I guess I didn’t see this one coming. I fully expected the “Beyond Burnside” arc to be over, but Hope Larson gives us this one-shot epilogue to close things out (and Rafael Albuquerque gives us one last round on Babs Gordon). This is purely a transition piece, but it’s wonderfully comic-booky and reads like an episode of Batman: the Animated Series. Here Batgirl is smart and fun without sacrificing her integrity, and her impromptu team-up with Poison Ivy feels mostly organic (and that’s an apropos term).
Babs is returning to Burnside from Asia and in-flight drama ensues when a change in the cabin conditions sparks one of Ivy’s imports to life. In this case it’s Aristolochia Pugnaculi, a “prehistoric magnolid”, which is entirely made up (especially the voracious carnivorous plane-eating aspect of it). But the plant is based on an actual species (some of which are very rare and near extinction). Pugnaculi, by the way, means “fortress” in Latin. Here endeth the lesson.
Great deductive reasoning there, Batgirl!
There’s lots of silly stuff in this issue, but I’m going to let it pass. When you’re dealing with a plot that hinges on a girl in a batsuit fighting a giant angry vine on a crippled airliner, you kind of tend to look the other way while said girl changes into a costume that no one notices. On a plane. Where there are exactly two red-headed females aboard and one is the hero and one is the villain. I mean, honestly: sometimes you just have to shrug and turn the page.
Otherwise you might miss out on what proves to be a delightful little story. Larson’s slow burn on the first arc made me question whether she could tell a tighter tale, but this issue proves she can handle what amounts to popcorn fun. If you have been following my reviews for any amount of time, you know I love one-shots. The long arcs, unless extremely well-written can lose their impact over time–especially if they’re full of filler and stalling. Larson’s first arc was 5 issues and while it didn’t have a lot of filler, it was definitely feeling long after issue No. 4 and then wrapped up too suddenly for my tastes. This book shows that Larson knows how to pace a thriller, which is a skill I hope we see applied more succinctly in her next arc.
In this book, the relationship between Batgirl and Ivy has some wonderful dynamics. They’re not friends, but they have to work together. And they’re not enemies per se either: they understand one another’s point of view and try to be respectful of it.
For the good of the meatbags on board, will she or won’t she?
I like this too because even though this is pretty light fare, Larson sets up a complex problem with moral ramifications. The stakes are incredibly high (hello: airplane falling out of the sky) and Batgirl finds an ideal solution using her brain rather than relying on brute force. Better still, in spite of a cerebral resolution, this book has no lack of action. Larson avoids the old trope of the hero and “villain” duking it out before coming together to save the day, but paces this to maximize the tension and affords Batgirl plenty of physical challenges.
Albuquerque’s art is a perfect marriage for such a story. From his big dramatic splashes of the flaming vine-ravage plane to moments of light comedy as Batgirl and Ivy try to re-oxygenate demonstrate a range I know I will miss despite my confidence in Wildgoose. Albuquerque always seemed to have the right sense of Batgirl’s physique and facial expressions. She’s youthful without being a child, wiry and strong, and yet capable of softer moments too–of looking pretty or shy or goofy–all while never losing track of the fact that she’s a superhero. I think a large part of what the previous team did that just wasn’t working was that they were trying to make Barbara Gordon just like other young women today. But she isn’t. She’s Batgirl, and thank all the buttons that Larson and Albuquerque and the editorial team seem to understand that.
Lastly, yes, we meet Penguin’s weirdo kid in this at the very end in preparation for this next arc. Shades of Draco Malfoy perhaps? Hard to see Babs looking twice at this guy, but we’ll see how it goes!
- You’re a fan of Poison Ivy–I like her well enough in small doses.
- You love the thrill of a fiery plummeting airplane–I sure do!
- A one-shot Batgirl is just what the doctor ordered–I’m not a doctor, but I’m prescribing it anyway.
Hope Larson demonstrates that she can write a tight complex one-shot using lots of go-to comic tropes without completely rehashing tired scenarios. Batgirl here is funny, quick on her feet, and whip-smart. She also gets to display some fun gadgets. Even though Poison Ivy inadvertently causes part of the crisis, Batgirl is level-headed about what’s “just” under the circumstances. Okay, there’s some story silliness here due to the very nature of costumed superheroes, but if you can’t tolerate a little dual-persona illogic you shouldn’t be reading comic books to begin with.