The first thing I want to appreciate about this issue is that Hope Larson has given us a one-shot, which we just have too few of in comics these days. The current trend is long-spanning arcs and multi-plot narratives that last virtually forever, it seems. This is a big improvement over the cross-over hell in of days of old where you couldn’t even get a complete story without having to slog through books and characters you didn’t even like. But still, these short comic stories are a special art form that I wish more writers would indulge (and more editors would permit, if that’s what’s keeping it from happening).
“Troubled Waters” is a bit of a troubled story, but it’s kind of entertaining anyway. Probably the main difficulty with the story is that it’s predictable. In the opening scene, Batgirl asserts that there’s a “scientific” explanation for the ghost that’s haunting the pool at the local Y, that that the “medium” or spiritualist who is ghost hunting and trying to profit from the endeavor is full of bunk.
Of course the spiritualist is also written as completely over-the-top ridiculous and ghosts are treated like fantasy creatures, whereas interdimensional travel is treated as, yep, thoroughly scientific.
This may not bother too many readers, but it bothered me. First of all, because both things have a theoretical basis and the only reason to dismiss Little Miss Ghost-Hunter is because she’s portrayed as a quack. This struck me as a kind of lazy. She got more interesting once she started dismissing Batgirl’s theory in pursuit of her own objectives, but I feel like the story never ultimately satisfies that angle: the ghost hunter is irritated that she turns out to be wrong, but that’s it. And sillier still, having seen what she has just seen doesn’t impress her in the least. Because in the world of superheroes, interdimensional travel is a ho-hum every day occurrence, but proof of ghosts would be…revelatory?
Nancy Drew Batgirl and the Mystery of the Haunted Y
We see some old familiar faces from Burnside in this issue. Qadir makes an appearance–always did like him. He introduces Batgirl to Analyn Ku, who helps figure out the science of this (such as it is). Frankie also shows up at the end and we’re reminded that she’s running Gordon Clean Energy (which won’t seem to die).
We get the faintest hint, too, that this story may eventually have larger implications. The girl who has gone missing, Liana Soto, might have (literally) internalized some interesting kind of power through her ordeal, so I suspect we may see her again and this story will have served as a prologue of sorts.
Eleonora Carlini still has one of the coolest names in the business and the skills to render Batgirl in a way that’s fun without being frivolous. She does have the occasional tendency to let perhaps a bit too much animé influence slip into some of the more intentionally comical facial expressions, which can compete stylistically on the page now and then with the environment and tone. But I like that Batgirl always looks like a young woman (rather than a little girl), and the action sequences are honest–none of this winking and nodding or making cutesy “effort” faces as way of trying to convey tension.
It’s a bit Spiderman, but at least we see her land!
Carlini gets to play with some (not) supernatural elements here too, which is fun: the “ghost” is presented as a somewhat humanoid-shaped energy ball and toward the end it undergoes a cool transformation. There is a lot of figurework in this story (numerous crowds of people), and Carlini manages to make them not look homogeneous and vapid, which is a tough gig in comics; so often when you scrutinize a crowd in an action scene everyone has the same face and bland, nondescript clothing.
Also, I gotta say I love Batgirl’s swimsuit in this. Looks appropriately like diving gear. Good call.
Also worth a mention are Cris Pete’s colors throughout. The choice of crazy 90s magenta for the energy ball is effective and I love the pool at night with the shadows on the wall and the water.
- You like one-shot stories!
- You’re a fan of Eleonora Carlini.
- You need something for your little sister to read.
I bumped this book up half a point just for being self-contained, fun, and well-rendered. The story isn’t particularly revelatory or revolutionary in any way, but this is a generally satisfying bit of entertainment: it has a mystery, it has some good characterizations, a little bit of detective work, and art that’s fun to parse. The subject may not work for everyone–the use of interdimensional shenanigans feels like a little bit of a push for this title, but all-in-all, it’s a solid comic book.