Welcome to cyberspace Frankenstein! I mean Batgirl #39!If you know Mary Shelley’s iconic novel (or the Classics Illustrated comic book version) and tend to deduce whodunit about halfway into a mystery, you might have caught the similarities. It took me until this issue, with the Oracle android planning to confront Babs directly, to see this arc as a cybernetic twist on the Frankenstein story. There’s also a little dollop of Robin Hood in here.

At the end of the last issue, Batgirl defeated Killer Moth, who made a cryptic remark about not receiving an offer he wanted. She then decided to boot up her computer network and see what she could learn about that. The book ends there, closing off the Killer Moth arc and opening the way for Oracle and the Terrible Trio, who provided a subplot in that issue, to take center stage.

Issue #39 launches Oracle’s plans for revenge, opening with an action-packed sequence highlighting Oracle’s desire to punish Batgirl for abandoning it—much like how Victor Frankenstein’s monster punished his own maker for abandoning him. The abandonment issue takes a twist when Babs goes to consult the computer network she used in her days as the original, non-android Oracle. The insight this scene provides about her makes it one of my favorites in the book.

The scene begins when Babs goes to her old base in the clock tower and tells us she made sure nothing could ever take this place from her. While I loved the sentiment, I had to wonder why, if she owns the clock tower, she lives in a rundown apartment. Unfortunately, the story doesn’t address that. Instead, it surprised me by showing that Babs wasn’t in the bunker where the Terrible Trio found the android. Where did the android and its bunker come from, anyway? This could turn out to be a great twist. Or not. We’ll have to wait and see.

Unlike Victor Frankenstein, Babs lets us know she loves her creation and always intended to preserve it. I can’t wait to see how this plays out when they finally meet! She believes being Oracle saved her after Joker shot her (in The Killing Joke, for newcomers to Babs’s story). Cecil Castellucci handled the emotions in this sequence beautifully, with just enough dialogue to convey Babs’s feelings and not so much as to become cloying. Carmine Di Giandomenico’s art reinforces her dejection over her difficulties with the computer with her head in her hands and her slumped, shadowed posture, as in the examples below.

I also loved the sequence of Babs visiting Burnside, which shows us how much her life there meant to her. I especially liked the way Di Giandomenico’s art and Jordie Bellaire’s colors superimpose ghost images of Babs in action on the panels where she and Jason Bard are talking to business owners. The captions sufficiently explain those images as her memories without interrupting the flow of the scene.

Meanwhile, Oracle and its dubious allies have been busy. Echoing the choices of Frankenstein’s monster, they’ve decided to grab Babs’s attention by striking at something she loves—Burnside! This sequence hits hard because it comes after we see how much the neighborhood and its people still mean to her.

Spoiler
Unfortunately, the panel showing the plan’s execution is so chaotic, with various inconsistent angles, that it’s hard to tell whether the city’s burning, whether explosions are collapsing the ground or buildings, or both. Some of the buildings seem depicted from above, looking on the roofs, but some roofs look more like building fronts. Puzzling over it pulled me out of the story.

Although Babs is happily unaware of Oracle’s plan, there’s plenty to keep her busy. Luthor has convinced ordinary citizens to become Robin Hoods, stealing whatever they consider necessary for “the greater good.” I found one sequence particularly effective in illustrating this twist. Babs intervenes to save two elderly women from a robber, only to find he’s the victim. The action starts as she swoops down. She lands in the foreground of the next panel, where we see the supposed robber and victims from her perspective, with the robber running to hide behind her. The overhead shot that comes next shows the two of them facing off against the true robbers. The shifts in viewpoint support the character interplay nicely. Unfortunately, the dialogue-heavy word balloons slow the pace and make one panel look very crowded. This part of the story would move better if the dialogue were less wordy.

While I thought the art was effective overall, I had one ongoing problem with it. Once I noticed the odd line in Babs’s cheek between her mouth and chin in some panels, I couldn’t stop seeing it. Nobody’s face creases like that, so it became a persistent distraction.

This issue provides beautiful insights into Babs’s character that also raise her emotional stakes as Oracle plots revenge. Just as Frankenstein’s monster wrought havoc in his life, the coming confrontation promises to put Batgirl through a wringer.

Recommended if:

  • You’re into Frankenstein-type stories.
  • You like the Robin Hood legends with an evil twist.
  • You enjoy seeing Babs juggle her growing list of problems.

Overall:

The Year of the Villain complicates Babs’s life brilliantly in this issue, but those problems pale next to Oracle’s plans. Against this backdrop, the story adds depths to Babs’s character and Oracle’s motivation. The art reinforced those character moments, especially for Babs, and served the story well despite a couple of glitches.

Score: 8/10

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