There are four stories in this extra-long anniversary issue, and not a dud among them! As deals go, this is a good one, with our new Batgirl writers coming out with the heavy ammunition in not one, but two of the included tales–one of which looks like it will be the kick-off to the ongoing series.
Also especially worth noting, art from the likes of Paul Pelletier of Aquaman fame (among others, including previous work on Batgirl), Tom Derenick who’s been with us throughout Injustice, and Emanuela Lupacchino who won my heart with her work on Starfire. Dan Panosian rounds out the foursome. I loved his work on Batwoman, but the style is a bit hardlined for the story he renders in this book–it works, but I would have liked to have seen a softer touch given the narrative.
So let’s get to it:
In “The Reason”, Mairghread Scott starts off with a somewhat uncomfortable story that connects quite comfortably into where we’ve left off in Batgirl’s life. There is a bit of goofiness here: why is Babs lurking up in the balcony in her costume when she could have done the respectable thing and just showed up as herself “incognito” to pay proper tribute at the funeral. But that’s okay, I think, because what unfolds is interesting enough to make forgiving that little bit of thoughtlessness easy.
This is a great story that not only ties up some loose threads, but carries over from the Batwedding and Batgirl’s tie-book to that failed event. The tie-in was already pretty strong, but this story helps it to resonate even further, and gives us all some perspective on what went down in the church with the Joker, and some closure.
From one church to another; it’s visually beautiful
The first story actually leads directly into the second one, penned by Marguerite Bennett. “Hopeless Romantic” serves, perhaps as an epilogue for the whole, and will no doubt please many fans who feel strongly that Dick and Babs belong together. Forever.
Barbara Gordon is feeling pretty low. Things have turned out badly and she’s recently been struggling with a lot of upheaval. There’s been a refrain, most lately reinforced by the mother of a slain acquaintance in the previous story, that she needs to be with someone.
So she calls Dick.
I think what’s loveliest about this story is that Bennett is careful not to overpromise. Dick and Babs hijack Bruce and Selina’s unused Honeymoon Suite (there’s some silliness there, but who cares–Dick and Babs are together in a Honeymoon Suite, right?), and they just talk. That’s it. That’s the comic. But what they say is important and Bennett handles the characters and their conversation well. I won’t tell you how it turns out, but I will say I’m really looking forward to seeing whether this will carry over into the regular on-going series of both characters.
Nothing subtle about that
Our third story, “Value” returns us to Mairghread Scott and I kind of have to wonder why, editorially, this one wasn’t placed last since it appears to be the launching place for where Batgirl goes next.
Still regardless of the placement, it kicks off a new case for Batgirl that is sure to be an interesting pursuit and seems to be setting up a bit of a mystery that may require some old-fashioned detective work even though Babs already knows the perp.
Especially since Batgirl and Grotesque have a history. The creepy underworld criminal was created by Gail Simone during the New 52, and badgered Babs throughout Batgirl: Knightfall and Batgirl: Wanted. He also made a brief appearance in Death of the Family.
More futile words were never spoke
It’s great to see Scott bringing back this character and indeed everything about this short cliff-hanging story starter evokes the Simone era. There’s a bloody crime scene, a deviant killer, and that strange existential dreadfulness that much of Simone’s run grappled with. I’m excited to see the direction of this tale, and Pelletier’s art on this one is the best in the book for sheer clarity and clean lines.
The last tale of the book is a story from Paul Dini (so you know it can’t help but be solid). This one sees Batgirl pitted against March Harriet in a new and interesting way. I have loved seeing the Wonderland characters cropping up in various books over the last year. They are a fun bunch and full of possibilities.
In this case it’s especially interesting to get some back story on March Harriet, which Dini pulls off beautiful with the kind of pathos we expect from him and these sorts of misguided, once-wounded, and now vengeful characters. The dynamic with Batgirl works perfectly here–Babs has always had a sympathetic ear, and I love how she goes about deducting what’s happening while Harriet coyly tells her tale.
She’s not just mad, she’s actually angry too!
This last story wraps the book up on a bit of a zanier note, though it definitely has some of those dark undertones we’ve come to recognize in Dini’s narratives. As a choice to end the book, it works well being neither too heavy, nor too much fluff, and Lupacchino’s art (with Ray McCarthy) on inks, is exceptional!
Once again, altogether, this book is win, win, win, and win. There’s nothing too heavy here, but the stories feel impactful, and Batgirl looks amazing. This is definitely a love-letter to the character and in its own ways, to the long history of the series throughout numerous incarnations. I continue to have high hopes for this book!
- Dick and Babs are your OTP!
- Some Gail Simone nostalgia could never hurt.
- A solid round of comic drama is just what the doctor ordered!
Batgirl no. 25 is everything a special issue should be: it’s actually special! For this anniversary celebration, you get four stories by three strong writers, two interesting villains, a bit of romance, some shocking violence, some tragedy, some sweetness, some standard action fare, and great art all around. This is a well-balanced package that highlights what a great book Batgirl can be in the right hands with the right tone. Let’s hope this sets the stage for the next 25 issues!