“Art of the Crime” closes its arc with some definite weirdness that might leave some of the audience scratching their heads, but which I think still brings this story to a satisfying conclusion on most points. And what’s not yet satisfied Mairghread Scott has deliberately left for the continuing adventures–which is the smart way to make sure the book carries forward.

Scott’s done a great job of rebuilding Barbara’s world in a much more intimate way than all the previous social media and hook-up culture that has gone before. She has a real relationship with her father, she has a relationship with the GCPD and various cops/detectives within it. She has issues that are serious and stake-worthy (as opposed to fretting about what party she needs to get to or whether she looks cool enough on her hoot feed). She’s more interested in and concerned with her investigations than her start-up or her needy drama-mongering so-called friends. Welcome back, Barbara!

But there is definitely some weirdness here and I’m sure it may be a bit off-putting for fans who like their stories less fantastical and more grounded. I find myself somewhere in the middle.

Good of Grotesque to wear his Grotesque suit to the gala!

So let’s talk about Wyrm and the Dark Net. This is a relatively new villain and concept with which only readers of Nightwing and Batgirl will have likely encountered. Wyrm has been creeping around in the dark since its failed attempt at overtaking Bludhaven, but has once again raised its head in another attempt at manipulation. Wyrm is a curious and almost indestructible villain, which, for me, makes it frustrating. It also seems limitless what it’s capable of. On the one hand, it’s effectively scary enough to feel like something taken straight out of the series Black Mirror, but on the other hand, it also feels like the kind of villain that’s so impossible to eradicate that one could virtually spend their whole lives chasing this beast around and getting absolutely nowhere.

Fortunately Scott likely understands that and the emphasis of the story isn’t so much defeating Wyrm itself, but foiling its current plan–and highlighting Grotesque’s role in doing so. That’s where the story is really at, after all. Fighting evil AI constructs doesn’t have much emotional payoff, but seeing how human beings interact with them does.

That said, Batgirl does some strangely sketchy things in this book. She takes a dress from a department store window–yes, she pays cash for it, but it seems like she ought to have had other options? She also creates something of a scene at the museum entrance by refusing to let the police search her bag, which seems like it ought to make everyone suspicious. I like her excuse about tampons, but feel like the scene could have been handled more gracefully.

There’s also the moment when Babs tells Grotesque that he’s no longer in control. She seems very smug about this, but didn’t he just order the others to prevent a mass murder by helping the civilians and her own father escape? It’s like she didn’t even notice.

Do androids need abs? Apparently these do!

Paul Pelletier and Norm Rapmund keep the art crisp and lively throughout. I found the extreme definition of Batgirl’s anatomy to be a little distracting in some panels, but it could be that I’m still used to seeing her in a looser-fitting costume. I also like how they take the opportunity on the opening page to highlight the scar on Babs’ back: a great reminder of the trauma she’s suffered in the past as well. The design of Wyrm’s thralls works well enough, but they do strike me as overly complicated for an artificial intelligence to design. Then again, Wyrm may have a Giger-inspired aesthetic. I do like that they are relatively faceless with just minimal receptors.

Look for the awesome painterly variant cover by Joshua Middleton. The ears aren’t as prominent on her cowl as I would like to see, but it’s a very cool image nonetheless.

Recommended If…

  • You always wanted to know what the love-child of Cthulhu and Ava from Ex-Machina might look like.
  • You like the mix of science fiction/fantasy in your superhero comics.
  • Time spent with Commissioner Gordon and his daughter is always time well-spent.

Overall

Mairghread Scott’s final installment of “Art of Crime” brings Batgirl back to confront the Dark Web and Wyrm at the center of it. We don’t get all the answers. Perhaps most dangling is what Wyrm intends to do with the payoff on all the stolen art and why it was necessary for Evan to be Grotesque to take it, but then perhaps a little run-of-the-mill high-end heist action really is all it’s about. Scott also leaves plenty to carry over into the next arc: Babs’ surgery is most pressing, and now there appears to be a fresh complication. For her first full outing on the title, Scott has proven an able storyteller. Your mileage may vary with some of the most fantastical elements of this particular tale, but I do like the heart of what she’s doing–both with Batgirl as a hero as well as with keeping us on our toes with the villains.

SCORE: 7.5/10

Disclaimer: DC Comics provided Batman News with an advance copy of this comic for the purpose of this review.