Tim Seeley writes a darn good Batgirl book! You probably don’t need to read this tie-in to follow along with the Cat and Bat nuptials, but if you skipped it, you’d only be doing yourself a disservice. Even if this wasn’t a marginally wedding-themed plot, it makes for straight-up solid reading as a stand-alone comic.
The premise is that age-old one: figure out the puzzles or people die. The Riddler even remarks on the cliché of it, but it works anyway for the most part. He’s provided Batgirl with an analog player so that she can’t track or trace him, and so she’s running around the city listening to cassette tapes that simultaneously wax on about The Ridder’s life in relationships, the impending wedding, the Joker’s involvement in turning everything upside-down, and, gradually, the creepy realization that The Riddler maybe has the hots for Batgirl due to her intellect.
It’s as creepy as it sounds. And also as effective as it needs to be. And Batgirl runs the gauntlet like a champ: sussing out the riddles, following the clues, and ultimately confronting The Riddler face-to-face.
Nothing quite like a sociopathic egomaniac panting in your ear while you’re trying to rescue people!
The conceit of the cassette player works for the most part, but once Batgirl finds The Riddler (or rather, once she discovers he’s lying in wait for her), for some silly reason the headphones stay on and she continues to listen to his monologue as they duke it out. This was an unfortunate choice, i think. I was immediately burped out of the action by how little sense that made: why would Batgirl leave the phones on to distract her? How did The Riddler time it exactly so that he would be yapping on about this climactic stuff just as they engaged? Nope. Sorry Seeley.
And what an easy fix for the headphones to come off and The Riddler to just say all this stuff live and in-person. Maybe I’m missing some subtle demand for it to have gone down this way, but for dramatic effect, I think having the words come out of his mouth rather than off a cassette player would have been much more fearsome, bizarre, and dangerous.
So what about all the big questions? No, I don’t mean the riddles, I mean the three biggest teases of this book. I have to drop them all under a spoiler, though I’m guessing most of you have read this book already and I’m sure you caught them:
- Batgirl’s coming off yet another failed relationship. I immediately rolled my eyes at this one, but no sooner had my eyeballs made their revolution than I saw that it was going somewhere with purpose: the reintroduction of Dick Grayson as a love interest for Babs. And not just any love interest, but her one true love. It felt like a cruel tease at first, but by the end of the book, Babs is on the phone with Dick, casually asking him out. Can I get a tween squee from the pigeon gallery?
- Babs and Dinah chumming it up on the phone. The latest venture out with the Birds of Prey was unfortunately not a fan favorite (and that’s putting it mildly). But we get hints of a team in the making. This is Babs on the phone with Dinah. Not Frankie or Alyssa or any of her Burnside cohorts. It’s time Batgirl was a superhero again instead of a moonlighting hipster. Maybe if we click our heels and say “I believe” enough, our wishes will come true.
- That epilogue: maybe it seems like a throwaway moment to some people, but I didn’t even need to turn the page to know who had dragged The Riddler down to the docks. Harley Quinn is looking for Puddin’ and though she settled with him in the pages of Harley Quinn some time ago, her interest in him now again is sure to rock some boats. In a book in which the theme is a yin to everyone’s yan, the implications of Harley busting up this party is one of the most intriguing developments yet.
Pretty sure Riddler wore this exact costume in Riddle Me This, Nazi Bliss.
Minkyu Jung continues to be an absolutely stellar match for Batgirl: the clarity of his images make the book a joy to read; moving the action cleanly along and often breaking the panels for great dramatic effect, whether it’s layering in Batgirl’s detective work over Nigma’s smug pondering, or accentuating the action by flinging Barbara literally off the page. And he populates Burnside with a wonderful cast of supporting characters, even when some of them are practically blink-and-you’ll-miss-them walk-ons.
Riddler’s henchmen and henchwomen wear comic-book goofy, but somewhat practical outfits: a nice balance that recalls past Riddler costuming (which has run the gamut of ludicrous over the many decades), but I didn’t really like the way Riddler himself was rendered. Something about that open shirt to make display of his so-edgy question mark scar was somehow sillier to me than chicks fighting in fishnets. Your mileage may vary.
Overall, though this is a well-rendered book and Batgirl herself looks amazing on every page. I love, too, how beat up she gets by the end of it all. We can see she’s had a full night’s workout and isn’t fresh as roses as she finally gets ready to go home and hang up the cowl. It’s a small detail, but a significant one.
- You need a pure adrenalin rush of action; this book is almost non-stop in motion with Batgirl kicking buns and burning through burgers.
- You like the coy gamester methods of The Riddler in all his sleazy glory.
- You’re up for a well-rounded tie-in that we don’t need, but is full of interesting and fun clues about what may be on the horizon.
There’s not a lot of wedding-talk tie-ins in this book, but the theme of soul mates runs strong throughout, with some curious ramifications for a number of key characters. Could Batman’s big event be the springboard for some major long-term shift in the direction for Batgirl (and others)? Or is it all a big tease and everything will collapse under the weight of his momentous event? For now, fill your goblets to the brim with hope because Seeley’s taut tumbler of a Batgirl tale may be promising us some things we’ve been patiently awaiting for what seems like far too long!