The Batgirls have found themselves in quite the situation this month. After swapping bodies and being kidnapped by their own parents, just what are Steph and Cass going to do to get to the bottom of this whole mess?
I wish I could say this issue took the Batgirls Annual and built upon it in a way that made the build up actually work, but unfortunately this issue is even more frustrating than the last, in both execution and failed expectations. Where the annual at least piqued my interest with the idea of having Step and Cass swap bodies, this issue just doesn’t do anything good with it, instead wasting the potential of having the girl’s parents show up, and of the body swap.
Last issue I was hoping for some fun with the body swap idea, this issue I was hoping for something more poignant. Especially since it’s revealed that the body swap is their wish to “spend a day in each other’s shoes” made real. With that fact given to us this issue I can’t help but be doubly upset with the execution of this whole trope. Nowhere in this or the annual do I feel like the characters actually got to experience their lives in the other’s shoes. Yes they swapped bodies, but we didn’t really get any of the classic moments of reflection on just how different it is to be someone else. In the annual they acted completely normal instead of facing any kind of struggles as the other. And here the struggle is facing off against their estranged parent– which isn’t really your typical challenge for this type of story.
That said, it is the biggest challenge the girls face, and Cloonan and Conrad make an attempt at showing how tough it would be for each girl in the others shoes by spending most of the issue jumping between each of them with Shiva or Cluemaster as the parent talks to them as if they were their daughter (with the partial exception of Lady Shiva, but we’ll get to that). This whole story conceit might work if the book had ever been even remotely concerned with showing just how difficult a relationship each girl has with their parent. Both Shiva and Cluemaster have only shown up in the past couple issues, giving readers almost no context or emotional attachment to the difficulties associated with the relationship between each parent and their child. Even a reader who knows the history of each character would have a hard time seeing a face off of Steph vs. Lady Shiva and Cass vs. Cluemaster as really living the other girl’s life. Both of their parents have so little impact in their current lives it’s hard to make that the focus of a Freaky Friday story.
And that brings up the other major problem with this whole issue: the parents. Both Cluemaster and Lady Shiva have some genuinely interesting things to say to their daughters, but unfortunately it’s not actually said to the daughter that matters. And that’s the real shame. This could be the moment Batgirls choses to focus on Steph’s relationship with Cluemaster or Cass’s with Lady Shiva and give readers that context that would make us care about these relationships and understand why this story might work. But instead the conversations are had with the wrong person and it steals all the impact these moments could have had. I also have to point out that the book is trying to do too much in focusing on both Cassandra’s relationship with Lady Shiva, and Stephanie’s with Cluemaster and do a Freaky Friday story. Each of these needs its own arc to shine properly. Not have the story squished together with another one and rushed.
The actual building of the story structure here feels very hollow too. The narrative follows Babs as she continues investigating the mysterious coin, Cass as Cluemaster talks at her in the back of a car while she feigns sleep, and Stephanie: the only one with any kind of forward trajectory. I want to say that Barbara’s moments were fun as well, but I can’t really. They don’t add anything to the book beyond being a chance at some character cameos, and providing context for readers behind how Steph and Cass swap bodies. Babs does nothing to actually help or solve the situation, and almost could have been totally omitted. I did appreciate the inclusion of Zatanna though, but that’s mostly because I love Zatanna.
Stephanie and Lady Shiva’s scenes are by far the best part of this book. While I think this book fails in many of its moments, once it’s revealed that Stephanie is herself and not Cass things between her and Shiva get interesting. It’s the best example the issue gives of actually showing one of the characters what it’s like to be the other, even if just for a short moment. Plus, the way Stephanie stands up for her best friend and tells Lady Shiva just how wrong she is about Cass is something that I liked. It would have been better if this had been at the end of a longer arc focused on Cass and Shiva, but for the story we have it works well. These scenes also have the most action, with some brief fighting and movement to actually make the book feel like it’s moving.
Jonathan Case covers art, colors, and letters on the book. His style is distinct, pretty, and very much like pop art. The colors are bold and full of contrast and make moments of action really shine. Though, it can be a little much as sometimes the art feels like less a full comic and more a piece of art meant to be looked at and enjoyed. Which ironically makes it harder to enjoy reading. While lovely, the style in a whole comic is too much, at least for me. It can be a bit distracting. Still, there are some really gorgeous shots, especially in scenes between Lady Shiva and Stephanie.
By the end of the issue the body swapping has been dealt with, but not the whole issue with the parents. So I can only hope that after this little detour the next one might dive in a little deeper into dealing with the relationships between the Batgirls and their respective parents. Though, after two attempts, I’m not holding out much hope for the next issue.
- Zatanna’s always fun, even if she’s only there for a moment
- You’ve always wanted to see Stephanie vs. Lady Shiva
- Bright colors and contrast in art is your thing
Once again I feel like Batgirls has fallen into the trap of trying to do a little too much. From it’s attempts at utilizing the well worn trope of body swapping to trying to build up some conflict between the Batgirls and their parents it really misses the mark in all the ways that count. There is no real feeling of Steph or Cass living a real day as the other, or tension between them and their respective parents because they’re technically not even there for the important conversations. This really should have been separate arcs: one focused on the girls empathizing with each other, and one for their conflict with their parents.
DISCLAIMER: DC Comics provided Batman News with a copy of this comic for the purpose of this review.