With a title like “Strange Loop” I can only hope that writer Hope Larson isn’t planning to Ground Hog day us with this closing arc on Batgirl. So far the signs are good that we’re in for a different kind of strange, though. With Shawn Aldridge stepping in for the June issue, Larson will take a (very short) break and interesting things seem to be brewing on the horizon as Batman gears up for his impending nuptials. What ramifications that might have for Batgirl remain to be seen, but in the meantime, it seems like Larson wants to tidy up some story threads before it happens.
Mostly these are lines that were introduced in Larson’s premiere arc with Batgirl and characters she brought into this world in Singapore (who originally didn’t make it back to Burnside). Well guess what?
It all starts pretty run-of-the-mill: Batgirl intervenes in a domestic violence situation and is zapped with what she believes is some kind of painful taser weapon that momentarily incapacitates her. Ultimately she takes out the bad guy (as we would expect), and goes home with a pat on the back.
Ouch! That’s gotta hurt
Her slow and painful recovery from the jolt, however, is our first clue that maybe something is not quite right. And as she goes through her day she finds herself encountering people she hasn’t seen a very long time, the first of which is old chum Kai.
I’ll just be straight with you here. The moment I saw Kai and Babs immediately has “feelings” for him, I wanted to chuck this book so hard. Not only was Kai never that interesting to begin with, but he proved over and over to be rather dull-witted,s o it’s hard to imagine why on earth Babs would even be attracted to him.
But here he was, and there Babs was, agreeing to go out with him. And they have this weird conversation about feeling in a rut. No, not that kind of a rut. A mental rut (keep your minds out of the gutter). I began to despair that Batgirl was right back to mooning over boys and complaining about her life (her least endearing traits since the former writing team had taken over the book).
Later, Batgirl runs into likewise old chum May. At least now she suspects there’s something strange going on: the coincidence is too much. Also, May doesn’t quite seem herself, a fact that’s proved when Babs agrees to spar with her and things take an unexpected turn.
Honestly: Babs shouldn’t even have a secret identity
The real turn comes, however, when Batgirl begins to seriously investigate what May’s up to. She finds herself in a fight pit with a medically enhanced and mindlessly mad May, and gets knocked so hard she finds herself in a liminal domain in which she meets Fruit Bat, who helped her Singapore under similar circumstances.
Not sure where this is going, but it’s clear that Babs has got to do some mental house-cleaning to work her way out of this one (the cover by Dan Mora telegraphs this from the get-go). I’m cautiously optimistic about where this might lead. Hopefully Larson is swinging for the upper tier on this story, as it would be a great way to bookend this run.
Minkyu Jung, probably most well known to us from work on Nightwing, though he had done some work on Batgirl under the previous writing team and has also contributed to Gotham Academy, has a nice clean-line aesthetic for this book. He establishes nice-looking environments that are nether cluttered nor too empty, and his action sequence in the ring makes the most of great angles. I feel like the anatomy on May is a big much–and suddenly so: she went from looking buff but fairly normal in the locker room to total roid-rage in the ring. We’ve seen this before in the original MMA story, but it still feels jarring for some reason. May’s hulking appearance definitely takes her in to the realm of monster.
One very minor nitpick with the art: what’s up with Bab’s hair? It’s hatcheted and weird. She looks okay in a pony tail, but when it’s down and she isn’t wearing the cowl, she looks like a 90s punk band reject. Like I said: very minor complaint.
- Between Batman, Batwoman, and Harley Quinn, you just can’t get enough psychotropia.
- You enjoyed Hope Larson’s first arc and the focus on MMA fighting.
- Fruit Bat!
Hope Larson returns to her opening arc as she brings Batgirl full circle–but perhaps only to a point. Things are not entirely as they seem and, not surprisingly, it may be that there’s some creepy tech involved to make it so. It’s interesting to revisit characters like Kai and May, whom we haven’t seen for a very long while, and especially Fruit Bat, who felt like a wonderful sage who may even have been underused in her original appearance. It looks like Larson wants to give her run on the title some proper closure and that would be pretty cool.