This comic book has problems, but I don’t care and I’m giving it a relatively high score because it was just such a fun kick in the pants to read: start to finish, just a solid adventure you might enjoy from an episode of Batman: the Animated Series, for example: fun, light-hearted, and fast-paced. And if you have followed my reviews for any length of time, you know I like a solid single-shot issue–probably a lot more than lengthy, sprawling year-long arcs.
So let’s get the problems out of the way: the basic premise is a little silly. There’s a goo monster in the sewers trying to join up with bits of itself that have been dispersed through a cosmetic (feels like a premise straight out of Bat Family from the 70s, and, if I’m honest, reads about that level of sophistication). But that’s not important right now. Probably the weakest part of it that matters is that the resolution as far as the monster is concerned goes nowhere. Maybe writer Hope Larson will return to this thing or the company that bore it eventually, but for now it’s just a kill-the-creature sort of story, which isn’t actually all that interesting on the surface.
The other problem is with the interior art. Right from the opening scene: a woman with a red-haired pony-tail is in her bathroom. She’s talking to a male partner named Paul, but I assumed the girl was Barbara at first. If the deception was intentional, it’s obnoxious. If the deception was not intentional, is there a reason John Rauch colored her hair red? It’s so needlessly distracting. As are a number of choices artist Scott Godlewski makes throughout. More on that in a moment.
Who could it be???
The basic plot of biotech-gone-bad isn’t anything earth-shattering, but I like the simplicity of it: someone did something ecologically stupid and the result is a muck monster made of purple goo that’s living in the sewers and haunting the people whose vanity has propelled them to support an industry that’s poisoning the environment.
I just made it sound really heavy-handed, which is something Larson thankfully avoids! It’s just a toxic sludge monster; Batgirl and her father team up to figure this out, but there’s no lengthy lecture about the irresponsibility of it all, nor any judgment leveled at people like “Claire” in the opening scene, who have fallen victim to this product.
But the best thing about this book, hands-down, is the delight of watching Babs and her dad work together. Does he know she’s Batgirl? You know he has to; he’s not an idiot. But they both play dumb and that’s also part of the fun. This book has too long ignored Batgirl’s real family in order to concentrate on giving her a “new” one of Burnside friends and colleagues. While there’s nothing wrong with that, I really have missed her connection with the rest of the Bat-verse, so seeing her father here, and seeing her recognize that she ought to spend more quality time with him (on and off the job), gives me hope that he may yet become a more regular presence in this series.
Yes please: more of this!
Scott Godlewski’s art serves and he tries to do some nice things, like adding urgency to sequences where characters are more or less just talking stuff out. I like that papa Gordon hustles and isn’t just slouching around in his trenchcoat being a static gumshoe. I also think the action with the giant purple sludge thing is well-executed. The way the creature attacks and absorbs is exciting and a scene in which Batgirl tries to combat it with bleach tracks really well though it could have been very confusing.
That said, Godlewski has some quirks that I found very distracting. His character’s facial expressions distort them so far off model they too often look like silly putty in close-ups, and the join of Batgirl’s legs to her torso is so awkward in such a front-and-center way on a number of pages. At the end of the book, Babs is relaxing in her bedroom, wearing a pony tail, and looking exactly like random “Claire” from the beginning of the book, Rauch even bathes the scenes in a soft yellow palette, which is similar to the opening. Again: just a really weird choice overall.
All that said, the cover by Dan Mora is outstanding! Just a great standard fight scene with a fun teaser question and our heroes imperiled. I like my comics books to look like comic books and this one does!
- Jim Gordon in the thick of the action! Yes, Virginia, Batgirl does have a father!
- You need a one-and-done bit of fluff for Spring Break.
- You’ve been pining for actual detective work that isn’t just someone scanning something and being told by a computer everything they need to know.
Hope Larson gives a story that reckons back to comics of old with an emphasis on the character interactions between Commissioner Gordon and his Batdaughter, and good old-fashioned detective work. There’s a lot of silliness here that can’t be rationally explained in any way, and the artwork warbles a bit, but overall this is just a fun book with a simple premise quickly brought to a conclusion. And if you like big gooey irrational purple monsters, even better!