When last we joined Batgirl she was investigating Dasha Berlova, and had just interrupted an illegal experiment Dasha was performing on kidnapped people, trying to fuse them with living gold. While investigating, Batgirl ran into Batwoman and the KG Beast. Now they’ve all come together for one final face off.
Generally, this issue is quite a bit of fun. It’s focused mostly on the face off between Batgirl, Batwoman, Dasha, and the KG Beast before moving into some quieter scenes between Barbara and Bard. There’s banter, some really cool visual moments, and a feeling of Babs actually moving forward instead of standing still. Not all of her decisions are great, but I feel some real forward momentum in this issue.
At the end of the last issue, Batgirl found herself captured and about to be dipped in the living gold. This one opens with Babs already working out a plan on how to get away. I always enjoy seeing her outsmart the villains she faces, and I especially love seeing people use the “bad guys like to monologue” to their advantage. Yes it’s a trope, but it’s a fun trope, and it’s this that Barbara uses to distract Dasha as she works to keep herself from being dunked in the strange living gold Dasha has been using to create energy.
The fact that Babs uses Dasha’s need to tell her story in this way not only shows us Batgirl using her head, but it also provides a legitimate reason for some exposition. Dasha’s story further helps readers understand her motivations, even if it never really helps me fully understand the gold she’s working with.
My biggest qualm with this issue and mini arc is the gold itself. I as a reader don’t really feel like it’s ever explained just how it works, how Dasha’s family discovered it, or how it’s a clean energy source. It’s one of those ‘comic book logic’ types of elements that can break a story or be something readers simply choose to accept. I feel like Batgirl has leaned quite a bit on those elements in the past few arcs, but I’m not so irritated by it showing up here. I think that’s because the other elements of the story work well to keep my attention off wondering about how it all works. Instead I spent more time focused on the banter, the heavier discussion of morals, and also just how cool the fight ends up being.
Last issue I talked a little bit about how Dasha’s golden jewelry changes as she talks and tells her story, and it does a similar thing here. The jewelry continues to grow, change, and becomes armor for Dasha through the fight and it’s all very cool. More than that, at a certain point the entire atmosphere of the building they’re in goes golden. It’s here that Di Giandomenico’s art and Bellaire’s colors really come together in this issue in a gorgeous way. Dasha herself has become completely golden, and the whole room is exploding with energy and light, bathed in the color. It would be easy to lose site of Barbara or the various golden creatures that spout up, but Belliar uses a variety of yellows and golds to distinguish outlines, the difference between energy and gold, and even in the highlights and shadows. None of the colors feel like they’re bleeding or meshing badly, and each scene is clearly depicted.
As I mentioned earlier, there’s a lot of banter spread through the fight. Specifically while Batgirl and Batwoman are fighting together. They work well alongside one another, and the feeling that the two women have interacted time and again while protecting the city is palpable in their conversation and familiarity with each another. There’s a part of this that, while I enjoyed, also felt off. It’s a lot of banter, and just isn’t something I’ve come to expect from this title. I don’t necessarily think the banter is bad, but I do think Babs has been on her own too long, and that lighter side hasn’t been on display. It’s nice to see two of Gotham’s Bats working side by side, no arguing, no drama waiting to strike, just comradery between them and I hope we get more of this type of thing in the future.
I think it worked well in contrast to the more serious conversations going on, first between Batgirl and Dasha, and later with Congresswoman Alejo. Batgirl’s opinions are very strong and confident, which is a nice change from the uncertainty she’s been facing lately in the rest of her life. Batgirl and Dasha spend a large portion of the battle sparring both physically and with words. Both want renewable energy and a brighter future, but Batgirl is not willing to give up the lives of others in exchange for that. Everyone is valued, and not just because they’re useful in an experiment– as Dasha would have it. This point of view comes up again with the congresswoman who is still willing to use Dasha’s energy, even though it cost many lives to achieve. The lives of people Congresswoman Alejo should be looking out for.
As with Dasha, Barbara does not agree with the congresswoman’s choice to continue using power that cost so many lives to make work, and it’s this that pushes her to skip work and ‘play hookie’ with Jason Bard. The last four or so pages are dedicated to them on an impromptu date exploring Gotham. While I know a lot of people aren’t fans of Barbara and Bard together, I didn’t mind this part of the story.
While the last couple pages really are about how Barbara and Bard feel about each other, I think the creative team has also really managed to capture the idea of wandering a city while taking a day off to just enjoy things. The discussion’s Babs and Bard have feel comfortable, and natural for two people taking the day off and telling each other about their home, while also lightly flirting. The visuals match that mood. Di Giandomenico really captures each little moment well. Instead of highlighting Babs and Bard, the focus is on what they’re looking at and doing, creating little windows where it’s easy to feel like perhaps its us experiencing that instead of the characters.
I do like that we get another moment to see Bard in a softer light. Barbara mentions giving people time to show themselves, and I think that’s a good way to look at it, it’s okay to let a character develop and change over time. I can’t say that Jason Bard has been written perfectly the whole time he’s been in this run, but I do think we’ve gotten to see him change, and I think this issue illustrates that change in a way that’s not just associated with Barbara. He too takes issue with Congresswoman Alejo’s decision, and again shows remorse for his previous actions.
The part about this that I don’t like is Barbara continuing to choose to hide the fact that she’s Batgirl from him. I’ve talked in the past about how this is one of those tropes I’m not a fan of, because it rarely ends in anything but renewed strife. It’s a huge barrier between them. He’s still got mixed feelings about the Bats in general and her lying will only feel like a betrayal in the end. Also, I’m honestly tired of seeing Barbara make bad decisions like this. One of the things that frustrated me the most when I was catching up on this series was how it felt like so much of her character revolved around bad decisions made based around relationships and if she’s going to be in one (no matter who it’s with) I’d like to see a representation of a healthy one for once.
By the very end, I feel like that and the feeling of forward progress this issue attains, slams straight into another event. Which is probably the most frustrating part of this, even if it’s unavoidable. I won’t waste time complaining about how the almost constant onslaught of events interrupting titles really only feels like a hindrance, but suffice to say if you’ve been paying attention to Batman at all, the issue ends on a cliffhanger that promises future issues will most likely turn their focus totally off Jason Bard and on to the upcoming Joker War crossover event.
- The conclusion to the living statues story is quite a bit of fun
- Witty banter makes you laugh instead of groan
- You too wish to recapture that feeling of exploring a city
This issue of Batgirl has a lighter tone while managing to juggle some more serious themes. That lightness really brightens up the book, and makes it an easy read that’s enjoyable. While wrapping up one arc it also sets up elements that can be explored in the future, such as Barbara’s relationship with Jason Bard, as well as the possibility of her moving away from working with Congresswoman Alejo or changing how she works with her. Even thought the story is moving into a totally different arc, I have hope that we may return to some of these proposed ideas soon.
DISCLAIMER: DC Comics provided Batman News with a copy of this comic for the purpose of this review.