Last month’s issue of Batgirl (issue 41, which we reviewed here) came as a bit of a disappointment for me. I’m a huge Livewire fan and I’ve long-awaited her proper debut within the New 52 framework of DC stories. While Cameron Stewart and Brenden Fletcher introduced an exciting concept of Livewire being worshiped as some sort of goddess, “preaching her digital gospel”, there wasn’t much else done to firmly establish her as an essential villain as opposed to your run-of-the-mill monthly rogue. This Wednesday’s Batgirl 42 attempts to make up for Livewire’s lackluster presence and does a pretty good job in rewarding fans of the “transcendent mother electric.”
I’ve never followed Batgirl’s comic series that much. Other than her animated series appearances and Alicia Silverstone’s performance, I never bothered to read about her adventures. With Stewart and Fletcher, they’ve created a character that has a youthful vibe and more independent style than the traditional depiction of Barbara Gordon. The same could be said for Leslie Willis a.k.a. Livewire. Instead of a radio shock jock, this time she’s a YouTube celebrity with a popular channel. It’s inferred that she pranks people and during one of her stunts, she attempted to re-route the power at Metropolis City Works. Superman flew in and took the gadget she created to use the city’s power; in a fit of anger she tried to shut off the power to the city and had an accident that transformed her into Livewire. It’s a fun series of panels which Babs Tarr draws with such energy and vigor, but is a lost opportunity when we could have actually seen Superman. Either way, nothing is really stolen from the moment and it’s exactly what Livewire deserves in her much hyped re-introduction to the post-Convergence DC Universe.
Batgirl issue 42 revolves around a very basic plot that sees Batgirl having to team-up with Batman (her father) to stop Livewire. There’s a real sense of been there, done that with how Livewire is approached and defeated because… it’s been done before in several Superman issues and in previous Batgirl issues. That’s what makes this issue another disappointment when it comes to critiquing the story. Stewart and Fletcher surely are talented enough to develop a more original concept for Livewire. Instead of building off of the HOOQ cult that Batgirl found siphoning Livewire out of containment (issue 41), we never see the techno cult again. It seems more of a lazy oversight and issue with pacing as Livewire comes across more as a means to simply reintroduce an often forgotten character to fulfill an unspoken quota as opposed to crafting something with heart. Livewire has often been seen as a secondary Superman villain despite being a popular character in his animated series. Created for the show by Bruce Timm, in the tradition of Harley Quinn, it was Gail Simone who then brought her to the DC Comics Universe. There’s so many more intriguing and stories worthy of building Livewire up; I know she could be so much more which is why it pains me to see her brought so low. Alas, I suppose getting her back in the comics is better than nothing at all.
I’m aware I’m not the target audience for the Batgirl series, and please note that I don’t so much as have an issue with the character as I do with this current run. Batgirl should be lively and relevant. Babs Tarr has a style all her own and her work is a delight. There’s not one weak moment in the book that falls flat. I’ve also enjoyed her electrifying redesign for Livewire and it does feel appropriate to this particular run of Batgirl. When it comes to Cameron Stewart and Brenden Fletcher, it’s obvious to any reader that some things work and other aspects don’t. For issues 41 and 42, Livewire was pretty unremarkable and I’ve seen this commented by other critics. Yet, the real shining moment of their scripts have been the exploration of the relationship Batgirl has with Batman. It’s an interesting spin on the father/daughter story and there has been a heart tugging tension in keeping Gordon in the dark about Barbara’s heroics. We know he’ll eventually learn that his daughter is Batgirl of Burnside, and it’s not so much as waiting for when that happens, but enjoying the lead up to that moment.
It was just recently announced that Livewire will be making her major screen debut on CBS’s Supergirl. As of this writing, there has been no casting announcement made. Maybe she will be handled better on television. *The character of Livewire previously made a cameo on The CW’s Smallville.
Batgirl issue 42 is out now and gets three out of five stars!
Batgirl (2011-) #42
Writer: Stewart, Cameron
Artist: Tarr, Babs
Cover Artist: Stewart, Cameron
Format: FC, 32pg., COMIC
On Sale July 29, 2015
Publisher DC Comics
Diamond Id: MAY150194