Now that Batgirls has wrapped up its first arc, the story is moving forward at a steady pace into its next one. Last issue ended with Seer literally knocking at the girls’ door, one of their enemies having come straight to them. Will they hear out her plea for help, or send her packing?
Already this next arc feels fresher than the opening one. It features a few new members of the creative team with Robbi Rodriguez as artist and Rico Renzi on colors, and the story itself feels much more streamlined. Even the dizzying array of characters introduced in the last six issues works here. They provide a foundation for the return of Seer and the Saints instead of adding in new characters. On the whole, I enjoyed this issue more than I’ve enjoyed many of the previous ones.
The plot centers around the Batgirls helping Seer out. She’s come to them because The Saints have broken out of GCPD custody and are after her. They want revenge for her tricking them into thinking Simon Saint was alive. It follows a sting operation the Batgirls have put in place to re-capture the Saints and whoever they may be working with, though of course there are complications to that plan, but they work within the framework of the story being told.
One of the big focuses here is fleshing out Seer. So far in this series she’s been little more than a caricature of a villain, hiding behind her screens, tormenting Barbara, and sending the Saints after the Batgirls. Here we get to see some of her backstory and start learning a little more about her as a character. She’s not fully fleshed out yet, but it’s a good start to making her into more than an evil internet troll.
The Saints feel like they have more character here as well, at least a couple of them, though I still couldn’t tell you which one is which off the top of my head. They feel more present, and I’m starting to see how Seer managed to trick them into believing Simon Saint was alive, they’re angry and out for revenge but equally suggestible when she puts forth ideas in an attempt to keep herself alive. They have a school bully vibe, and it feels right for them, especially since they seem keen on picking on a kid.
While I enjoy some of the character work done on both Seer and the Saints they still fall into this weird dissonance I feel from time to time with Batgirls. The title often tries to straddle the line of having its own story and identity but also acting deeply rooted in the other Bat titles, and both villain groups fall into this. It can work, but in the case of these two sets of characters I’m not quite sold yet. Seer and the Saints are very new characters. New characters in and of themselves aren’t a problem, but the way they’re written always makes me feel like I should go read the books Seer and Simon Saint originated in, and as many people may already know, I hate feeling like I’m forced to go read titles I have little interest in for context. It’s not just my personal tastes, but me advocating for readers who might only be interested in this title or not have the time/money to read everything. They should feel like they belong here, not like they’ve been tacked on.
I will say, Cloonan and Conrad do a good job of utilizing narration to fill in readers. They don’t leave you in the dark. And in their defense, this arc is fleshing out both the Saints and Seer –with Seer the main focus. But it doesn’t change the fact that I as a reader still feel left out of who they are, particularly when the narration starts telling me that Seer framed Cassandra for murder. This particular gripe might not be an issue for everyone, and hopefully as the series progresses I’ll feel that dissonance less and less as we grow more familiar with the cast. Their inclusion in this title is a great opportunity for them to become fully fleshed out figures.
The other issue I cannot shake with this book as a whole is the way that the characters ages really aren’t settling into something that feels solid yet. In fact, I find this the most frustrating aspect about this series. I like how Cloonan and Conrad write Barbara, Cassandra, and Stephanie’s interpersonal relations but I’ve mentioned before that their ages feel off. Here that problem crops up again, with the girls and with Seer. Cass and Steph have previously been drawn to look younger, but here they look like young women. In contrast, we also learn that Seer is a child herself. She’s always been drawn small, but until this point she’s acted like an adult, maybe a teen if you stretch your thinking. However here she’s revealed to be just a kid. I know ages are funny in comics, but usually they feel consistent in their own book, and Batgirls has consistently struggled with this problem. It can make some aspects of the title hard to swallow, like Seer’s ability to crack through all of Barbara’s security measures, or all the girls living together if they’re not really old enough to be on their own.
Speaking of Rodriguez, I want to talk about the art. Rodriguez’s style is distinctly different from Corona’s, but it still feels like it fits this book really well. Renzi’s colors work to help that, as he sticks with a color scheme very in line with what we saw Sarah Stern do previously. As I mentioned, Cass and Steph look older, and additionally Barbara has a younger feeling to her making all three girls look roughly similar in age, instead of having Barbara look older than the other two. I really like how Rodriguez draws all three girls, they’re pretty and soft, but distinct.
His Seer design fits with how we’ve seen her before, but unfortunately she doesn’t really look like the kid we’re told she is. Her face, while hidden behind huge glasses and big hair, has an older look to it instead of a softer rounder childlike look, and there’s even a few panels where she looks more like a young woman than a little girl, especially with how her lips are pink with lipstick. It makes me really wish we had a solid age for her–and the other characters around her. Again, it would make the whole title feel stronger if the ages didn’t feel like they were just everywhere all at once.
The issue doesn’t really end on a cliffhanger, but instead wraps up kind of in the middle of the story it’s telling. I don’t mind this since I don’t really want a cliffhanger at the end of every issue, and it feels like a good middle spot to wrap things up for this month. The arc is listed as the first issue of two and trying to pack in too much or ramp things up now would be a misstep. It’s a good, fun, place to end it that leaves me curious to see what’s waiting next month.
- You want to learn a little more about Seer
- A solid, focused, story is up your alley
- F1DO-5 is a very good robo-dog and a very good boy
With the start of this arc I can tentatively say that it feels like Batgirls is finding its footing. After laying quite a bit of groundwork in the first 7 issues, it has streamlined the narrative and started focusing in closer on fewer characters. This gives the narrative time to flesh out some of the villains who felt a bit lacking, particularly Seer and the Saints here. While it still suffers from a few consistency issues with things like character ages, as a whole it is an enjoyable read.
DISCLAIMER: DC Comics provided Batman News with a copy of this comic for the purpose of this review.