I have enjoyed the first few volumes of Batgirl in the New 52. It hasn’t been my favorite title, but I’m a fan of Gail Simone’s work so I’m usually willing to give her work a try. So far in the New 52, Simone has taken Barbara Gordon to some dark places, and doing so has worked well. However, I did not like the beginning of this particular collection, primarily because I found the main villain — the Ventriloquist — to be just too creepy and disgusting for my tastes. But after the story about the Ventriloquist, the comic book gets much better. It’s still dark, but in a more interesting way. Overall, Batgirl: Wanted is okay in the first half and excellent in the second half.
The story of the Ventriloquist is the story of a little girl who discovers she has the power to control other people’s actions and voices; when she grows up, she mainly uses an evil-looking male dummy named Ferdie to do her killing. She can bring Ferdie to life and give him enough power to take on Batgirl. He even has drills that pop out of the palms of his hands. He generally drills them into people’s eyes or shoulders. There’s a lot of blood and gore. It doesn’t do much for me. It seems to be mere shock for no real purpose.
The second half of the book is much better; it’s about Barbara temporarily giving up her role as Batgirl because of events that happened in previous volumes. If you haven’t read those stories and are worried about spoilers, stop reading now.
Previously, Batgirl killed her own brother, but she is filled with remorse because she didn’t intend to kill him. Her brother is a serial killer who, at the moment she kills him, is about to kill Barbara’s mother. Even though he’s a murderer, Commissioner Gordon is angry that Batgirl killed his son. He doesn’t see it as a justified killing and is determined to put her in jail. This background sets the stage for the events that follow. The “Wanted” in the title refers to Gordon (unknowingly) wanting to put his own daughter in jail as he pursues Batgirl through the streets of Gotham.
The rest of the story is complex and actually quite difficult to explain without giving spoilers. I can say that there are many other characters that really flesh out the second half of this collection: Barbara has a love interest whose brother is involved in a gang boundary dispute, a dispute that pulls both her boyfriend and her father into that part of the storyline in a significant way; she is continuing to develop her relationship with her roommate who doesn’t know she is Batgirl; and she keeps running into a group of criminals from previous issues, and this group is set on killing Commissioner Gordon. Simone has created a great storyline that makes it so Batgirl and Commissioner Gordon keep running into each other at unexpected moments. Their struggle with each other makes sense, and their attempt to reconcile is neither predictable nor corny.
There are many surprises that I didn’t see coming at all, and they were excellent surprises. They worked well in the story, they were believable, and they were emotionally powerful. The second half of Batgirl: Wanted certainly shows Simone writing at her best, and as much as I didn’t like the first part of the book, the second part is good enough to make up for it almost completely. I would say that Batgirl may not have been as consistent in its first four volumes in comparison with the first four volumes of Aquaman and Wonder Woman, but at its best, it is just as good. I highly recommend Batgirl: Wanted, but make sure you read the first three volumes before picking up volume four.