The mystery of the Hill Ripper continues in this month’s Batgirls. Their investigation deepens as outside sources give them help and support. Additionally their relationships grow and change in their day to day lives.
I mentioned this in my last review, but I feel like with this arc the story is finding a groove that works well for it. The more focused narrative that’s split between the Batgirls’ investigation and their civilian lives feels paced in such a way we’re getting good moments in each section. That said, this issue starts to struggle a bit when it comes to the actual laying out of the murder mystery and it’s reveals. So lets look at the good and the bad.
The section I most enjoy in this issue had to be the parts focused on the Batgirls’ civilian lives. I always enjoy seeing more of Babs, Steph, and Cass, as I’ve thought since the beginning Cloonan and Conrad have a good grasp on how they interact. This issue is no different, just with some new characters tossed into the mix.
Cass and Steph end up at the zoo with Steph’s newest crush Kyle and his little sister Maps. While I was excited to see him last issue, I was doubly so to see Maps show up here. It’s nice to see Cloonan including her in this story, even if it’s just for this issue. By and far she’s my favorite character to come out of Gotham Academy, and generally a delight to see whenever she’s included. Maps gets the chance to go on a mini-adventure in this issue alongside Cass as they leave Steph and Kyle to their date. Cass and Maps little adventure is the main focus of the zoo and sends them out of bounds into the bat caves at the zoo. It’s delightful and also leads to some mystery plot points. The two synergize well in a ‘break the rules’ kind of way that I’d love to see more of in the future.
We also get to see a bit of Babs on her own this issue, less in the having fun way and more building up her relationships at the GCPD, as a different detective comes to her for help. I do really enjoy seeing how the world is growing in this series. It’s happening at a more sedate pace now as a few characters are introduced here and there, and old ones like Grace and her podcast evolve.
The mystery however, feels like it suffered a bit this issue. Not in balance –we got a good amount of it as compared with the civilian stuff– but more in the execution. Mysteries and reveals are tough to pull off and here it just doesn’t feel right. We’re once again told quite a bit as Grace gives us an info-dump provided to her by Oracle and her new GCPD friend. This lays out facts like the timeline of the murders, the killer’s M.O. and provides information we could have benefited from earlier. It’s all information I would have preferred to see actually investigated. It all also feels kind of wasted with the reveal at the end of the issue since it reads like there was a whole different mastermind behind it all.
Somehow, Riddler is involved in this serial killer case, and has apparently been behind the clue/riddle aspect of it. While normally I love to see my man Edward Nygma in a story, I’m frankly kind of confused. Yes there had been a trail of clues and riddles but I was almost certain that the –ahem– riddle master behind it all was going to be Cluemaster. It was obvious someone was leaving riddles and clues, and in a story featuring Stephanie Brown as one of the main characters my mind went to her dad being behind all this, instead of Riddler. Narratively it would have fit as he’s a villain in her own wheelhouse.
Somehow, Riddler is involved in this serial killer case, and has apparently been behind the clue/riddle aspect of it.
While normally I love to see my man Edward Nygma in a story, I’m frankly kind of confused. Yes there had been a trail of clues and riddles but I was almost certain that the –ahem– riddle master behind it all was going to be Cluemaster. It was obvious someone was leaving riddles and clues, and in a story featuring Stephanie Brown as one of the main characters my mind went to her dad being behind all this, instead of Riddler. Narratively it would have fit as he’s a villain in her own wheelhouse.
Overall, I’m not entirely sure how the cast of villains play together in this particular arc and I’m frustrated that we now have a third player. We have Killer Moth, who seems to mostly be strung along by his boss. Then there’s the killer, who we’ve seen the past couple issues but don’t have much information on. And finally we have the “big bad reveal” at the end, which is a completely different character from the other two. It feels like the story wasn’t quite sure where it wanted to land with the answer to the mystery it was building and just went with all the ideas instead of settling on one. It’s once again falling into that trap of doing way too much with the story. This mystery would have worked just as well with a single bad guy behind it all. To have three characters in the mix, and none of them really clearly connected, makes the story muddled and confusing at best.
The other element I wasn’t a fan of here was the art. The art before the credits page has a totally different tone to it than what comes after, and the coloring feels all over the place, and it’s made obvious why when you look at the credits listing. Neil Googe is still the main artist but Scott Godlewski did inks and finishes for a set of pages while Wayne Faucher did the others. The art shift is jarring as the creative team takes different pages, and while they do try to keep things consistent it’s easy to tell that something changed and a little distracting. I understand the need to sometimes change teams quickly so I’m not knocking it too much for the shift, but I felt it was worth mentioning anyway as it does significantly impact the way the story flows visually.
I’m also not a fan of how Cass and Maps are colored while they’re exploring the area under the zoo. Generally Rico Renzi’s colors in this issue are good, except for this particular moment. The two girls are have purple skin, while the rest of the setting, their clothes, and even Killer Moth, look totally normal. My guess is this color choice was made to indicate they’re underground and in dim light but it doesn’t work at all since nothing else was adjusted to match this lighting choice. Instead, it only distracts.
The issue ends on a cliffhanger revealing the true mastermind to the mystery. I’ve already talked a little bit about the drawbacks of that reveal, but considering it’s also a reveal that leads to a cliffhanger I find it works even less. Instead of leaving me excited for the next issue, I’m baffled and a little frustrated instead. Which isn’t a great way to leave readers at the end of an an issue.
- Maps Mizoguchi is here and lighting up the whole story
- You like a good work life balance
- You’re invested in the mystery of the Hill Ripper
There are elements of this issue that work really well for me, like the building of the Batgirls’ characters and relationships outside of their vigilante lives, and elements that didn’t quite hit the mark like the way the mystery is resolving. Generally though the issue is quite a bit of fun especially with the inclusion of Maps and her brother into the mix. Even with it’s faults, this is an enjoyable entry in the Batgirls series.
DISCLAIMER: DC Comics provided Batman News with a copy of this comic for the purpose of this review.