Last month we saw the rebirth/escape of the villain Livewire. This month’s “Surge Protection” gives us her origin via her YouTube-like channel (for which she also apparently did makeup tutorials–seriously). Babs calls on the assistance of both Frankie and Qadir (who has now conveniently left the University for a job with Luke Fox), to help “save” Bat-Chappie from his attempts to apprehend the villain given his super-suit is vulnerable to her electric powers.

The Good

The father-daughter team up of Bat-Chappie and Batgirl seems like it should be great fun and it is despite the accompanying silliness of papa Gordon’s naivete going up against an electric-powered villain with a dependency on a high-tech suit. Cameron Stewart and Brenden Fletcher give us a nice moment in which Gordon talks to his daughter (as Batgirl) about Batman’s importance to Gotham, and we also get a flashback in which Gordon tells Babs he won’t let her join the GCPD. It’s the most genuine moment in the book.

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Of course there’s the obligatory initial confrontation between the two

There is a lot of action in this book: 9 pages alone make up the fight with Livewire, so if you’re big on the battles, this issue sustains a considerable one. Artist Babs Tarr does a nice job keeping everything in motion. I also like her rendition of Gordon out of the Bat-Chappie suit in his black Batman-ish costume. I still think the proportions of the suit don’t make any sense (when he sort of emerges to talk to her, you can see that his knees could not possibly bend in the right place). I don’t usually get so picky about this stuff, but when they make it so obvious, it’s hard to ignore.

I love the goggles Babs wears in the power plant fight. Makes me almost wish she wore them all the time. They would certainly add more to the disguise of her costume.

The Bad

This book feels like it’s stuck in an eddy of two steps forward one step back. Nothing of consequence happens in this book. Batgirl’s team-up with Bat-Chappie doesn’t result in any potential threat of Gordon learning his daughter’s secret identity, Livewire proves little nuisance to anything, and Babs reconciles with Qadir as if nothing even happened (so much for that bit of almost realistic business from issue no. 39). And what’s with the sheepy-eyes? Now Babs has a thing for Qadir? Great.

Jake Wyatt and Michel Lacombe do breakdowns for this book (usually it’s Cameron Stewart), and I have to say the book overall feels different: the sometimes wide and very irregular gutters felt distracting (with so many panels per page, it wasn’t always 100% obvious where the eye should follow).  The book isn’t necessarily a hard read or too cluttered and Tarr keeps the art pretty sharp, but the energy just feels diffused. Somehow there’s too much going on while nothing is happening simultaneously.

At the end of the book, Babs, exhausted, remarks “Ugh longest night ever”. Really? She thinks this was a long night? To me, this sums up everything wrong with this book. This is a character whose past feels completely erased, as though she’s a brand new superhero, even though everything that’s happened to her remains part of the ongoing continuity.

The Ugly

At the risk of sounding like a broken record (there’s a reference that will soon be lost on the reading public), Batgirl’s costume is no disguise, and Babs doesn’t even try to play up a different persona to fake out her dad. Her cheeky grinning and winking is almost too much to bear. It’s impossible to reconcile this character with the one who tried to hide her face every time she encountered Gordon, and who almost very seriously got shot by him. I’m throwing up my hands on this one (even though my real inclination is to punch Babs in her smug nose): it just is what it is now.

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Wink wink, nudge nudge

Last go-round I also talked about “filler” concerns and this book ends on a big one. I like Alysia as a character (as she was originally created), and I was annoyed when she was so unceremoniously traded in for Frankie. But now she’s back and we’re somehow supposed to be wrapped up in her personal life to the extent that her announcement gets an entire dramatic page? And just what is so immense to deserve this attention:

Spoiler
Alysia is getting married to Jo, the girl who wore her panties out the door back in the days when Babs was still in heels. I don’t usually react very strongly to comics, but I think I might have actually verbalized an “oh brother” when I flipped to the final page of this one.

Now I confess that I have a slightly cynical nature and that I don’t enjoy stereotypical “girl” things in comics (like dating scenarios and clothes-shopping), but I can enjoy them if they are done well. This, however, just feels shoehorned in. The sad truth of it is that Barbara Gordon is just too self-absorbed for us to actually care about her friends.

Recommended If…

  • You’d enjoy seeing Batgirl and Bat-Chappie as a team-up!

Overall

The showdown between Livewire, Batgirl, and Bat-Chappie is entertaining, but feels like pretty standard fare. The action lacks genuine dramatic tension and the resolution depends on a deus ex machina bit of unexplained technology cooked up over night. If you’re enjoying the regular series, here’s some more of it. Otherwise, this book adds almost nothing to the ongoing narrative.

SCORE: 5/10