Sunday, February 1, 2015

Batgirl #38 (HERE BE SPOILERS!)

You know an issue is thought-provoking if I'm arguing about it with myself on a train while I'm reading it.

The authors serve up a really insight meditation on the Facebook era here, using Barbara as a lens to examine the pros and cons of living your life in the public eye.  We learn that Babs has been cultivating a strong social-media presence in the wake of last issue's events (where she took back control over her image from Dagger Type) and that she's been basking in the glow of Burnside's affection as its residents tag her in selfies and tweets when she helps them.  But, Stewart and Fletcher quickly delve into the darker side of this affection, particularly the inflated view of herself that it gives Barbara.  One of the problems of social media is that it becomes easy to create your own world, where you're only surrounded by information and people that support your beliefs (i.e., Pariser's "filter bubble").  Stewart and Fletcher make it clear that Barbara falls victim to that problem here and they remind us of the trouble that said bubble bursting can cause.

During a debate over vigilantes with Office Liam on their second date, Babs justifies Batgirl skirting the lay by arguing that she's popular.  It's clear that this sense of popularity is making it difficult for her to see reality, since she believes that it means that she's justified in doing whatever it is that she needs to do.  She storms into a bar to confront a reality-TV star with a penchant for drag racing, filled with righteous indignation over the attention (and pass) that he gets as a low-grade celebrity.  (Qadir even questions why she's wasting her time on him.)  In the end, she winds up provoking the type of dangerous incident that she thinks that she's preventing; she essentially proves Liam's point about the danger that vigilantes pose.  In fact, by the end of this issue, it's hard not to side with Liam.  Moreover, she loses the affection of her public just as quickly as she got it, as her fight with the reality-TV star destroyed a diner that served as a local landmark.  Suddenly, the security that she felt from the affection that the community had is denied her; Stewart and Fletcher are making a pretty clear call for everyone to be careful how much self-esteem we derive from a fickle public that we don't really know and who don't really know us. 

But, it's not all philosophical meditations on the human condition.  Babs' advisor is coming to town, and we learn that she's nowhere near close to resurrecting her thesis research.  We also learn that the person imitating her has been having chats with Liam, and the authors really up the creepiness factor with that revelation.  Stewart and Fletcher even imply that it was this mysterious figure that manipulated Hooq to make sure that Babs and Liam got together in the first place.  I'm starting to wonder if it's Dinah looking for some low-grade revenge, but I think I'm actually hoping that's the case, because she likely wouldn't cause too much damage.  Otherwise, Babs is in some real trouble.

**** (four of five stars)

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