I promised I was going to try to say good things about this book this month and I’m keeping my promise, but that doesn’t mean I’m not going to point out where it’s still going places that nobody should want it to go.
“Tooth and Claw” is the start of an arc about tigers gobbling up recent Burnside tech college grads, a case which Batgirl is trying to investigate in the midst of making arrangements for Alysia and Jo’s wedding (she’s gone from maid-of-honor to full blown wedding planner for no reason at all). Throw in a red herring with that Jeremy character we haven’t seen for a while, an appearance by Luke Fox who we will be seeing more of, and Frankie going rogue in a cowl of her own, and you have quite the superhero soup (salad extra).
Looks like Babs Tarr has shed the breakdowns assist from Cameron Stewart, though now is working with Canadian artist Michel Lacombe on the compositions. The story is very dense and she’s forced to pack a lot into each and every page, but Tarr and Lacombe do well at keeping it readable. Tarr draws very nice tigers with sympathetic faces, which is something you often don’t get in comics where animals are concerned.
Tarr also gives Jo a much more distinct look than her single unfortunate appearance in the Gail Simone run: her hair is styled more specifically (and colorist Serge LaPointe tints it on the magenta end of the spectrum). Points also to LaPointe overall for a nice contrast between the muted, almost pastel colors of the more domestic stuff versus the fiery jewel hues of the action sequences. Tonally, the book is quite lovely.
Storywise, however, this is a bit all over the place–which is about what I have come to expect from Cameron Stewart and Brenden Fletcher, sad to say. The cameo from Luke Fox is welcome but too brief. Here’s a character who can actually work with Batgirl on an intimate level, but he’s kind of wasted as just the guy whose employee was targeted by the tiger-wielding maniac. We know from the solicits that we’ll see more of him later, so at least there’s that.
The crazy mix of high tech and tigers is so absurd it’s entertaining. In the vein of the Batman Adventures series, I can roll with it and it’s always good to see the development of more absurdly-themed female villains. The character of Velvet Tiger was originally created by Barbara Kesel and Trevor von Eeden for Detective Comics No. 518 (1982). Her last appearance was in the 1990s Hawk and Dove series, and she seems to have slumbered for the most part ever since.
As previously noted, this book is packed pretty tight, so it bears multiple readings. That’s not necessarily a bad thing since that can add value to a floppy when it’s not just some throwaway, but it can also give you a headache when a lot of that content feels like misdirection that’s not well-crafted or purposeful. To what am I specifically referring?
- Reintroducing Jeremy as a suspect. Maybe he’s still involved and working with Velvet Tiger, but he’s not well enough developed as a character at this point for us to care. The discussion about his ex-girlfriend is particularly just faxed in here.
- Having Luke Fox be involved–but not. I can’t even explain this one.
- Alysia and Jo’s wedding is, as predicted, the event of the century requiring all of Barbara’s input (and none of Jo’s apparently).
- Frankie’s deliberate self-insinuation into real danger and at the risk of blowing it for Barbara is not only worst-friend-ever material on her part, but I can’t figure out why Barbara ever trusted her with her secrets to begin with except that it was convenient for the writers.
And then you have far-fetched moments like this: 100-pound girl tackles 300-pound tiger.
I also kind of wish Tarr had done something more interesting with Velvet Tiger’s costume. I can’t tell you how tired I am of seeing “powerful” female characters in teeny tight skirts. At least her original costume from the 80s was a bodysuit, which is 1000x more practical, though neither offers any real protection.
That’s all I’m going to rage against this go-round. I feel like if you’re on board with the aesthetic of this book (frivolous, fun, and not terribly concerned about verisimilitude or characters with actual depth), then it remains a fun comicky read.
If you want something more with a strong predominantly female cast for your $2.99, I’d recommend Black Canary, Gotham Academy, or DC Bombshells.
It took four artists to come up with the cover for this issue. Four artists and the tigers look possessed, the foreground seems incomplete, the silhouette looks like a duck, and Batgirl is now an ugly 10-year-old boy wearing size 15 Doc Martens.
And then there’s this, which I’m going to call out again: Mysterious black woman with a limp related to red-haired Batgirl–both of them with cowls that do nothing to hide their actual faces?
I get it: secret identities are a big joke in this book. I know I should just let it go. But alter-egos are the foundation of superhero comics. Even when we tell ourselves it doesn’t matter, it’s kind of a big deal when characters are this careless (and this clueless).
- You like a big sprawling cast.
- Batgirl inexplicably planning a wedding for her ex-roommate sounds thrilling.
- Tigers as weapons intrigues you.
- You miss Luke Fox (where is Batwing when you need him?)
Weddings, Tigers, and Tech–oh my! Batgirl has her hands full as she tries to solve the case of a series of weaponized man-eating beasts unleashed on Gotham’s tech gurus. Stewart and Fletcher manage an organic connection between Alysia, Jo, and the tigers, but everything else feels like a muddy sprawl. The resurrection of Velvet Tiger is a welcome bit of fun, however, and the book ends on a cliffhanger that might actually raise the stakes for our Burnside Bat.