One last outing with Gail Simone at the helm, this time 5 years into the future in this Futures End tie-end that is sure to raise more questions than provide answers. Batgirl has become Bete Noire (the Black Beast, of “Beast” as she’s referred to throughout), and is the silent, shadowy leader of a team of Batgirls made up of Stephanie Brown, Cassandra Cain, and Tiffany Fox (who, yes, is twelve years old). This lineup is sure to please some, but I admit I came away feeling frustrated and bewildered at everything that happens in this comic book cheerfully titled “Darker in the Soul”.
The basic premise: Batgirl, now Beast, has suffered yet another personal tragedy, transformed herself into a creature of total darkness, and has cleaned out some serious Gotham villains (specifically the Riddler and Penguin). Now her League of Batgirls have come across gunrunners and Beast knows she she must come out of hiding to face her former mentor and “third father”, Bane.
Does it sound like an Elseworld storyline to you? It sure did to me.
League of Extraordinary Batgirl-like heroes, replete with color-coding
Javier Garron’s art is a real pleaser: strong character designs, good expressions, wonderful action, and nice detailing throughout. If you just want a crazy story that’s fun and really action-packed, you’ll likely enjoy this. If you were hoping for more, adjust your expectations accordingly: so far the Futures End month books seem to be really hit or miss. This one feels like a hit in the art department and in the overall action, but lots of misses in the details of the story.
Some other notable good bits:
- Babs mentions Dick. So she knows he’s not dead now. Interesting….
- Babs looks like a red-headed Laura Croft, which I’m pretty okay with: she’s a total tough girl without sacrificing her trademark long locks.
- Garron’s depiction of Bane is straight from the frames of The Dark Knight Rises, right down to the woolly-collared coat (but with the luchador mask still intact). I admit I like this look for Bane, so this pleased me to no end. Here he was a character I recognized and enjoyed.
Props also to Romulo Fajardo Jr. for some really nice color work. Garron’s tendency to use empty backgrounds and a lot of speed lines makes for an interesting challenge, but the colorist does a great job filling in those spaces with enough textures, patterns, and gradients to keep the environments engaging without being drawing undue attention. And Garron is careful to juxtapose the open spaces with effective establishing environments, so overall there is a good balance.
The lenticular cover for this is nice but if you aren’t into the gimmick you can skip it for the flat version. There’s nothing particularly spectacular about it, even though both images are nicely rendered.
I didn’t feel like anything about this made sense within the current storylines or continuity. Just on the verge of Batgirl moving to the ‘burbs for a “lighter” take on the character, we’re told that five years from now she’s going to be worse off than ever? Most of the things I found distracting or flat-out out of character I’ll form as questions and drop under a spoiler for those of you who want to read this first:
- Who’s Steven Harris? Why should we care? Do we really believe Babs is getting married in 2 years? And is that the most depressing non-committal ceremony you have ever seen? And why is the Batsignal lit? And where’s Bruce? And could Barbara’s wedding dress be any uglier or clingier?
- Cassandra Cain speaks! I know she’s been learning to talk, but it’s so matter-of-fact that it really threw me for a loop.
- I don’t buy Tiffany as part of the League of Batgirls. The art convinces me (by her expressions in almost every panel) that she doesn’t buy it either. Also: the girl on the cover is definitely not Tiffany Fox. Lastly: “Miss Scary Pants Assassin Lady.” Just, no.
- Stephanie Brown is so good that she’s the team leader for the League of Batgirls. But who recruited her? Babs? She gives up being Spoiler to do this (before we even see her being Spoiler)? I dunno about that.
- Jim Gordon is conspicuously absent from Babs’ wedding and his whereabouts are evaded. Is DC planning to kill off Gordon? No. That’s silly, right?
- James Gordon Jr. is still kicking around well enough to make it to Babs’ wedding (without an invitation, I’m guessing). And he tells Steven to jump–why? And Steven goes full-out lemming–why? This was just a bafflingly weird sequence.
- Babs and Bane go toe-to-toe, Babs has an identity epiphany, rips off her mask, and levels Bane with a single punch. Er…okay?
- Tiffany saves the day by catching Bane’s detonator. Which has nothing to do with her brains (for which she’s known and the reason she’s considered an asset) and instead relies on her agility, speed, timing. Bummer of a choice, really.
Batgirl crossed with Bane:
Tell me this isn’t hideous to behol–ooo look: the Ha Ha Hacienda!
- You want one last outing with Gail Simone’s Batgirl before the Burnside make-over.
- Stephanie Brown and/or Cassandra Cain in the cowl has been in your hopes and dreams.
- You’d like to own an issue featuring a Dark Knight Rises-inspired Bane and Batpod.
- Lenticulars are the loves of your life.
A strange and interesting take on the potential outcome of Batgirl’s world for the Futures End month, but ultimately I think it’s forgettable and will be happily forgotten five years from now. There may be some intriguing possible clues about the fates of Stephanie Brown, Cassandra Cain, Tiffany Fox, Jim Gordon, and even possibly Dick Grayson, but none of it feels like it will stick or is worth fretting over.