“Summer of Lies” continues as Batgirl and Nightwing deepen their investigation into ex-colleague Ainsley’s potential vendetta (using nano-technology and possibly the Wonderland Gang to further aims we still have yet to fully identify).
This story is using all of Barbara Gordon’s skill sets: doing the detective work to piece together how current events are likely informed by what happened in the past, identifying and isolating the kind of technology Ainsley has developed to potentially control others, and then just using her physical skills to deal with immediate threats, surveillance, and other challenges. It’s the best kind of well-rounded take on the character and something that’s always going to be difficult for any writer of Batgirl who is trying to satisfy fans who have, in the past, loved her iterations as Oracle, for example.
We get to see Babs use that infamous photographic memory of hers, but also put her tech-savvy to work. Meanwhile, Nightwing isn’t just left to toddle along after her; he’s got an active role in the investigation, even though we’re not sure yet how much he knows about Ainsley and what happened in the past. Through flashbacks, Babs recollects pertinent moments that have led up to this and it’s fun to watch young Robin and young Batgirl work what appears to be their first case together.
The case involves teenagers who are being given some kind of unidentifiable hallucinogen–not a drug, per se–which causes them to lose their minds. When these two geeks have a chance to infiltrate a “popular kids” party, they jump right in, disguising themselves as ordinary teenagers (which isn’t much of a stretch for them, but it’s still amusing to watch).
Yep, she didn’t know his name until now
I wanted to try to confirm it, but I could almost swear these two outfits are at least reminiscent of original clothing they wore in their first appearances. Might just be purely a coincidence, but kind of an awesome one if that’s the case!
With the timeline hopping back and forth, we’re learning more about their past case, but also making progress at the hospital with poor Mad Hatter, who has spilled the beans about a “Red Queen”–a villain neither Babs nor Dick is familiar with, though both connect her potentially to this mysterious tech-genius Ainsley. It also quickly becomes apparent that they are being watched or followed. Or that the person who got to the Mad Hatter is getting to other people around them, starting with the staff at the hospital.
Let’s face it: we’ve had lots of mind-control plots in these comics over the years and right now there’s not much to separate a mind control plot dished out by the Hatter versus this one from the Red Queen. It’s strongly hinted, of course, that it’s tech-based, but do was the last mind-control plot involving the creepy developer guy and his brain-altering apps. So right now, the compelling aspect of the story is less about the agenda of the Red Queen and more about whatever it was Babs and Dick did to set her off. What is the ultimate goal of this revenge?
Awww, look at him blush!
Chris Wildgoose continues on art duties (with Jose Marzan Jr. still on inks). Some of the problems I identified last go-round persist, though Dick/Nightwing seems a little livelier; his face has a nicer range of emotions this time. Their “past” costumes still seem to sag and bag strangely, but I’m starting to find it charming rather than distracting: the characters are perhaps literally growing into these larger-than-life personalities. Wildgoose also handles some complex subject very well: a woman fighting with fluorescent bulbs that shatter, an experimental treatment with an MRI machine that goes horribly wrong. This moment in particular is almost played for laughs and Wildgoose gets away with it, I think, because the reaction of the characters is so dead-on accurate as to how you probably feel as a reader as well.
There’s a lot of sleuthing and character-building in this one, so not as much chance for the art to truly shine, but sometimes I think ably handling talking scenes or conveying exposition without making it pale and dull is quite the accomplishment. Sometimes the proportions still seem weird (long, stretchy, spindly bodies, heads that feel occasionally mismatched), but the eye doesn’t just gloss over looking for the next thing, so I think it’s overall effective.
Lastly, Dan Mora’s cover is well worth a mention: just a wonderful pin-up worthy tease that’s actually paid off in the book (if it hadn’t been, I would have ranted!). It also nicely incorporated this sort of other-worldliness or sense of illusion that will no doubt play into the plot as we go deeper down the proverbial rabbit hole.
- You’re still shipping DickBabs! Now with 80% more shippable content.
- You enjoy a slow-burn mystery and discovering dark pasts.
- You want to enjoy the contrast of Batgirl and Nightwing first learning to work together juxtaposed with them at a more mature stage in their super-hero-ing later on.
Hope Larson brings her A-game to the second installment of a storyline that finally brings Nightwing back into Batgirl’s life. They’re on a case and it is closely entwined with something that happened to them in the past, so there’s plenty of time here for reflection over their years together fighting crime under the cowl (and/or the domino). This raises a lot of questions about how exactly Barbara came to be part of this crime-fighting family, but I don’t expect we’ll get a lot of answers: Larson’s thrust is firmly focused on their immediate case–and their immediate “relationship” in all the presumed meanings of that word.