At the end of the last issue, the Terrible Trio (criminals masked as a Shark, Fox, and Vulture) reawakened the android that was Babs’s Oracle avatar with the help of Lex Luthor. Meanwhile, Babs was getting her butt kicked by Killer Moth. In issue #38, their showdown leads to hints of something bigger behind him, and the Oracle android promises dark times ahead.
The last issue ended with a fall, but no impact. This book opens with Babs still falling. Although she’s plummeting to her death, she takes time to give herself a pep talk and explain how sprinklers work. This is a very wordy sequence, and the time to read all these captions undercuts the urgency of the action we’re seeing, killing any tension. Reducing the number of captions and maybe even using some sentence fragments would have improved this scene greatly.
Pacing problems continue when focus turns to the Terrible Trio and Oracle. If you’re a fan of these particular villains or the Oracle avatar, you might enjoy that. Admittedly, the analytic content of Oracle’s internal monologues when she travels with the three villains was well done. The staccato phrasing and emotionless wording work nicely for an AI. But there’s simply too much of her and the Trio in a book that’s supposed to be about Batgirl. Setting these characters up as villains of the next arc shouldn’t require almost half the book. The Trio’s efforts to win Oracle’s cooperation are amusing, but could have been condensed to keep the focus on the title character.
In Babs’s part of the book, we get a look at her life at home and at work. When she returns to her rundown apartment after the fight, those who’ve read the prior issues know why she’s living in this place. New readers, however, will have no idea. She’s just walking down the street, so this would be a good place for a few words to explain. Her shabby home is a reminder of her difficult financial situation, but nothing in this book clues readers in to that. Then a homeless man greets her, addressing her with her apartment number. How does he know it? Surely she doesn’t broadcast it since that’s not a safe thing to do.
Then we learn she doesn’t have any spare costumes. None. They’re all “in bits and pieces.” Really? You run around the city getting into fights, and you don’t keep a bunch of spares on hand? Here, again, regular readers will know why she’s out of spares while new readers won’t. Something simple like “After X battles in Y days, all my costumes are wrecked” would explain and still keep the story rolling.
When Babs goes to work the next morning, her injuries draw Jason Bard’s concern. The ensuing conversation casts Bard in a warm, sympathetic light and wins Cecil Castellucci points for understanding the battered woman mentality. He pushes enough that Babs then shares her preset cover story with him.
Bard’s concern and determination to help are appealing. Adding this to his admission in issue #37 that he has “feelings” for Babs, it’s clear we’re setting up a Babs/Bard relationship (Not my favorite because I’m firmly team Dick/Babs). With Bard’s distrust of Batgirl established, there’s guaranteed conflict ahead if they go down this road. But the hint of future romance takes a back seat, as it should, to the rematch between Batgirl and her first supervillain foe.
I particularly liked the way she lured Killer Moth out when she was ready to fight, again. Babs has always been both intelligent and analytical, and her strategy used her knowledge of her opponent, her ability to get media coverage, and her skills as a combatant. One violent moment in their ensuing confrontation is particularly dynamic and detailed. Carmen Di Giandomenico uses a blur effect that’s reminiscent of old photos to denote movement.
The scenes with panels inset against a bigger background generally worked well, but I had a problem following the scene below. The panel is crowded with people and dialogue. I had to look twice because the characters appeared to be in two places at the same time. I think this is partly because the inset panels don’t have strong borders but are just superimposed against the background. More distinct panels on less detailed background would stand out better.
On a final note about the art, I liked the depiction of Babs’s cobbled-together cowl. Much like Michelle Pfeiffer’s Catwoman cowl from 1992’s Batman Returns, the cowl and costume were believable as a DIY job.
The makeshift look of her costume underscores that she’s in serious trouble, regardless of what happens in any one clash. In the next issues, those troubles will surely grow worse, which makes us want to read on.
- The latest incarnation of Oracle has you curious
- You like to see your heroes overwhelmed
- The Terrible Trio interest you
The idea behind this story is good, but the issue spends too much time on secondary characters. The art is detailed and flows well, with interesting color effects and varied, effective lettering techniques. It’s not one of the series’ best outings, but it’s decent. I recommend reading it unless the Terrible Trio drive you up a tree.
Score: 6.5 of 10
Disclaimer: DC Comics provided Batman News with an advance copy of this comic for the purpose of this review.