcy. Babs is doing some research through the library computer, and Marcy asks why Babs doesn’t just call the cops on Sergeant Slaughter. Then, this panel:

edited by Denny O'Neill, everyone!

Yep.

Yeah, I don’t know how that went through the door either. As far as I can tell, someone in the line mismatched the balloon placement. AND NOBODY NOTICED THIS.

So she goes to Sergeant Slaughter’s house, and spies on him as he watches the news. He gets a call from Doctor Evil telling him to kill Slash. Also, guess what’s implied? If you said domestic abuse, you won the grand prize! Yes, Sergeant Slaughter beats his wife, and let’s see if that factors into his fight with Slash. Meanwhile, Batgirl is in the trees outside, and again, she’s scared shitless at the thought of him. Also, she’s not going to confront him, because she hasn’t seen him commit a crime. Yet she’ll spy on him from outside his house.

BATGIRL: CHAMPION OF THE RULE OF LAW!

Marcy drives up(despite having no way of knowing where Sergeant Slaughter lives) and shames Barbara for superheroing. She drives her home, like she’s Barbara’s mom or something, and we get a 3 panel digression where Barbara investigates a scream, just to find that Nightwing and Robin have the situation under control. So Marcy tells her that she should be going after Slash instead.

So Slash is going back to what I assume is her hideout, only to be confronted by someone she knows, who hands her a file on Sergeant Slaughter and tells her to kill him. Then Batgirl fails to save a life, Slash makes some good points, there’s some obvious symbolism involving a cat, and she passes out on a rooftop and dreams again of Sergeant Slaughter, but now Slash is with him! Oh NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!

After that: BATGIRL COPS OUT! she staggers into her living room, tells Marcy she quits, Marcy patches her up(and since Luke asked, yes, you do see some boob in this one) and tells her again that it’s better if she uses her computer skills to get Sergeant Slaughter, which Babs reluctantly acquiesces to… OR DOES SHE? No, she does not, as she immediately goes out to get Slash, but she quickly realizes there are enough heroes that she really doesn’t need to get Slash, which leaves only Sergeant Slaughter. She goes to do so, but he immediately gets the drop on her.

BATGIRL: SO COMPETENT, YOU GUYS!

Just when Slaughter is about to kill her, Slash comes on the scene! Slaughter tries to go inside, but his wife locked him out! Slaughter gets away while Batgirl and Slash fight amongst themselves, and he gets his guns! Batgirl drops a smokebomb, and considers letting Slash and Slaughter fight it out, but decides that’s “not what being a hero is”. So she hides in the trees and lets them fight it out, until she sees one of Slash’s knives left on the porch and goes to get it. Slaughter corners her, and when she sees Slash creepin’ up behind him, she knifes Slash to save Slaughter’s life. Then, Slaughter throws his guns away, and, impossibly, gets straight-out beat down by Batgirl.

No acrobatics, no clever tactics, just one somewhat slender Batgirl straight-out ass-beating a mercenary with the build of a pro wrestler. Then, just when the tide’s about to turn, Slaughter’s wife hands Slash one of Slaughter’s guns and tells her to kill him. She does. Then she retires. Then, right opposite that page where she retires, there’s a full-page ad for The Killing Joke.

Classy, DC. Classy.

In short, this one was rough. Cheesy as hell.

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