Batgirl #32 is titled ‘Old Enemies: Finale’ but it doesn’t involve a dramatic showdown between old enemies and it doesn’t feel like the end of the story.
Yes, this is the last time we’ll be seeing Cormorant for a while but (as established in my review for issue #31) he’s a new enemy. The only other enemy present is Bard, and he’s working with Barbara in this issue. In issue #30, it seemed he would be a complicated, Machiavellian presence in this arc, and the tension between him and Babs has been repeatedly referenced in every issue since. Instead, in the so-called ‘finale,’ he saves the day; his involvement in the series does not reach a satisfying resolution.
I’ve had Quattro Formaggi pizzas less cheesy than this dialogue
Just as the reader has the Barbara/Bard dynamic slapped in their face once again, Cormorant’s caretaker ensemble is unnecessarily revisited in this issue. As pointed out last month, Scott forswears long-time readers by reiterating events of previous issues. Aside from reminding us how Cormorant got in the building, the scene in which we see him in disguise mostly serves to show what a poor mercenary he must be. He has his guns on full display in a nearby bucket and allows his target to see him before the appointed time of the assassination. He even draws attention to himself by cursing at her! All that work Scott did in issue #31 building Cormorant up as a dangerous adversary is effectively undone.
Although he’s clearly a few smoke bombs short of a utility belt, Cormorant remains a physical challenge for Batgirl. After getting beaten by him twice last month, Barbara finally gets a few hits in this time, but gets caught off guard at a crucial moment, and fails to defeat him at the end of the issue. In fact, with the exception of a single Batarang throw, I’m not sure the story would have unfolded all that differently without Barbara being there at all, which is a sorry state of affairs in a book called Batgirl.
Apart from bringing Cormorant’s short-lived reign of terror to an end, the issue does manage to progress the relationships between Barbara, Bard and Izzy. However, Josh recently observed that Nightwing’s supporting cast only lasts as long as the writer that introduced them, and the same can usually be said for Batgirl. Therefore, I won’t be getting too attached to Alejo or Izzy.
Except for Barbara inexplicably aging about 30 years in certain frames, the faces are impressively rendered, displaying a wide range of emotions. Pelletier also delivers an exciting page at the climax of the issue, comprising five broad panels; instead of having to search for the next chronological moment, the reader can reach the bottom of the page in the same amount of time that the action depicted would have taken place.
Otherwise, it’s difficult to praise the art this month. The symbol Batgirl wears looks strangely like a bra, barely any of the panels include any background detail and the whole issue looks as if it’s been run through a bland filter; none of Bellaire’s colours pop. There are also three instances in which the visual storytelling is somewhat murky:
- Cormorant shoots Babs off-page. He has the gun aimed at her head but instead he unaccountably shoots her in the back and her body armour protects her. Shocked, he whispers ‘I killed you’ when they meet again so he can’t have changed his aim out of mercy.
- Barbara kicks Cormorant in the jaw and in the very next frame, he’s fine, Alejo is suddenly standing between them and he has her hostage.
- Cormorant looks as if he’s standing doing interpretative dance in a spotlight when he’s actually laying on the floor.
- You’d like to see Batgirl glaring angrily in almost every frame.
- You want to savour every last moment Barbara spends in Gotham; very soon she’ll be back in Burnside.
- Jason Bard is your hero.
Overall: This story went downhill with each issue. After reading issue #32, the best thing I can say about this series is that Tom King hasn’t wandered in and killed/shot/mercilessly deconstructed anyone. This ‘finale’ fails to tie up loose ends and doesn’t feel like a triumph for the hero. Really, it’s the midpoint of a larger story; ‘Old Enemies’ was created in service to a later (less skippable) arc, which leaves me feeling cheated.
Disclaimer: DC Comics provided Batman News with an advance copy of this comic for the purpose of this review.