Graphic Novel Review: Batgirl Volume II: Knightfall Descends by Gail Simone

Images Courtesy of Goodreads and Collected Editions

Images Courtesy of Goodreads and Collected Editions

From Goodreads

Batgirl Barbara Gordon faces foe after foe now that she’s back in the role of Batgirl. A deadly new gentleman killer, Grotesque, stalks the streets of Gotham City; The Court of Owls sets its sight on her father Commissioner Gordon; and an innocent woman sentenced to Arkham emerges more dangerous than the inmates she was locked up with!

Cover Gushing Worthiness: First off I want to say that I’m so pleased Ed Benes is back on the illustration team. I loved his work in Birds of Prey and I’m glad he’s continuing his stunning artistic work alongside Gail Simone once again.

Anyways moving away from my Ed Benes appreciation, it’s time to discuss the covers. I own the edition that’s on the right and I think it suits the second volume of Batgirl much more than the edition on the left. I feel like the cover on the right captures the darkness of the characters and story more than the one on the left. Plus when you see the real thing, the cover comes to life and it. I think between the two covers I think the one on the right is more of a seller than the left. That’s just my opinion though!

Review: In all honesty I don’t remember too much of Batgirl Volume I: The Darkest Reflection other than the fact that Barbara Gordon was going through sort of internal crisis where she was trying to figure out how to become Batgirl again after being Oracle for three years. That being said I’m not suggesting that Volume I was a bad story; quite the opposite in fact. I thought Gail Simone laid out a good foundation to establish Barbara Gordon as Batgirl once again and for future story arcs to blossom.

If I were to describe Knightfall Descends in one word, it would be dark. In comparison to its predecessor, everything about the story arcs in this graphic novel are dark; whether it be the characters, the artwork or the story itself. As much as I enjoyed Simone’s work in Birds of Prey I feel like with Batgirl she has more room to develop the story at a steady pace because the focus is on one heroine in comparison to Birds where there was Lady Blackhawk, Huntress, Oracle, Black Canary etc.

There are three storylines in this Graphic novel: The tie into Night of Owls, the story of Knightfall and Batgirl’s battle with the villain Mr. Grotesque. I skipped over the story concerning the court of owls because I had already read it in Night of Owls but between the other two stories it was Knightfall’s story that gripped me the most. Knightfall’s story was dark and filled with horror. What I liked about this particular story was that it kept you guessing till the very end. Some of the twists in the plot were unbelievable and I think that’s what made this story such a hit for me. You couldn’t guess what was going to happen or who some of the characters were in the past. The story of Mr. Grotesque reminded me of Alan Moore’s Batman: The Killing Joke, probably because this story arc explored Barbara’s past and what caused her to become the Oracle. Another strength in this entire graphic novel is the presence of people from Barbara’s past like her mother and a brother who I didn’t know existed in the first place. The ending too was a cliffhanger and I’m already waiting to get my hands on the next volume which probably won’t be out till next year. I can always purchase the weekly issues I suppose ;P. 

While The Darkest Reflection laid the foundation for Batgirl I think Knightfall Descends is where Batgirl’s character development really begins. This is where we see her inner struggles of trying to be the Batgirl she once used to be. We see her struggle in figuring out how to trust friends again after taking up the mantle of Batgirl once again. There is also the reappearance of her mother who abandoned the family years ago and of course James Gordon Jr. who is quite a surprising character. I’m really interested in finding out where his story is headed. The relationship between Barbara and her mother along with her relationship with Alysia is also one that I’m looking forward to because I want to see how everything plays out.  The relationship between Barbara and Mrs.Gordon is one that is filled with hurt, misunderstandings, guilt and fear. I think Barbara’s responses to her mother’s reappearance are quite realistic in the sense that she’s in a constant state of uncertainty. How do you behave or even speak to someone who abandoned you when you were growing up? In terms of the relationship between James Gordon Sr. and Barbara there isn’t much interaction, but I think the strength in their relationship lies in their mutual understanding of each other. There doesn’t need to be a lot of ‘on screen time’ so to speak between the two of them to realize how good of a father-daughter relationship those two have.

As far as antagonists go in all three stories Knightfall was the character that stood out to me. Just the presence and mindset of this character was twisted to the point where it made you wonder where Simone is going with this character. I can’t talk about the character too much without giving a lot away, but this character is one that might make your pupils dilate in horror and fear of the actions taken by the person in question. Knightfall truly is one of Simone’s scariest villains to date as far as I’m concerned. It’s not just this character, but the minions who follow Knightfall too are dark and complex.

As I said the ending of Knightfall Descends was a shocker. I’m not sure where the story is going to go from where it ended, but I’m curious to see how it’s going to expand. There’s plenty of room for Simone to play around with the story, that’s for sure.

Lastly, I want to talk about how fantastic the artwork in this graphic novel is. I think both Ed Benes and Adrian Syaf have done fantastic jobs in bringing this story to life. The colours and the illustrations are gripping. They really hold your attention and there were times where I went back to some pages just to look at the artwork. I think the artists capture the strengths and weaknesses of all characters perfectly and I hope this duo continues to work on Batgirl’s future stories.

Overall I really enjoyed Batgirl Volume II: Knightfall DescendsAlthough I skipped the Court of Owls tie-in the other two stories were excellent. Gail Simone is displaying her strengths as a writer not only by giving us a Batgirl who is flawed but is also working her way into becoming the vigilante she once was, but also by giving us darker stories and showing the horrors the human mind is capable of.

My Rating: 4.5/5

Would I recommend it? Yes

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