My excitement over Batgirls seems to be dwindling with every issue I pick up. Five issues in and I feel like the plot is in roughly the same place it was at the very start, which doesn’t make for a very exciting story. The Batgirls are still fighting the same set of villains they were in issue #1, only with Spellbinder added to the mix now. Will they break out of their cycle this issue, or keep it going?
Batgirls opens in such a way I had to stop reading and double check I hadn’t missed an issue between this month and last. We’re dropped into the story in the middle of a chase between the Batgirls and The Saints, which brings up the first question: Why are they having this fight all of a sudden? I don’t mind action opening a book, but I wanted a little context here as to what happened to set it off. More problems arise when the girls have won the fight against The Saints and Barbara starts explaining to them that they’ve been tricked by Seer into believing Simon Saint is alive through the use of a deep fake, and that she has a flash drive full of evidence they’ve gathered to prove it. If this feels like new information to you, you’re not alone. A lot of what’s dropped here is new, or bits of info strung together from brief moments shown in previous issues.
It’s a rushed explanation to both the Saints and readers telling of events, and I really wish we’d gotten to see these events play out instead. The narrative has shown us bits of Seer manipulating the Saints, but where were the scenes where Babs catches onto this? Why didn’t we get anything concrete with her investigating the truth behind Simon Saint’s death and this deep fake? And just why is she fighting as Batgirl alongside Cass and Steph and in possession of this proof for the Saints? Plus, we’ve really hardly seen the Saints this series, so them taking up almost half of this issue feels a little jarring. It genuinely feels like we’re missing an issue centered around the Batgirls discovering this information, and then setting up a fight to prove to these guys they were being manipulated.
It’s frustrating because there’s just not enough time to explain everything it needs to with so much going on. It also creates plot holes and consistency issues. The Saints were shown early in this series to be competent, they beat Cass and Steph the first time they fought. So why are they taken out so easily this time? We needed more time to see these two groups interact, and some breathing room for the narrative to prove them either competent or grand standers. However, because Batgirls is juggling 5 villains –Seer, The Sains, Tutor, Spellbinder, and the maybe-murderous neighbor– most of these characters get bite sized moments on the page instead of time dedicated to fleshing out their characters, motivations, and the heroes’ discover of their actions. The series would have benefited greatly if the introduction of many of these characters and plots were staggered better. Remember, we’re only at issue #5. The Tutor/Spellbinder plot alone is enough to fill these issues, especially when you add in time needed for character progression in addition to plot. Instead we’ve had Seer and the Saint’s shoehorned into things.
This whole aside to deal with The Saints also takes away from the Tutor and Spellbinder plot. It’s given the last half of the issue, and feels almost as rushed as the first half does if only because it’s short. When the narrative returns to Spellbinder and Tutor it focuses on the Batgirls investigating and learning the truth behind Tutor and Dante’s connection. I enjoyed this section quite a bit, as we do get to see an investigation taking place and characters putting clues together. This is what I want for all the plots in the story, instead of this + bits and pieces of it happening elsewhere.
The tone this issue also feels a little different from the previous few. It’s less funny and less character focused than the last few. We don’t get a quiet moment with all three girls, or any of them out of uniform to just spend some time together like we’ve seen before. I didn’t realize it before, but that break between them doing case work or fighting adds a lot to this series. It’s a natural way to allow the narrative and readers to breathe. It also provides moments for the characters to talk about events and their own feelings. I’d have loved to have seen some actual conversation around Babs finding out Cass and Steph weren’t using the scooters she made for them instead of a throwaway line.
Something else I go back and forth on enjoying is the art in this series. I genuinely enjoy Jorge Corona’s style, but the more of it I see in this series the more I’m not sure it fits every moment here. I’m not the biggest fan of his fight scenes, they tend to feel a little too busy with a lot going on, and they often skip key moments that would make the fight smoother. An instance of this is the fight between the Batgirls and Saints at the start. There’s not really a lot of connecting moments to show where Steph came from, or how she ties up one of the Saints who was fighting Babs. It’s like we jump ahead a little too far, and my brain wants a few more moments visualized to connect the pieces.
Where I think his work shines best is in the quiet moments where details can stand out or where he can create a really atmospheric scene. My favorite of that this issue was the shot we get of Arkham Asylum when the girls go to investigate it. The building looms over the Batgirls in a very creepy way that I adore, and it’s accentuated by Sarah Stern’s colors. The glow of Bondo’s headlights on the gates is really gorgeous.
By the end of the issue the plot hasn’t really moved all that far forward. The Saint’s issue is never really resolved, and the plot around Spellbinder and Tutor only seems to inch forward in the little time the issue gives it. I’d hoped by this point Batgirls would have wrapped up at least one of it’s villain plots, but it looks like we’ll have to wait until next month to see if that happens.
- You’ve missed good old Arkham Asylum and wanted to see it again
- Books juggling a lot of plot lines are your thing
- You’ve wanted more action over standing around talking
From the rushed attempt at dealing with the Saints to the glacial pace at which the Tutor and Spellbinder plot is moving, Batgirls feels a little like it’s running in circles. This issue loses some of the charm I’ve found in previous issues by not breaking to spend time with the Batgirls as civilians, or inject as much humor into the text as it’s done before and it’s confusing opening did it no favors. Despite that, there are aspects I enjoy like when it slows down to let characters investigate. I just hope we get more of that in the future.
DISCLAIMER: DC Comics provided Batman News with a copy of this comic for the purpose of this review.