In Batgirl #34, a new story arc begins. Its called ‘Terrible,’ which I’m glad to say does not describe the quality of the issue. Of course, the title in question pertains to the return of The Terrible Trio, a triumvirate of animal-themed Batman villains that first debuted in 1958, but haven’t enjoyed the popularity or ubiquity of their Silver Age peers.
Three parts for a story about the Terrible Trio, eh? I see what you did there!
Scott dusts the Trio off in style, introducing them in an opening scene that establishes their distinctive personalities and sets them on a collision course with Batgirl. Unlike previous variations of the group, Scott’s Fox, Vulture and Shark take their criminal pursuits seriously, and don’t appear to be wearing masks. It’s curiously never addressed, but Pelletier draws them as if their heads have mutated like the versions that appeared in The Batman TV series (2008). Although the events of the ‘Old Enemies’ arc (Cormorant, Alejo, the unexplained protection of Blackgate, etc.) are linked to the re-emergence of the Trio, I would say this issue remains a worthy jumping-on point as the gang have moved on to new methods of conquering the Gotham underworld.
The Trio’s vendetta against Batgirl sets the story in motion, and Barbara rises to the challenge with a competence that’s sometimes been missing in recent issues. At one point, she sets out to solve three crimes at once, and Scott exhibits splendidly thrifty scripting habits by conveying these investigations in only two pages. Its fortuitous that we spend so much time with badass Batgirl and the deliciously evil Trio, because I don’t have much time for Babs’ civilian life right now.
Because Scott hasn’t populated Barbara’s circle with enough interesting characters, she’s had to create conflict between Barbara and Jim, presumably to satisfy fans of soap opera drama. This doesn’t feel natural because they’re both level-headed and neither of them is a teenager anymore. When the readership discovered Babs would finally return to Gotham, I don’t think this is the relationship any of us had in mind.
Speaking of the Gordons, where is James Jr? After dominating issue #33, he’s disappeared again, which is a shame because he’s an intriguing character and has an interesting relationship with Barbara. Instead, Scott presents us with a plethora of problems I can’t bring myself to care about; a Ba(r)d Romance (an unorthodox direction which many of our commenters nonetheless predicted), Babs’ work-life balance, the fortunes of her (mostly-forgotten) company, and a doorman that hates her for not moving in properly. I’m biased because I mostly read superhero comics that are occupied with the other end of Maslow’s hierarchy (which is why I don’t read Spider-Man), but even readers that treasure all these kitchen-sink interjections must feel overwhelmed by how many Scott is throwing our way here.
I enjoyed Pelletier’s artwork in this issue. Batgirl looks cool and dynamic when swinging across rooftops and when burning rubber through the streets of Gotham on her Batbike. An excellently rendered hand helps sell a crucial scene in the book and the faces all convey emotion effectively (with one exception: Batgirl sitting in the clocktower pulling a weird, angry face that’s accompanied by a light-hearted caption box). The aforementioned triple murder scene is economical yet clear, and Bellaire cranks up the style by colouring it in black and white with red and yellow accents. Pelletier’s best work in the issue is his detailed, unrepentantly strange depiction of the Terrible Trio; Fox looks suave, Vulture appears prim, sporting a fur collar, and Shark is bulky and downright frightening.
- You like strange, devious villains.
- You favour slice-of-life drama.
- You appreciate gorgeous covers. Both the main cover by Manapul and the variant by Middleton are stunning.
Overall: A fun, well-paced introduction to the new story, albeit interspersed with some dull subplots. In the safe hands of Scott and Pelletier, Batgirl is a good, consistent series; not always surprising but never frustrating.
Disclaimer: DC Comics provided Batman News with an advance copy of this comic for the purpose of this review.