Batgirl #40 – Comic Review

With only limited time to save Burnside, Barbara Gordon will need to confront a dark reflection of herself. Batgirl #40 offers:

  • Expert artwork building a convincing environment.
  • Insight into Batgirl’s character.
  • Themes on digital footprints, and technology topics.

This issue contains spoilers for Batgirl #40

A key flash back scene contrasts colour with character facial expression, while artwork in a large scale scene shows strong attention to detail and expert environment building.

The outdated online presence of Barbara Gordon returns to cause problems in the present. A flashback scene early in the comic captures the inception of Barbara’s angry reflection. The page is suffused with a light blue screen tone, which contrasts effectively with Barara’s anger. Forced to explain what she is doing on her laptop to her friend Frankie, Barbara’s anger grows with each panel on the page. It’s one exaple of how the artwork in this comic expertly conveys characters, and creates a credible and authentic environment for the characters to inhabit.

A two page spread shows off the dynamic environment of Burnside in the centre of the comic. At Black Canary’s gig, a crowd of people, some named characters, wait in anticiaption for the show to begin. Strong attention to detail here means each character is drawn with their own fashion sense. Bystanders in the crowd all appear unique.

The battle against dark, digital Barbara continues past this large scale scene – the artwork depicts Batgirl’s reflection as slowly becoming less coherent. It eventually looks less like an angry copy, and more like a barely recognisable face. Angry and destructive emotion twists it into something terrible. Regardless of who it was at the beginning, the creation is warped by destructive emotion into something else.

Batgirl and Frankie – a friend of Barbara – confront Dark Barbara in a conflict which gives insight into Batgirl’s personality, and shows Frankie’s technology expertise. Black Canary also receives some attention.

The Dark Barbara remains locked in the moment it was built. Copied from Barabara’s thought patters when she recovered from her acute lumbar spine injury, it is filled with her anger. The creation does not change. Despite everything that it observed since it entered the internet, it is unable to grow beyond the anger that fuels it. When attempting to imitate a cheerful Batgirl, the creation stutters, and chooses unusual sentences. The effort to be anything other than angry taxes far too many resources, and the creation’s limted emotion intelligence.

This gives a great insight into Batgirl herself. If she is not cautious, her anger can lead her into becoming a villain, attempting to use algorithms and social media data to predict future behavior, which is Dark Barbara’s plan.

When Barbara’s friend Frankie confronts the dark, online reflection, Frankie shows impressive skills foiling it’s plans. The conflict between Batgirl, Dark Barbara, and Frankie escalates when Frankie talks about Dark Barbara as a figment from a dark time in Barbara’s life. The clear connection to reality here is when any content posted online when upset, angry, or furious returns to cause problems in the future.

Black Canary receives attention in this comic, using her stage presence and powerful sonic abilities to help Batgirl protect Burnside.

Several topics – artificial intelligence, surveillance, identity theft – brought up in Batgirl #40 create two value comments: taking care of digital footprints since they can have long term consequences, and making time to acknowledge pain, rest and heal, and grow networks of friends for support.

Artificial intelligence blends well with social media and online identity in this comic. Without making burdensome comments about a specific generation or group of people, Batgirl #40 recruits technology related topics to tell a story. Through Batgirl, the impact of digital footprints is explored. Surveillance and identity theft are also brought into the story.

Through Barabara’s past and Frankie’s attack on Dark Barbara, the negative emotions that can cause problematic digital footprints emmerge. Surveilance is added to this set of themes when the Hooq. technology is introduced as a side plot. Using surveillance drones. Hooq monitors social activity online and in public, making a record of behaviour. Combined with Dark Barbara’s intentions in this comic, the use of surveilance data to attack and control groups of people appears in a strongly negative light.

With Dark Barabara also intending to steal Batgirl’s persona, identity theft appears. Through these topics, the comic reveals a value: that digital footprints can have destructive negative consequences. How Batgirl handles the problems is essential: she uses logic, combined with a positive mission statement – every dark moment that she went through acts as motivation to help the people of Gotham today. Batgirl acknowledges the importance of making time to heal from past hurts, and from making friends.

in Black Canary and Frankie, she has made skilled and talented friends. This acknowledgement of past hurts, and statements about healing and community building are a strong value to end the themes built in the current story arc of Batgirl comics.

Batgirl #40 is published by DC comics ($2.99 USD) Cameron Stuart and Brendon Fletcher (W.) Babs Tarr (A.) Maris Wicks (C.) Jared K. Fletcher (L.) Cover artwork by Cameron Stuart.


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