We’re now entering that mid-story place where arcs tend to get a bit saggy, but Mairghread Scott does her best–and mostly succeeds–at not belaboring the necessary bridges as Batgirl gets closer to the truth in this “Art of Crime” installment.  Aptly titled “facade”, Babs struggles to maintain her dual identity despite suffering from strange after-effects of her neural implant and now being accused of murder by the GCPD.

The book opens with some uncharacteristic silliness as the cops open fire on Batgirl as she escapes from the scene of the crime. It’s exciting (and wonderfully rendered by Paul Pelletier and Norm Rapmund), but it doesn’t make a lot of sense. I suppose you could argue that the GCPD is just in the habit of unloading their firearms at fleeing suspects–laws be damned, but it really felt like a stretch, especially since the evidence against Batgirl at this point is purely circumstantial.

But Scott doesn’t dwell on this bit of license, so I won’t either.

Babs just keeps having one bad day after another

Batgirl continues to try to hold to together, but she’s clearly still not in the best of shape (though it’s hard to tell if she’s getting worse, since she’s leaping from buildings and still on her feet). Scott nevertheless takes time out to do a little relationship-building between father and daughter. To be honest, I don’t know that we needed all of this (there’s a lot of recap, ostensibly for new readers). I’m okay with that and Scott does a good job of capturing a lot of backstory quickly and in context of building something in the current storyline, but it still does take up quite a bit of the action in this book without necessarily telling us anything new about Babs and her father.

I also was wondering when she moved back home. Or if she’s just temporarily staying at her dad’s house? I literally had a stop-dead-in-my-tracks moment when I had to ask: why is Jim Gordon in her apartment? And then I realized he was in his pajamas and that got even weirder.

But I’m not going to sweat it. It makes sense if she’s come home while she’s ostensibly recovering. He would want her to be close so he could keep an eye out for her.

It’s a bit melodramatic, but I’m glad to see the family together again

The really big reveal in this comic surrounds Grotesque and what malignant force is driving him. I won’t spoil it here for you, but Scott does a really wonderful (and somewhat haunting) job of portraying Grotesque as a man truly split between worlds, between loyalties, and by his own fear and grief. I feel like we get a lot of superficial development with villains in comic books–or else too much pathos. Scott treads a fine line. Grotesque is a monster and has done monstrous things, but she deftly humanizes him, even if only briefly, so that we know there’s a person in there with motives that aren’t just pure chaos and mayhem (and isn’t that refreshing?).

Pelletier and Rapmund do a great job bouncing between the fantastic backdrop of superheroism and phantasmagoria, to the domestic interiors that help us feel grounded in Gotham. The action is bright and full of sharp angles, and the more intimate moments are round, soft, and, with the help of Jordie Bellaire’s contrasting colors, nicely subdued.

Some of you may be disappointed that the fate of Dick Grayson is glossed over with a near-throwaway line, but I can appreciate that Batgirl can’t just drop everything to get maudlin about what’s happened. I suspect we’ll return to this story point at an appropriate time, but meanwhile, keeping the energy focused on Batgirl’s immediate problems and her pursuit of Grotesque seems to be the right choice.

Look for the gorgeous variant cover by Joshua Middleton. It’s not only painterly beautiful, but it captures one of the best moments in the book: Batgirl taking advantage of the Birds of Prey loft to do some sleuthing research.

Recommended If…

  • You’re curious about the identity of Grotesque–and more importantly, who’s pulling his strings.
  • You like the father-daughter bonding time.
  • You want to a comic with good ol’ fashioned detective skills at play.

Overall

Batgirl’s got a lot on her plate, and none of it is particularly tasty, which makes for delicious drama in Mairghread Scott’s third installment of the “Art of Crime” storyline. With her body still unpredictably going haywire, her father hovering, Grotesque on the loose, and now being accused of murder herself, it’s no wonder she’s having a hard time putting all the pieces together as she attempts to foil Grotesque’s next theft–sure to accompanied by his next killing. Between the risks she’s taking and the threats that keep getting closer to home, Batgirl looks like she’s on a collision course with disaster.

SCORE: 7.5/10