Batgirl #31 review

Batgirl #31 doesn’t get off to a good start. Last issue opened with an essential recap because important events had taken place between issue #29 and issue #30. This time, we’re given a recap of issue #30, which is entirely unnecessary if you’re keeping up with this series, as most readers are. What makes matters worse is that the recap is played out over a scene in which Babs takes on a villain with a silly, gross gimmick. My first thought was that the purpose of the scene was to inject the requisite action into the issue as it’s a superhero comic, but there’s plenty of action elsewhere in Batgirl #31 so I have to conclude that it’s totally pointless.

With the exception of the mess that opens the issue, the story progresses in a satisfyingly logical fashion, with each scene rationally leading both heroine and reader into the next. This is especially great when Barbara engages in the often-overlooked practice of detective work (albeit rather simple detective work) on her new opponent, Cormorant.

A little confusingly, Bard was established in the first issue of ‘Old Enemies’ as the New 52 version of the character, but Cormorant is introduced this issue as a new iteration who has never crossed paths with Batgirl before. The original Cormorant first appeared in 1980, in the pages of Detective Comics #491 (an issue which coincidentally also featured Jason Bard). He attempted to assassinate Batgirl but she tricked him and faked her own death. Returning to the role of Batgirl shortly thereafter, Barbara defeated Cormorant and saved Batman from the mercenary’s employer, General Scarr. Like the original Deadshot, the first Cormorant didn’t cut a particularly imposing figure, favouring a Mountie hat emblazoned with the letter ‘C,’ so I can understand why a new version of the character was needed. The new Cormorant looks pretty cool, if somewhat generic. It’s like someone took Midnighter and stuck some random, impractical patches of camouflage on him. Roger Ebert once stated that, ‘only a great villain can transform a good try into a triumph’ – hopefully, the inclusion of a foil that tests Barbara’s brain (Bard) and one that tests her brawn (Cormorant) will prove a winning formula for Scott.

In issue #31, Cormorant is more than a match for Batgirl. Of course, the adversary is always formidable at the beginning of the story; it will be interesting to see whether this one has staying power.

Although she isn’t firing on all cylinders in combat, this is still very much a recognisable Barbara Gordon. She sounds right, she thinks things through, she’s back to operating out of the Gotham clock tower again, and she improvises magnificently with a TV remote control!

As usual, she’s also making sacrifices for her mission. There’s no forced drama with Jim Gordon this issue; Izzy, Bard and Alejo organically take over that side of things instead (by the way, none of them notice Barbara’s bruises, and the latter chooses to hold a fundraiser at a place called Château Bourgeoisie. Are actual politicians really that daft? On seconds thoughts, don’t answer that). If you dig characters constantly getting into trouble because of their double-lives (like Spider-Man), this may be the comic for you (personally, I find those real-life problems to be stressful).

Apart from the similarity in Barbara and Izzy’s countenances, I found Pelletier’s faces really impressive in this issue; none of them stray off-model and the emoting is spot-on. Except for Barbara’s leg stretching like elastic in the opening scene (which, as established, is worth skipping anyway), the action is well-handled too. The clashes with Cormorant flow well from panel to panel, and there’s plenty of detail in the glass smashing and wood splintering around the fighters. My favourite scene in the book is one in which Batgirl does some surveillance on Alejo’s fundraiser; Pelletier’s storytelling is strong here, giving us a good idea where each character is standing, seamlessly moving from a conversation to an internal monologue, to an action scene.

Pelletier also subtly introduces the character-find of 2019, Envelope-Licking Guy.

Recommended if:

  • You forgot to read issue #30.
  • You’re seven years old and want to see a villain made of snot.
  • You like a straightforward superhero story, free of hallucinations, otherworldly objects of power, and the supernatural.

Overall: Though not outstanding, Batgirl #31 is a solid entry in the series. Despite the drawbacks, Barbara continues to be a compelling protagonist, a dangerous new threat emerges, the pace is exemplary, and the unfolding detective story leaves the reader intrigued enough to continue on with Scott’s latest arc.

SCORE: 6/10

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