Well okay now! This is more like it! “Enemies and Allies” is part two of a new arc focusing on Batgirl’s attempt to wrangle Knightfall down like an obstreperous calf in the rodeo that is Gotham. She’s got help in the form of ally Black Canary and newcomer Huntress, though it’s not all fist-bumps and high-fives coming out of the gate.

We get the obligatory hero vs. hero battle to warm things up, then the predictable quick move from enemies to besties in the span of a page or two, and finally all three are off to hunt down Knightfall’s pawn, Michael Drucker (a.k.a. Bleak Michael of the acid-spouting hands). We briefly see Knightfall plotting with Bonebreaker, but they’re both still remaining well behind the scenes at the moment.

Gail Simone wastes no time leaping from one thing to the next, but overall it feels much more organic, even if a bit cliché than last month’s offering, and Pasarin brings a lot of energy to the action sequences–of which there are many.

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Don’t everybody get too excited–they’re talking about secret identities!

The Good

This moved well. The pacing was fairly good and tight; exposition was kept to a minimum despite a lot of information being passed around. Away from all the drama of Ricky and Alysia, I admit this is much more fun: the impromptu Birds of Prey have a clear objective, hit it hard, and the action that ensues is very entertaining.

Faced with Knightfall’s swelling army, Batgirl at last decides to call in even more help, so look for three newcomers to this battle; interesting choices, though a bit of head-scratching too. The final page splash is once again exciting and well-drawn and features a very familiar character who I’m guessing will likely will be sitting out this battle nonetheless (see below in the spoilers for more on the phone calls).

As densely paneled as this book is, the story doesn’t bog down or get lost in the telling and there are some nicely composed pages (one particular modified nine-panel grid mixes current action with flashbacks in a montage reminiscent of Dave Gibbons’ work on Watchmen).

Finally, I can’t pass the “Good” section without another nod to Alex Garner, who once again provides a seductively soft and painterly cover. Just as a general note, I really love how plausible he makes Batgirl’s armour look: the material has enough texture and detail to suggest construction without making it too scaly or rigid. And Batgirl’s hair always feathers out so nice–like fire–without being a ridiculous mane (keeps her looking youthful in a strange way). There is a fun alternate throwback (celebrate 75) cover by Cliff Chiang and Mike Kaluta, but I’m partial to Garner’s work myself and it’s more story-specific.

The Bad

Even with fun, energized action sequences and some strong layout composition, Pasarin is once again all over the map with his art. Batgirl’s cowl looks like a egg-shaped helmet shellacked to her head (from some angles the ears are so small and close together you almost can’t even see them), and one big reveal moment in a parking garage is so awkward looking and has such a thinly sketched background that it feels uninspired rather than prompting awe. Still, another sequence on a rooftop has nice depth and thrilling angles, so once again, it’s just a problem of consistency throughout.

Batgirl’s “calls” are a curious bunch of chicks (nothing wrong with that, but kind of odd choices for someone with practically all the superhero universe at her fingertips):

Spoiler

She calls four people:

  • Detective McKenna (been a while since she’s been a major player in this book).
  • Muni, her life-threatening, kidnapping former BFF (a.k.a. Obscura)–though why is beyond my ken.
  • Chick with funky hair and wings that look like they’re falling apart. Holy cows and crumpets, I should know who she is, but in a comic book literally littered with characters calling each other by name in every speech bubble, this page decides to play coy. Arghh! So help me out, will ya? I’m sure I’ll give myself a headsmack once I know the answer.
  • And finally, Batman is the last the call she makes–but not in the way that you might think. In an amusing moment reminiscent of every adolescent’s request for the car keys from grumpy dad, Babs asks for “the boat”. It’s Batman who makes the splashy final page; sort of a cheap thrill, but a fun one–and I’m excited for the possibilities of what they intend to do with the boat!

The Ugly

Oh Pasarin, I despair of your sausagey-bodied women and their fat-lipped, beady-eyed faces.  You spent two whole pages (in a book that could have used a little more breathing room) on a double-page spread that is almost awesome except that bizarre contorted exploding face of poor Huntress (and her hair looks like it’s pouring out of a purple bucket to boot).

Truth is, it’s probably an accurate picture of what a woman looks like getting punched out, but it’s just awkward here, has too much blood, and proportionally ruins the composition of the spread–your eyes just ricochet to that spot and then you can’t un-see it even when you want to appreciate the better things about the drawing (like Batgirl’s awesome ferocity!). Man, I hate to be this harsh, but it’s just not good and the problem is compounded by the fact that it takes up so much real estate.

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Cover the right side of the picture with your hand

Recommended If…

  • It’s time to get back on the Batgirl bus now that things look to be turning around story-wise.
  • You want to welcome Huntress to Gotham (and can never get enough of this popular team-up).
  • You’re curious about how this story is seemingly trying to dovetail with Batman Eternal. I’m curious too; so many references are cross-over and might be lost on the casual reader.

Overall

Though the art still lacks consistency and the plot feels a bit old hat at the moment, this book doesn’t lack suspense and feels like a real Batgirl story after a long while of waffling in and out of genres. This may be just the arc to get Batgirl up and in the ring again!

SCORE: 6/10