With the Batgirls making headway into their investigation into Tutor last issue, will they finally catch him this time around? And what about all those other villains they keep tangling with, will they make any progress finding them this month?
We’re four issues into Batgirls and honestly? It still doesn’t feel like it knows what it wants to be, and is treading water because of it. Which feels wild to say about a series that started with such momentum it felt almost overwhelming in how much it was trying to do. It still has all those elements, no one bad guy or event has really stopped yet by this issue, but I’m also not sure what it’s really going for.
Even though it’s narrowed its focus to Tutor we’re constantly being reminded that Seer exists or that the Saints are a threat but behind all that the book is starting to feel like well– nothing. Like everything Cloonan and Conrad keep giving us is just a distraction from the fact that Batgirls isn’t sure what it is yet so it, and by extension we, is waiting to find out. Maybe I’m not being fair to it, we are only four issues in, but this early I should still be excited to pick up the book not pushing it aside to read something else. Is it unfair to want more from a book that seems to be shouting out how cool it wants to be? It should be fun, it’s got all the pieces: three Batgirls, vibrant colors, art that is always doing something, and enough bad guys to fill the Batcave. Yet I find myself just feeling meh about the whole thing.
So what about it isn’t exciting? Well, let’s just start with the opening. It picks up the morning after the previous issue and immediately relieves any tension from Seer’s attack on Babs the previous evening by having her call and chat with Dick briefly. The girls then head out for an adventure while Barbara plans their next move against Seer. It feels almost like the book has fallen into a pattern: they wake up, chat about all the bad guys they still haven’t caught, Steph and Cass do a minor task, then have a fight with the baddies near the end. The book remixes some of these events a bit, but it’s starting to feel a bit formulaic.
See, it feels like there aren’t any stakes so far. Every big threat thrown at the Batgirls is resolved either in a few panels or the first page or two of the next issue. We saw that with Steph brainwashed, then normal, and last issue with Seer taunting Babs only for her to know Dick is fine right away. All of these bad guys who are supposed to be threatening feel like all bark and no bite right now.
What’s worse is that the ones the girls are physically dealing with, like Tutor, don’t seem to make a lot of sense. I already complained a bit about wanting to have known him more as an artist before he turned out to be a bad guy, but I also can’t help but be frustrated by his own abilities. He can brainwash/hypnotize people with fear gas…I guess? But the narrative doesn’t really clarify how or why, and it’s less apparent here when Steph and Cass have upgraded masks to filter out the gas. How is he still hypnotizing Steph every time they meet? There’s a character teased at the end that might speak to this a little bit, but even then I’m still left in the dark about how Tutor himself can do it. Or why it’s just working on one of the Batgirls. It’s little plot discrepancies like this that make the threats not only toothless –as Cass always snaps Steph out of it– but frustrating. Again, it’s this problem of the story doing too much and not focusing on the right places to give readers a solid narrative.
Something that makes this series tough to read is how I feel like I’ll enjoy one aspect in an issue, then dislike it the next. An example of this is the narration. The series has an unnamed narrator who is witty, snappy, and likes to give commentary on the book in a way I’ve found fun. But this isn’t Harley Quinn and not really a book centered around breaking the 4th wall yet it does that in this issue in a big way. Instead of letting readers see Steph’s dialogue in a moment where she’s particularly angry it overlays over the speech bubble and essentially tells readers to come up with their own interpretation of Steph’s not very kid friendly words. I will be honest, I hated that moment. Some people might find it charming and funny, but it feels like an overstep for me and another instance of the book unsure of what it should be.
It’s not all bad though, because there are still aspects of Batgirls I enjoyed quite a bit. This issue in particular highlights Cass in a fun way. As a character, we all know that Cass can read people’s body language incredibly well. It’s part of what she was trained to do from birth. Here Jorge Corona shows that ability through the use of cute little emojis around characters to indicate what Cass is reading in them. Smiles, frowns, the whole lot are displayed as she’s walking out of a bookstore. It’s a cute way to show her skill and it fits with the narrative tone of the book.
I also like that Steph and Cass are shown as capable detectives in their own right–at least a little bit. While out waiting for Babs to finish planning their big defeat of Tutor, they run into Charles Dante. When he recognizes them from the boat party, Steph is quick to realize he couldn’t have seen them only the Batgirls. I do wish we had more of them figuring things out like this, instead of just seeing Babs kind of direct them here or there.
I’m also still a big fan of the relationship between Steph and Cass. The subplot going on where they’re convinced their neighbor is a murderer is fun, and provides a lot of time to see the two of them goofing off and being funny together. It’s cute, and adds to Cass’s genuine concern for Steph later when they’re in danger and she’s got to help her friend. Out of everything this series is doing, I am genuinely enjoying the way it highlights the relationship between these girls.
The issue ends on the introduction of another new villain, structured as a bit of a cliffhanger/sting but I didn’t find myself all that excited. I don’t really want more characters from this book yet, I want it to deal with a few of it’s many plots and then start exploring new horizons. This ending being an extension of one of it’s plots would have worked better if there weren’t already other villains and plot lines running around waiting to be dealt with. I can only hope it doesn’t further muddle the narrative next issue.
- Subplots with maybe-maybe not evil neighbors interest you
- 4th wall breaks are your jam
- You don’t mind it when books have a lot going on in them
Generally this issue is fine. I’m frustrated that it feels like the book hasn’t quite found it’s identity yet, and by the fact that it’s stakes don’t often feel real. However, it keeps charming me with its depiction of Steph and Cass as batgirls, and I can’t help but keep hoping it’ll discover itself soon.
DISCLAIMER: DC Comics provided Batman News with a copy of this comic for the purpose of this review.