Batgirls continues this month with it’s more focused narrative, aiming it’s story at just a few elements rather than trying to tackle everything and the kitchen sink. Last month they wrapped up the plotline focused on Seer and the Saints and now time for the Batgirls to move onto a new mystery: Just who is the hill ripper, and how can they stop him?
There are elements of Batgirls I’m enjoying, I do genuinely like that it’s slowing down to focus more on singular mysteries rather than trying to tell a hundred stories at once and dropping too many threads. That said, without those distractions, other elements the book is struggling with are starting to come to light, and hindering my enjoyment of it quite a bit.
The issue is focused primarily on two events: deepening the mystery of the Hill Reaper serial killer, and on the Batgirls getting revenge on the KGBeast for his shooting Nightwing and giving him amnesia way back when. Both events eventually tie into each other, but they’re distinct enough to discuss as their own elements.
While I’ll always appreciate protective friends, this whole mini-KGBeast story feels very out of left field. It’s been a while both physically and in comic book time since Dick Grayson was shot and even got his memories back, so having the Batgirls out for revenge now feels more than a little late. It would be one thing if this scene came fairly recently after Nightwing’s attack, or even right after he gets his memories back., better yet, if we’d had any hints of KGBeast planning something similar and the Batgirls catching on. However the whole revenge moment skips all that and instead relies on readers being up to date on Nightwing’s status, and being attached enough to him to even care about the Batgirls’ delayed revenge against his attacker. It’s a hard sell since Nightwing has only appeared a couple times in this book, and the initial comic featuring his attack was published in 2018. This kind of delayed response just feels out of sync with the book and characters existing in it, making the scene feel clunky. Plus without any real build up to it in Batgirls itself I can’t help but wonder why it was even included.
The KGBeast fight does lead the girls directly into a new clue about the Hill Ripper, the serial killer introduced early on in this series, and that mystery is the focus for the rest of the issue. I like that we’re getting back to this, but I can’t help but feel that Batgirls is kind of running down a checklist of their bad guys introduced in the first arc and just working on that. Yes, they just had a scene with the KGBeast, but it was little more than a vehicle to get the plot to the Ripper. And that’s kind of my point, there’s nothing new being added to this world. No new bad guys or even elements. After a flood of information in the first arc, that’s trickled down to almost nothing making the world feel less alive, and the clock ticking on content. Gotham, and The Hill should feel alive with characters, or small plot lines featuring either baddies or internal conflicts that build on one another to create more of a story going forward, and instead things feel very insular.
This problem extends beyond just the villains, into the three Batgirls themselves. The writers are trying to build in some internal conflict and growth with moments like having Stephanie concerned over her own assumptions about their neighbor, or in Cassandra’s newfound love of reading but it doesn’t really feel like any of these characters are growing in ways we’re seeing. Part of this problem is that we’re being told a lot of this rather than being shown it. The omnipresent narrator spends a lot of time on the page describing elements of the story to readers I’d rather see play out in scenes or even in the art in the background. Instead important moments like Cassandra discovering reading are told to us after the fact. And that, in general, makes the story feel flat.
That said, I hate to just harp on a book’s problems. I am still generally enjoying the way that Cloonan and Conrad write dialogue between the characters. The girls are bubbly and quippy and it’s fun to read them both fighting and going about their day to day lives. And even though I’ve complained about the way they’ve skipped through some major character moments, I do like that they are trying to develop the girls. It’s nice to see Cass taking an interest in reading, and Barbara reconnecting with old friends, I just want more of it and I want it to feel more natural.
This month art duties are covered by Neil Googe and Rico Renzi on colors. They do a good job giving the characters a cute color pallet and style that fits the tone of the book. A favorite moment of this is where Stephine’s enjoying an inflatable pool on the roof of their apartments, the colors and whole feeling here is very summer.
I also enjoy Googe’s expressions for characters. Whether it’s Stephanie’s nose crinkle or the way Cassandra’s masked face can still look concerned or focused he does a great job making them look expressive.
The issue does wrap up with the introduction of a new character to the mix, which I hope in future issues will start to resolve some of my issues with it feeling like the book is running through its cast at a rapid fire rate. I feel like I say this often, but as critical as I am of the series I do want to enjoy it. There are elements that are fun, and it has the potential to be something really solid, I just want it to find that balance.
- The Hill Ripper mystery interests you
- A lighthearted story is more your speed
- You prefer a softer, cuter, art style
While the series is settling into a more reasonable pace, it’s also still floundering in some areas. The characters are changing and growing, but we’re not getting to see as much of that as we could. And while the stories are focusing more on individual villains, it feels like they’re cutting through them faster than the narrative can develop more conflict. While I do enjoy reading this series, the problems are piling up and starting to really take away from it’s charm.
DISCLAIMER: DC Comics provided Batman News with a copy of this comic for the purpose of this review.