I am calling this review “10 Things I Love about this Batgirl Comic”. The story is “Art of Crime” and it’s the continuation of Batgirl’s pursuit of Grotesque, which began two weeks ago in the Anniversary issue compilation (no. 25). The premise is simple but effective: high-roller theatrical art thief Grotesque has escalated his game to include serial murder, and he’s leading Batgirl on a confounding switchback sort of chase.  To complicate matters, he compromises her by provoking an old wound with some unexpected results.

Let’s just jump into the list, shall we?

Get out of Gotham (or Burnside)! This is just awesome!

1. Barbara Gordon is doing low-tech detective work. Honestly, I like the high-tech stuff too, but it’s great to see her with her boots literally on the ground as well, fighting a dirty criminal who’s not committing his crimes with a computer.

2. Grotesque is a worthy villain. He’s a perfect mid-tier baddie who’s crossed some serious lines into disturbing dark places. There’s an added element of “fun” for you ghouls out there, to admire his “art works”, which he creates with his victims at the scene of his art theft. Don’t think we’ve seen that modus operandi before!

3. Babs has a real relationship with her father! Jim Gordon actually exists in her life in an intimate way that makes sense given their proximity, and provides the opportunity for Babs to make use of GCPD resources. I can’t tell you how giddy this makes me. Scott doesn’t treat Batgirl like an island!

4. Babs isn’t so over-powered between her tech, her eidetic memory, and her snappy quips. In fact, she’s all business and Scott shows her working hard instead of mostly having machines do it all for her. She also fuzzes out that memory a bit so that it can’t just serve as a convenient crutch.

5. Scott remembers that Batgirl is dependent on tech to do basic things like walk since her injuries. This has been addressed once before quite a while back during the Stewart/Fletcher/Tarr run, but mostly dropped since then.

6. Paul Pelletier on pencils and Norm Rapmund on inks are outstanding on this book!  Aside from a nitpick I have about Grotesque’s mask and Batgirl’s avatar on her call to the GCPD, every panel feels like perfection! Batgirl looks amazing, the action is full of that kind of wound tension you really want to see in a superhero comic, and out of costume Babs looks like she could actually get away with this whole double-identity thing!

She’s confused, we’re confused, it’s perfect!

7. Speaking of Babs out of costume, Babs Gordon is finally back to wearing clothing that’s not designed to alienate half the potential audience. She refers to herself as “adorkable” and at long last appears to be the bookish young college student instead of the fashionable party girl. I always thought “trendy” Batgirl could work in the right hands, but unfortunately we never really got those hands, so I really hope Scott intends to keep Babs a little more conservative, a little smarter, and a little less image-conscious and self-absorbed.

8. Again: fairly simple premise, but lots of complex layers by the end: what has caused this change in Grotesque? How did he escape? What’s he done to Babs’ implant that might have future-reaching impacts? I feel like we haven’t had an arc with this many high-stakes open-ended questions in far too long!

9. Colors by Jordie Bellaire: look at those staggering oranges and reds in that conflagration. I know I’m a sucker for the beauty of big burning buildings, but this is poetry in pictures!

10. From the sophisticated use of a strong narrative first-person voice-over to the emphasis on Batgirl’s determination to stop further crimes as the whole of her focus, this feels like a Batgirl who knows where her priorities lay and hopefully won’t be muddling over a hook-up lifestyle, endless uncertainty about her college commitments, and clean energy business that should have been consuming her every waking moment just to get going. Honestly, Mairghread, if we just quietly forget about all of that, I wouldn’t fault you for a moment, but given the confident handle you’ve already got on this character and her world so far, right now I feel like we’ve got nothing to worry about: Batgirl is in good hands now!

Recommended If…

  • Let’s get back to basics: Crime! Detective work! Fisticuffs!
  • You think Batgirl has been over-powered in the past and want to see her work harder.
  • You’re been done with hipster Babs for a long, long time.

Overall

Batgirl has been a comic shifting with sand for too long, but Mairghread Scott throws down some super-solid tracks in this arc-opener in which art thief and serial killer Grotesque gets the drop on Babs in a worrying way. I honestly haven’t been this excited about a comic book and its new direction in far too long. This is a great time to get on board. I think we’re going to see some amazing things from this new team!

SCORE: 9.5/10