Every month I come to this book with some small ever-fading glimmer of hope, but notoriously low expectations, and every time those hopes are dashed and the expectations are met head-on. These last couple of issues, I’ve resorted to a page-by-page blow-by-blow in which I nitpick the comic to death.
This month I’m going to try to change this up by focusing all the power of my being into saying as least one nice thing per page about this title. Let’s see if that doesn’t help balance out the problem of feeling like I’m just eviscerating without any conscientious attempt to find the good in here.
So what’s happening in Batgirl? This blandly titled “Police & Thieves” issue continues the story about someone (from the GCPD, Babs suspects) who is feeding private information from her computer to law enforcement. Batgirl’s been hacked, essentially. So now she enlists the help of Spoiler and Bluebird to find out the source.
Let’s forget for a moment that it’s not really clear why Babs can’t deal with her security failings on her own. That it somehow requires the team to physically infiltrate the GCPD in stupid cop uniforms to somehow “break” this case. Because honestly, I couldn’t follow the logic of it and maybe that’s beside the point. If comics were logical, the Joker would be dead, right?
Cameron Stewart and Brenden Fletcher are still at the helm, but Babs Tarr takes a break and art duties for this issue get split between Eleonora Carlini (what a great name!) and Moritat.
So let’s take a look at what this issue has to offer:
Exposition between Babs and Spoiler to carry us over from the previous issue. Spoiler effuses some more. Yes, effuses. And nominates a helpmate into the crowded clan of this already convoluted cast.
I like Carlini’s art in that it’s similar enough to the energy that Babs Tarr brings to the page. The random bats against the moon is a nice touch.
Full pin-up-worthy page of Bluebird! Uh…the 90s called; they want their random pouches back. Thor is also not cool with you stealing his shoes.
Silly as this page is, at least it’s a nice dramatic angle?
This is where they explain the need for a “live hack” to send a feed back to Frankie for assessment. Again, not sure why it should take four people to do this…. Also, Batgirl just leaps her bike off a building. Onto what? Where? The other two girls are oozing with glee. I’m picturing Babs splatting on the pavement below.
Nice embarrassed expression on Bluebird’s face at the top of the page. Not sure it’s really keeping with her character, but it’s well-rendered.
Insufferable exposition between JimBats and his daughter. I love Gordon, but this just felt like filler. We don’t get any nuance of their father-daughter relationship. It’s just a flat conversation about Batman and Babs going on about that Greg guy we’d already forgotten about since last issue.
Babs wants her dad to grow back the mustache. Amen.
This conversation just goes on forever. I don’t feel like it adds anything to the action. All we get from it is that Babs is going to investigate on her own. We already knew that.
I like Babs’ outfit. It reminds me of the olden days for some reason. Also nice to see her in something with leggings instead of those short skirts she’s been sporting.
We get a scene straight out of some weird rom-com TV series: Frankie and Greg at each other’s throats over him rifling through Babs’ panty drawer. Babs shuts it down and tells Frankie she needs a secure location for tonight’s operation.
Why is Greg staying at their house?
Why can’t Frankie use the apartment where Spoiler is hiding out?
Why is this unnecessary complication even in here? And if it turns out Greg has something to do with the leak, I’m seriously going to have to throw something.
Something positive about this page? Rifling through the underwear is creepy, but kinda funny too.
Moritat takes over the art here. The shift is apparent and unfortunate. Proportions are wonky and the girls look like children. Also, Frankie has moved her secure operations to a public internet café. I give up.
There’s at least some attempt at making the architecture look like Gotham.
Babs and Spoiler wander into a chaotic precinct. How do they know it’s this exact precinct if the computer is off-line? That’s not important. This is comics! They find an unmanned computer that happens to be “the one” off in some private office somewhere while Bluebird mysteriously finds cables to randomly cut in some other undisclosed location. Yeah, I have no idea.
I like that the writers remembered irrelevant boyfriend no. 3, Liam Powell.
Enter random distracting masher with a perp in tow. A very dangerous perp with special handcuffs, but no one’s really paying her any mind. She’s even drawn to look like an innocuous Baby Huey. Also, Spoiler is okay with letting the cop give her a personal tour of the locker room–as long as she can take a shower after.
I had to read that several times. Un-freakin-believable.
I give this page zero positive points for being an affront to every possible feminist sentiment I have ever had.
Page 10 & 11
We’re going to speed this up a little because this is where the action kicks in. Babs and Steph set off an alarm that puts the precinct on lockdown. Bluebird cuts the power to cast them in the dark. Frankie shouts these orders as she bounds through the café (sigh), and perv cop gets a phone to the noggin after recognizing Babs. In the “chaos” the very lethal perp conveniently gets away.
Someone recognizes Babs for who she is. It’s a bleepin miracle.
Page 12 & 13
Apparently darkness causes the GCPD to panic like Keystone cops and run wildly about, flinging their arms around. Except the SWAT team: they clump together with their masks on and their lasersights all crowded together, the better to be easily taken out in one fell swoop, I guess? Also, Babs and Steph change into their costumes for no real reason. Seems like they could escape a lot easier if they just sauntered out as cops.
I’ve got nothing for this spread. Maybe it’s good that it hearkens back to Saturday Morning Cartoons?
Page 14 & 15
Vicki “Corporal Punishment” has now escaped her special cuffs and grown about fourteen feet tall.
Then this bit of head-smacking badly-rendered, badly-choreographed, even badly-colored action takes place:
Don’t stare at that panel in the right hand corner for too long, you might hurt yourself.
At least Vicki doesn’t look like Baby Huey anymore.
Page 16 & 17
Bluebird shows up to save the day with some kind of electro-laser gun. Honestly, I have no idea what I’m even reading at this point. And then, from the height of some building in Gotham (still at the GCPD?) the trio see a fleet of robots which aren’t even drawn for us. Truly: a mind-boggling sequence of events.
I like the starburst panel on Spoiler on page 16. Yeah.
Page 18 & 19
Carlini returns to close out the book with wall-to-wall exposition about Babs thinking she’s losing her mind and the great and powerful resource she built that can also be weaponized (I just keep thinking about Bane when I read this–only that was cool).
Two solid pages of blah blah blah that doesn’t really move anything forward, but Carlini draws some nice panels to handle the conversation. At least this is visually interesting. I’d really like to see more of Carlini’s work.
Mysterious lurking Spyral-like villain is tapping into Babs’ dreams. ‘Kay. It’s reinventing her memory of what she and Luke discussed? Changing the actual event? Who knows. It’s Greg isn’t it? It’s Greg.
This book feels like a low point for me in the series (I didn’t imagine it could get lower than no. 45). My “positive” point per page experiment feels like a failure. Looking back at the praises I was able to find, clearly the art stood out to me in Carlini’s pages. But storywise, this is just a mess. Not even the usual mess, but a mess with an extra helping of convolution. It’s so full of bizarre head-scratching moments I can’t even enjoy it on a popcorn throwaway level. I can take illogic and silliness and even a bumbling GCPD, but Babs continues to be a brainless wonder here, surrounding herself with a team of questionable worth, doing questionable things.
- You like art that is similar in style to Babs Tarr’s.
Even wonderful artist newcomer to this title Eleonora Carlini can’t surface this lead-lined Titanic sinker. Cameron and Fletcher wring out a plot so needlessly convoluted that it’s exhausing just trying to figure out what we should care about with the 20 pages we’re given. The truth is: not much. Batgirl continues to be well-nigh unrecognizable in her own book, surrounded by a diverse supporting cast with all the charm of printed paper towels. The addition of Spoiler and Bluebird here might make you long for the old Birds of Prey, but it’ll be a bitter nostalgia by comparison.