SPOILERS ON THE HORIZON!
So here's the deal. I'm not going to wax pleonastic about Gail Simone's departure from the Batgirl title because that would be exploitative pandering and nobody wants that. Nor will I gush about what an extraordinary writer Simone is. Or at least I'll try really, really hard not to. There are plenty of other people willing and able to do that.
What I'm going to do is be honest and objective about a single issue from a single title—no flattery, no nerdrage, no nonsense. (Sorry Gail. I love you?)
It's decent. Not excellent, not mind-blowing, just decent. Here's why.
Gail Simone's deserved fame comes from her ability to make characters loveable. They may be white hats, black hats, or simply despicable human beings. But, using a sympathy only the best writers can convey, Simone makes us care about each one in a unique and personal fashion. This issue seems to suspend that in favor of cramming story into all available spaces, and it's probably not entirely Gail's fault.
Batgirl #15 continues from a cliffhanger, essentially composed of Joker kidnapping Barbara “Batgirl” Gordon's mother and holding Barb captive with the threat of her mother's death. Then... he proposes marriage for some unknown reason? Yes. We'll come back to that.
As most Bat-fans know, The Joker (Batman's arch-nemesis of arch-nemeses), is the one responsible for shooting and paralyzing Barbara Gordon, taking her out of her role as Batgirl and into a wheelchair for about the past two decades of DC Comics canon. You can imagine the violence with which she confronts him in an abandoned roller-skating rink, beating him nearly to death and holding his own gun to his head before relenting due to sniper fire. The violence is there, and it almost hurts to watch, as Batgirl goes dark with rage and pummels the Joker senseless. But the passion isn't felt. The personal connection we have with Barb as a character—a staple of Simone's run so far—is lost in the contrivances of the plot.
The part that lost me is Joker's proposal of marriage. I know there's more coming that I haven't seen yet, (the whole Death of the Family storyline has been so tantalizingly interwoven so far; some good and some bad) but this confuses me more than tantalizes. Under the direction of whom I presume is Snyder, (another favorite author of mine and the brain behind this crossover) Gail's talent is directed towards shoehorned details of narrative rather than her strength, which is the exposition and manipulation of the people her stories are about.
Daniel Sampere, Vicente Cifuentes and Ulises Arreola make a solid team in composing, drawing and coloring the pages. I don't necessarily notice the art, but that's because it's good enough to keep me engrossed in the sequence of events. Just because art doesn't “pop” doesn't mean it's bad, and these guys wrapped Simone's writing in a very well-done skin that, while it doesn't astound, certainly doesn't distract.
I adore Gail Simone. I really do. (Commitment not to gush: BROKEN.) Not only is she a wonderful and admirable person, she's a gifted and powerful writer; and I'm not employing even the slightest exaggeration when I say that. But I think her innate ability to write dynamic characters was squelched by the overbearing plot of the currently-running Death of the Family crossover. As a part of the bigger picture, this issue fits perfectly. As a single issue, it falls a bit short. I highly anticipate Simone's future work; both the closing of her Batgirl run and her independently published graphic novel Leaving Megalopolis. (So. Excited.) I also am desperately hoping and praying for the return of Secret Six—because I'm allowed to dream. This issue, however, has nothing that makes me root for Simone so much as it makes me chant for the overthrow of DC's editorial staff...
Y'know. For reasons other than the obvious.