This plus-sized issue is 40 pages of Batgirl, but before you get too excited about that, let me just state up front that 7 of those pages are basically pin-ups, 5 of which are masquerading as pages, but really serve as weird “deathmatch” promos to set up the various fights throughout the book–in case we needed to be told who was matched in the fight rather than just, I don’t know, seeing it play out in the storytelling?
Filler to the rescue!
But look at me, being all snarky and cynical right out of the gate. Let’s focus on the things about Cameron Stewart and Brenden Fletcher’s “Open Mind” with an open mind, shall we?
The Good: Endings and Renderings
The Fugue storyline comes to a conclusion as Babs and her motley gang square off against not-Greg and basically all the previously featured villains who have been liberated by Fugue and are now helping him for long convoluted reasons that are maybe explained, but mostly just sound like: well, comics.
Strangely I’m okay with this. I mean, whatever, right? It’s not really taking itself so seriously at this point, so it might as well be fun. And this book reads like a Saturday morning cartoon. No lie. It’s bubblegum through-and-through.
The emphasis on the book is action, with a lot of villains facing off against a lot of heroes. On the downside there are so many fights that none of them seem very consequential and they’re mostly over before you even have a chance to get into them. On the up side, the book moves at a pace that almost compensates for the ridiculously heavy helpings of exposition it needs to even attempt something like sense.
Like last issue, this one’s got a lot of people contributing to the art and I have to say it mostly works.
There are some panels or moments that maybe feel a little weak, but overall the style is generally consistent and the book feels coherent. It helps that the style for this book is pretty broad to begin with, but I’ve never had a problem with the tone Babs Tarr originally set for the series. I enjoyed seeing John Timms’ work here as I regularly enjoy his stuff in Harley Quinn. Unfortunately he’s the only artist besides Tarr whose work I can recognize.
Seriously, Chris Conroy or whoever’s in charge: can you at least credit the pages for the artists? I’m annoyed that they’re fussed enough to give Stewart breakdown credits, but can’t be bothered about the people actually drawing? Tacky.
The Not Great:
Heavy helpings of exposition.
It’s nothing new in this book, for sure, but we’re definitely at that place where I feel like the story is so complex (and not in a good way) that the characters have to explain themselves, their actions, their plans, and what happened before on nearly every page that isn’t just a brawl. Fortunately there’s a lot of brawling in this book, but it doesn’t prevent us from having double-page spreads like this one:
I don’t know whether to read this or look for my Uncle Wiggly dice so I can get “home”
This could actually be a cool page if the artist (who I can’t name because, well, see above) had made the callouts a bit larger and more stylistically contrasted compared to the map. As is, the whole thing is too flat, there are too many words and no real visual clues as to whether there’s a preferred reading order. Also, the words on the map compete with the dialogue and in some cases, it’s impossible to know who’s actually talking.
On the one hand this is all exposition and plotting that we don’t actually need to begin with given the facile nature of the story, but on the other, it feels like a misfire opportunity.
The other problem with this book is the same problem it always seems to have: the story just isn’t great. Things go from confusing to silly to downright eye-rolling with everything from convenient über-tech that solves all the problems (hijacked Batman mechas, neural implants) to baffling on-the-street antics like this:
This just happened, seriously.
The megahedron plot is completely a non-starter. Not only does the book try to drum up all this drama about something blowing up, but it resolves everything with a wave of the hand at the end and even during the crisis it becomes all about Barbara personally, which is just wretchingly unpalatable. Something just blew up, but Batgirl is talking to the media about how the Gordons are good people? She’s a freakin’ superhero for crying out loud. Stop getting your DeMille on and go save somebody. This was the low point of the book for me.
The Worst: It’s Still Greg…and Batgirl 90210
At the end of the day, nothing much happens with the megahedron thing that’s basically ripped off from The Dark Knight Rises, and Greg Fugue is just robbing another bank. Who even has the energy to roll their eyes after everything we’ve seen up to this point?
So when Babs does some “clever” thing in which she reverses the brainwashing (I won’t even try to explain how), and jettisons Fugue to the GCPD via some conveniently restructured pneumatic tube, well, bravo.
Doesn’t change the fact that it’s still Greg robbing a bank and defeating him is just a convoluted technobabble during which he’s backed into a Willy Wonka-esque one-way-ticket to jail.
Lastly, the two Batgirl pin-ups really sort of capture what’s wrong with the series overall. One by Cameron Stewart shows the girls in street clothes fixated on their cell phones in front of a bat signal (um…wow…heroic?), and the other by Joe Quinones and Jordan Gibson is of the girls clubbing…or something. This is a superhero comic, right?
Evidently not since there’s Luke at the end running Barbara’s Clean Energy company. Or something. Because that’s a good use for this amazing character:
Luke should have died a martyr under the rubble in Eternal; it would have spared him this.
- You want to see the end of the Fugue storyline. It’s still Greg.
- You need something in place of the lost Saturday morning cartoons. This would fit right in, a slot below BTAS, and maybe one above Rugrats (sorry, my frame of reference is probably really dated).
Batgirl finally comes face to face with Fugue (while her team takes down an 11th hour cadre of recycled villains that are even less interesting the second time around). While the story continues to suffer from expositional convolutions and leaps of logic too vast for even Batgirl’s magical motorcycle to bridge, this is mostly just goofy cartoon fun and can be enjoyed at that level. Maybe I’m getting soft as I know we’ll have a creative shift in the summer. Maybe I’m tired of fighting how absurd this book is in context of the rest of the Batman canon. Or maybe this particular issue just manages to be marginally entertaining because it doesn’t seem to take itself seriously (and how can it, really?). How’s that for a perfect middle-of-the-road offering?