Batgirl #50 marks the end of the series, and this extra-sized issue features three stories by Cecil Castellucci and a rotating team of artists, including Emanuela Lupacchino, Aneke, Jordie Bellaire, Marguerite Sauvage, and more!
The overall plot of the issue is focused on Barbara reaffirming her commitment to Gotham City, and to doing things on her own terms. I was very pleased to see this, as Castellucci and company’s run on Batgirl has been at its strongest when it has been allowed to focus on the woman behind the mask.
There has been a mounting sense throughout Castellucci’s run that she has been consistently interrupted in telling the story that she wants to tell with Barbara, and that has never been more clear than in this final issue. So much of Batgirl #50 seems preoccupied with tying up loose ends and attempting to showcase characters that have been left in the background. There are constant captions on the page that tell us about important things that occurred outside of this main book, which shows just how often this character and series has been hijacked by various crossovers and the like.
There is even a delightfully meta backup story that features Barbara being constantly pulled in different directions by other heroes and crises, when all she wants to do is take care of her own villains and protect her own city. It feels like the creators behind the series letting off a bit of steam, and I honestly respect the hell out of it.
The book as a whole is gorgeous. The acting of the characters goes a long way toward selling some of the more emotionally painful moments. The focus of this issue isn’t on big, bombastic action sequences. Everything feels very down to earth, even in a city that has just been through hell. Readers get to see a post-Joker War city that looks messed up, but not completely destroyed. There’s a clear, visual push for some new sense of normalcy among the people of Gotham. It’s a great take on a “post-event” world that we don’t get to see too often in comics.
Unfortunately, it seems that the ending of last month’s issue was not a fake-out, and one character in Barbara’s world has seemingly had much of their careful development taken away from them in a rushed storyline. I won’t go too deeply into spoilers, but this character’s arc seems to have fallen victim to the early cancellation. As a result, the heel turn doesn’t feel like it has been explored as much as it could have been, and the scenes that follow up from last month’s events feel somewhat hollow.
There are a lot of moments in this issue that feel like they’re not quite realized to the extent that the creative team had hoped for. The Alejo storyline moves forward a bit for the first time in a while, seeing the congresswoman finally attempting to stand with the people. Unfortunately, the character has been absent for so long that her speech feels less inspiring and more like a “get out of jail free” card. So does Jim Gordon’s stand with the people of Gotham at the end here. There’s a sense that Castellucci didn’t want to leave all of these characters quite so much at odds anymore, but it can only feel so organic within the limited space that she had.
For instance, there was a bit of hype going into this issue surrounding the introduction of Ryan Wilder, the character who will be taking over the Batwoman mantle on the CW. However, this issue treats Wilder as someone who has known Babs for years off-panel. It feels like so much more could (and would) have happened with this character introduction, if the series had continued.
One of the best bits of closure we get here is on the Barbara/Bard front, which feels right. Again, I won’t spoil what happens, but I do feel like Barbara handles this situation in a way that suits how her character has always tried to balance her two lives. Emanuela illustrates Barbara here with a pose that makes her feel unsure of herself, which makes for a great contrast with her confident inner monologue before this scene. The speech that Batgirl gives to Jason is a great moment of genuine vulnerability, but it still feels like Barbara is continuing to fight against herself.
So much of the issue plays out this way, with little check-ins on plot lines that have been left on the back burner or were just getting started when the series got the axe. Even in this final issue, there’s an effort to widen the scope of Batgirl’s world, to show the reach of the character’s humanitarian efforts. There’s a sense that the reader has been robbed of seeing these stories get their proper due. I don’t want to put any words into the mouths of the creative team, but it feels very much like this issue was meant to show us the growth we were going to see from Barbara and her supporting cast.
But rather than mourn for lost potential, Batgirl #50 shows us that the story doesn’t end here. So much of this issue is built around the continuation of the good fight. It shows us that Barbara Gordon wont ever stop trying to do what’s best, even when it’s difficult.
There is also an effort made to make sure the series ends on a fun note. The second backup story is a blast, showing Barbara and her gal pals enjoying themselves for once. Aneke draws some monsters and character designs straight out of a D&D guidebook, and it’s super fun. While it’s not the ideal finale for the series, and it feels like there’s so much that hasn’t been settled, Batgirl #50 is very heartfelt and feels true to the character.
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