I know a lot of people feel like Jervis Tetch is a “poor man’s Joker”, but I’ve always had a bit of a soft spot for the Mad Hatter because he’s just so crazy and pathetic. I also have a long-running love for the Alice in Wonderland world, so his Wonderland Gang was always a source of amusement for me. His middle-ground amorality is a good match for Batgirl, I think, given that his plots are generally terrible and misguided and he’s as true a candidate for Arkham as any ever was. Especially if the intention on the side of editorial is to maintain a slightly lighter touch on the scum and villainy in this comic book.
But all that introduction to say: things are not as they appear in this curious new arc from Hope Larson.
And you’re probably reading this thinking: yeah yeah yeah, get to the part about Dick Grayson already!
Okay: as the very lovely Dan Mora cover promises, Dick and Babs are together again! Well, sort of. At least they’re on a case. And talking to each other without it being some weird hissy fit catfight on Batgirl’s part (let’s just forget the last time they saw each other at Alyssia’s wedding, shall we?). It’s not exactly a spark in a powder keg here, but Larson does some nice things with their banter and their physical interactions, and the flashbacks to their teen years are fun.
There’s also specific mention of Dick’s recent “breakup” so it’s obvious that the team here knows it’s on everybody’s mind that Batgirl and Nightwing not only have a history, but it’s a history that many of the readers of this comic would like to see repeated (yes please).
I doubt that’s the path this will go, unfortunately, but I do hope Larson continues to take her time allowing these two characters to keep company as they team-up to solve this puzzling case.
It’s such an easy joke, but an effective one nonetheless!
So what exactly is the case?
Shades of I Know What You Did Last Summer cannot be ignored. It’s even in the title “Summer of Lies”. Apparently Dick and Babs knew a woman named Ainsley who was a substitute teacher at Babs’ high school, and with whom she worked at the Chive Garden (+1 for ridiculous unsubtle branding). Something clearly happened to this Ainsley person–something that makes Barbara feel guilty and uncomfortable about–and it’s coming back to haunt them.
In an opening scene, two girls dressed as in harlequin-ish outfits (with ruffs) and sporting matching wigs and eyeglasses to look like Ainsley, do backwards dives off a rooftop, clearly under the influence of someone….mad?
Mad as in crazy, or mad as in angry is the question (possibly both). And that leads them back to Jervis Tetch.
What did you do, Barbara Gordon?
Chris Wildgoose returns to the art (with Jose Marzan Jr. on inks). As usual his Batgirl is looking very sharp, but I have to say I’m thoroughly disappointed with his Nightwing. Not only is Dick’s physique weirdly girlish and small, but his face is completely bland. It’s not merely devoid of sufficient contrast, but of any kind of character. It’s like Wildgoose used no model for his generic background-ground random male appearance.
And then, to add insult to injury, Dick’s costumes are bizarro as well. His Robin suit in particular feels pretty awful. It hangs baggy from his hips like a pair of oversized underoos. And why are they in costume watching the cheerleaders drill anyway? The whole conversation could have (and maybe should have) happened in mufti considering it’s broad daylight and anyone can see them hanging out together (not that secret identities have held the least bit of concern in this comic since forever).
Overall this is an entertaining comic. It’s got its story problems–like why in world would Babs ever apply for and take a waitressing job when she’s a computer genius? And it’s got its art issues (aforementioned Dick). But I’m curious about the introduction of a new villain (that’s right–Mad Hatter has company here!), and I’m looking forward to more interactions between Batgirl and Nightwing! Hope Larson, don’t let us down!
- You ship DickBabs hard.
- You like the Wonderland Gang and all the weirdness it entails.
- Flashbacks of Batgirl and Robin in their early years is of interest!
Hope Larson nicely juxtaposes a seriously dark opening with some wackier elements where concerns the Mad Hatter. If the last outing didn’t have sufficient stakes or gravitas, this one looks like it will satisfy those requirements quite nicely. The team-up between Batgirl and Nightwing feels overdue and though the artwork suffers a tad with regards to Dick, I think his overall interactions with Barbara will please the fans who have been looking forward to a reunion between these two favorite Batfamily members!