The “Strange Loop” closes out this era of Batgirl with slightly more whimper than bang, but this was nevertheless a satisfying conclusion (both to the loop itself, and in preparation for the incoming new crew in June). Larson’s work on the book has been consistent in its unevenness, but that’s actually helped stabilize a book that feels like it’s been in free fall since Gail Simone left. There’s still a lot of work to do here, but I continue to be optimistic of Batgirl’s chances of crawling out of this hole.

And crawling out of a hole is exactly what Barbara Gordon does in this issue: she’s trapped down a rabbit warren of her own conflicts, lost in an “alternate” reality where the past has come back to haunt her and she’s faced with many things in her life that remain unresolved.

To be clear, not a lot ultimately gets resolved here. This feels like a lengthy therapy session during which Batgirl battles with her psyche as much as some pseudo-physical apparitions. It works, though. Larson doesn’t belabor Babs’ internal conflict to the point at which you want to scratch out your eyes. The fact that this is only a two-parter also helps: it keeps the narrative compact and prevents the story from killing us with alternate reality ennui.

And there’s plenty of action!

Fortunately Babs realizes something is very wrong with this strange world: things are too “clean”, too coincidental, and too easy on some levels. And when things escalate to someone kidnapping her father, she puts it all together on-scene that none of it really makes any sense. I’m grateful for Larson for making Batgirl not dumb enough to fall for any of this, and also for getting to the point of it quickly.  The “resolution” may leave some people feeling a bit staggered in its necessary banality, but it’s the right choice for the story, I think.

People also may be disappointed at the lack of a “big bad” here, or the non-explanations for much of what happens, but I’m satisfied with the emotional journey. The rest are just details. I feel cautiously optimistic because I feel like Babs has been “reinventing” herself over and over for quite a few iterations at this point.

Will this be the one that finally “clicks”?

We deserve a strong Batgirl who isn’t more interested in the dating scene than the crime scene and who also isn’t endlessly wallowing in self-pity and self-doubt.  Larson seems to be making a promise on that score, but it’s up to the new team to decide whether and how they might follow through on that.

In the meantime, i still love the conceit of Fruit Bat (best new thing Larson brought to Barbara’s world), and though I don’t want to see this book go too woo-woo, it’s one of the elements that I hope might carry over. And if it doesn’t, that’s okay too. Just so long as we get Batgirl on her feet where she belongs.

I unapologetically love this moment

Minkyu Jung continues to be a great choice for this book and brings some lovely depth to many moments throughout; from the clarity of his action sequences, to the sensitivity of his facial expressions. As noted last time, his environments are rich as well: Burnside looks like a real city that’s not populated by generic architecture and people.

The fracturing of the alternate reality is effective and fun for a bit of meta-level storytelling.  I like the way the panels literally break as Batgirl works her way through.

Dan Mora does the main cover here, which is very nice (his work has been great throughout this run). It’s a bit overwrought for what we get, I think, but from a technical perspective a thoroughly well-executed composition. I actually prefer the simpler variant by Joshua Middleton is outstanding for the elegance of Batgirl’s profile. It’s fairly generic as a portrait, but just a lovely image, lovingly rendered–and as nice a send-off for this epoch as any.

 

Recommended If…

  • You want to see Larson bring it all to a close.
  • You’re optimistic about Batgirl’s future and like stories about looking forward.
  • Still more Fruit Bat!

Overall

This closing story from Larson revisits elements from her opening on her Batgirl run, but the echoes are merely that: echoes. So you may not get the depth of answers you are hoping for here, nor the connections that could tie it perfectly all together, but there are subtle satisfying suggestions throughout: that Batgirl’s priorities have not been in order, that she needs to focus on what actually matters, and that she’s determined to make a fresh start. She may not be ditching the casual costume yet, but this is yet another step in what definitely feels like the right direction for this book!

SCORE: 7.5/10