‘Batgirl’ #45 Takes On The Barbara Gordon/Dick Grayson Relationship And It’s Basically Perfect
I don't have a whole lot of OTPs, but Dick Grayson and Barbara Gordon are right there at the top of the list. They're two characters who have felt made for each other since the first time I saw them together, and even when they're not romantically entangled --- which is pretty frequently the case for characters that I always picture together --- and even when I don't actually want to see them romantically involved, which happens almost as often, their interactions always have a sense of history that makes them compelling and interesting.
It's that interaction that takes center stage in this week's Batgirl #45, a character piece about two people whose lives have been pulled in drastically different directions and who don't know if they'll ever have the same connection that they once did. And it's one of the best takes on their relationship that I've ever read.
Really, the conversation that's happening in Batgirl is the second half of a conversation that started in the pages of the last issue of Grayson, when Dick returned to Gotham City and spoke to the members of the Batman Family for the first time since he faked his death after the events of Forever Evil and went underground to join up with Spyral. If all that made sense to you, then good, we're on the same page. And if it didn't, well, that's good too. Part of what makes this issue work as well as it does is the idea that these are people living extremely complicated lives.
The biggest complication, of course, is that over the past year or so, they've been starring in books with drastically different directions. Dick's been off playing super-spy, traveling the world as Agent 37 and trying to bring down the corruption within a network that deals in false memories and hypnotic eye implants, while Barbara has been rebuilding her life on her own, defining herself outside of the shadow of the rest of the family and protecting her home from a threat she created on her own. Those may be the editorial directions of the books, the increasingly strange espionage epic and the Millennial action drama, but here, in this book, they feel like the characters' lives.
And really, when you stack those directions up next to each other like that, Barbara's seems a lot smaller than it should --- and a lot smaller that it is in practice. The books themselves are equally amazing, but with the identities of the Justice League and the fate of the world at stake in Grayson, Batgirl's stakes don't feel quite as high. That's why this issue, this story, was the necessary response to Grayson #12, and the setup for it all that started in the Batgirl Annual. Because this is where it stops being a superhero story and becomes a personal one.
Well, that's not entirely accurate. It's definitely still a superhero story. I mean, other genres don't usually kick off their big relationship discussions by having someone enter through the window.
That, by the way, is the best page of a book that's full of great pages. Dick Grayson's inarguable status as the most jaw-droppingly handsome hunk of the entire DC Universe is quite possibly my single favorite thing about the New 52, and Babs Tarr takes that to its lavishly rendered, lantern-jawed, bedroom-eyed extreme. It's fantastic, and like I said, it's not the only time she brings her A game to the story.
Tarr was doing great work on this book when she was working from Cameron Stewart's layouts in the earlier issues, but since she's taken things solo, it's been an absolute joy to see. Her acting is off the charts in this issue, and the emotions that come through with every facial expression and every piece of body language make this issue hit hard when it needs to --- and when it's combined with action, there's not a whole lot that's better out there.
That expressiveness is what sells everything that happens in this comic. Stewart and Brenden Fletcher's script has some incredible emotional content, and the way it's presented through the dialogue is not only well thought-out and true to the characters, but true to the circumstances that they find themselves in as well.
But if those words weren't delivered through Tarr's cartoony smiles and wide eyes, if those conversations weren't happening in front of Gotham City's signature red skies that had faded to sparkling pink, courtesy of colorist Serge Lapointe, then they wouldn't have the same impact.
And even though I've been focusing entirely on Dick and Barbara, there's also an entire wedding going on in the background that's about as charming as comics can get.
It's an incredible example of collaboration, and at its heart --- if you'll pardon the pun --- it's exactly the story that I wanted to see from these two characters, finally getting a break from discussing the all-consuming business of superheroics and instead focusing on how those things affect them as people. And, best of all, not sacrificing any part of their characters in the process.
Spoiler warning if you haven't read the issue yet and you're going into it with high hopes, but at the end of the day, this isn't a comic about Dick Grayson and Barbara Gordon patching up their romantic relationship, and really, it shouldn't be. Barbara has a relationship of her own, and so does Dick, and those are both good, solid parts of their ongoing stories that are dealt with rather than ignored, and used to form a stronger basis for how these characters interact.
Which isn't surprising. As much as I might think of them together, and as much as I'm pretty sure I'm not alone in that, there's always been something keeping those two characters apart. There's always been a Starfire, or a Jason Bard, or a Clancy the Landlord, or even a Ted Kord for that fifteen minutes in the '90s where that was happening, and at least two Helena Bertinellis out there complicating things. And the thing is, those were all interesting relationships, too; things that added to this tapestry that makes their interactions so compelling, and makes issues like this such an absolute joy to read.
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