Comic Book Review: "Batgirl #9: In The Line Of Fire"
Another episode in the first major crossover of DC Comics New 52 takes place in Batgirl issue 9. “Night Of The Owls: In the Line of Fire”, written by Gail Simone with art by Ardian Syaf and Vicente Cifuentes, delivers another chapter in the Court of Owl’s war on Gotham City. Here, not only does Barbara Gordon (AKA Batgirl) have to face one of the Court of Owls zombie assassins, but her father, Commissioner James Gordon, also must face off against the Court. Oddly enough both father and daughter fight the Court to save the other. Batgirl is trying to save her father, who is one of the targets of assassination, while Commissioner Gordon is trying to protect his daughter from being killed by the Court if he tries to stop the massacre or assist by using the Bat Signal.
“In The Line Of Fire” begins in Japan on November 13, 1944. A young Japanese girl, Ayumi, is writing a letter to her mother. She tells her that she (along with many of other school girls) is making fire-balloons (Fusen Bakudan) on orders of the Japanese Emperor. The Japanese Military plan to send these Fu-Go’s across the Pacific Ocean to attack their enemies. She writes in the letter that after all the fighting is over, she’ll see her family again.
Two years later, in 1946, in America, a member of the Court of Owls is talking to Mr. Haly of Haly’s Circus. He’s looking for his best aerialist. Haly shows him Mary, who is dressed like a farmhand with her head and face completely bandaged. Haly explains that he can’t use her, because her scars frighten the crowds. She can’t talk because she lost her tongue after the Oregon attack from the Japanese balloon bombings years ago. The Court member removes her bandages and tells her he’s going to give her a new home and a new life. She won’t need the bandages, because she will get a new mask.
In the present day, during the Night of the Owls, at 6:07 p.m. Batgirl is in Little Jakarta Indonesian (it has the community’s best take-out) fighting a female Talon (Mary, the young girl from 1946). Barbara takes note that she moves just like Nightwing. A huge bomb had exploded during the dinner hour. The police reports said that it looked like a balloon carrying a bomb. Batgirl showed up hoping to help out, but, she has to deal with this silent Talon instead.
The fighting doesn’t go well and Babs ends up hanging off the ledge of a building. The Talon stands over her. She tells her, she’s “gonna kick your butt” when she gets up. Talon Mary says nothing; she just reaches down and touches Babs on the forehead and leaves. Luckily, Batgirl had secretly grabbed a yellow slip of paper from Mary.
At the Gotham City Police Department, at 7:04 p.m. Commissioner Gordon is walking down the street with a cup of coffee. A well-dressed gentleman, who is passing by, tells him he dropped something. Gordon reaches down and picks up an Owl Coin.
The man (apparently a member of the Court of Owls) tells him that if he turns around, reaches for his gun, or speak out of turn, his daughter, Barbara, will die. He tells Gordon that Barbara had a traumatic experience three years ago; does he think she can live through another one? The man tells him that many people will die tonight and there is nothing one single man can do. If Gordon lights the Bat Signal everything Gordon “care about will burn”.
Barbara comes home looking for Asliya. She is out. Babs is pondering the scrap of paper and the balloon bomb. On the paper, in Japanese Kanji, is the date: November, 1944.
At the GCPD, Commissioner Gordon is getting wave after wave of reports from all over the city of Talon attacks. He’s brushing off doing anything in hopes of keeping his daughter safe.
Barbara is trying to figure out the connection between the balloon bombing and 1944. She recalls that the Japanese sent balloon bombs across the sea. There was one recorded attack in the USA. One bomb exploded in Oregon that killed one family on a picnic. She wonders how one of these bombs could be in Gotham all these decades later.
Gordon continues to get even more confirmed deaths: Judge Jane Spitz, public advocate John Lee, and the city controller. Gordon is finally fed up. He calls to warn Barbara, but the call is intercepted by the Court, who warns him again, that all close to him “will burn”. Suddenly, Gordon warns Renny not to open the door to the police station; there are hundreds of balloon bombs descending on them. One explodes outside the station as Renny mistakenly opens the door.
Batgirl gets the call from Alfred as she drives through the streets on her bike. He explains the Court of Owls murderous intentions and the immortal Talons. She races to the GCPD; riding through a hail of balloon bombs.
After the explosion at the station, Gordon tries to do damage control. He tells everyone to get the survivors to the holding cells for safety. He sets up a defensive perimeter of eight blocks around the GCPD. He finally decides to uses the Bat Signal, but McKenna warns against it. He says that the people need to know that someone is going to help, no matter what.
Batgirl arrives at the station and sees the destruction. She spies Talon Mary up on the roof. She goes after her; she won’t let her kill her father. As they fight, she knows that Mary can heal fast, but Babs can’t. After taking a good beating, Babs reluctantly (and desperately) kicks her off the building.
Gordon is running up the stair to get to the roof so he can turn on the Bat Signal. A balloon bomb, flying overhead, blows up as the Talon Mary falls from the rooftop. Batgirl rushes to check on her; she’s still alive. Barbara asks her why she didn’t kill her before. Mary writes in blood, “Hav Mask 2 Understand”.
Gordon finally gets to the Bat Signal and turns it on, but it doesn’t shine a huge bat symbol, it shines a huge owl signal instead. The Court of Owls had planned for this, just in case Gordon defied them. Both Gordon and Batgirl stare in shock and fear at the owl in the sky. Both feel that they have just lost Gotham City, as a torrent of balloons hover over the city. The issue ends with a recap of the letter from the Japanese girl, Ayumi, in 1944; she’s writing the letter from Nagasaki.
This story, "In The Line Of Fire", is filled with a sense of utter chaos. The Gordon’s seem helpless: do nothing and everyone dies; do something and the most important people die. As with many of the chapters of the "Night Of The Owls” storyline, we’re introduced to another Talon. Young Mary is one of the few assassins that garner any sympathy: orphaned and injured as child, she now uses the instrument of her disfigurement as a weapon of destruction against enemies of the Court. The letter written by Ayumi book ends of the story. Neither Mary nor Ayumi know each other, and yet they are connected in a strange and sad way. Both children are victims of collateral damage: Mary in Oregon, and Ayumi in Nagasaki. It’s a touching addition. The Gotham massacre continues and all hope seems lost as the Court of Owls appears to have triumphed over the GCPD and Batgirl attempts to rallies the Bat-troops. Only the coming issues of the saga with show the outcome of the "Night of The Owls”.
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