After a couple issues where the Batgirls were body-swapped the girls have finally returned to their own bodies. With Stephanie still in the hands of Cluemaster, it’s up to Cassandra to save her. And what better way to do that, than with a silent issue?
This issue of Batgirls has no spoken text at all. There’s some written text like a letter and police report, but beyond that it’s the art telling the story. I find silent comics to be something I generally enjoy. I’ve read a number of one off stories that do wonders with the format, and when asked what my favorite Batman comic is I’m quick to answer Batman and Robin #18. In general silent comics tend to pull on deep emotion like grief, happiness, and love. And Batgirls attempts that here too, by featuring Cass dealing with the possibility of losing her friend, even as she searches for her.
There is something about this comic, Batgirls as a whole that hasn’t quite ever won me over emotionally. I love Steph and Cass and their relationship, and I’ve wanted to feel something genuine from their bond this whole series. They’ve been written as best friends, and these past few issues and annual have tried to dive deeper into their connection, but altogether it’s felt a little hollow to me. I wasn’t a fan of how they did the freaky Friday body swap, and I’m not a fan of how this issue attempts again to pull at our heartstrings.
The emotional through-line this issue is mainly done through a letter from Steph to Cass. This letter was written back in the Annual when Steph and Cass promise to write down all their deepest feelings they can’t get out at the moment, so the other can read it when the time is right. That idea is good, and the letter itself isn’t bad, it is emotional and shares a little more of Steph’s past, and how much she cares for her friendship with Cass. The art paired with it, has a definite feeling of emotion as well, as it’s paired with Cass getting ready to actually go out and save Steph.
Through reading it, I really wanted to feel moved, and maybe I’m just not the right audience for this particular story, but it didn’t really click. Tonally, Batgirls has always been lighter than the past few issues have been. I’m not saying a serious turn to the series is a bad thing, but I feel like the balance and pacing has been a little off with the shift. Like it moved too fast. Plus, the letter, and Cass’s actions are placed at the latter half of the issue, after Cass has investigated and done some fighting, and started to put the pieces together of where to go to find her friend. And honestly I think it would have worked better woven through the issue, to help build tension and the emotion the creative team is striving for.
I also don’t think this should have been a silent issue.
Those are bold words after having talked about how much I enjoy silent comics, but it’s true. I think there is real merit in having a silent comic focused on Cass. She is, after all, a character very much in her own head. And I’d love to see things from her perspective in that way. I just don’t think it should have been this issue. The first half of the issue is focused on Cass investigating Cluemaster and Steph’s disappearance and I think it would have benefited greatly from some dialogue here or there, either while she was at the police precinct, or when Shiva shows back up briefly. The events, without some textual explanation can be a little hard to parse. I can make some guesses, but in this case I’d rather be told just what lab Cass is breaking into and why. Plus, with all the action and investigating there’s no real emotional line to attach to. That, as I said, is saved for the second half. So it’s easy to try and skim the pages to jump to something solid to hold onto.
Which is really unfortunate, because the art is gorgeous. Jonathan Case does art, colors, and letters so the whole book is very uniform and lovely to look at. His colors fit the tone really well, with a lot of blocking of darker shades of purple, magenta, yellow, and greens. This highlight’s Cass’s Batgirl uniform beautifully and makes her pop against the solid colors. It makes the fight scenes feel especially dynamic, and fun.
One drawback of the issue is that we don’t see Cass as outwardly emotional as I’d like her to be in an issue that wants us to feel her desperation and grief the way this one does. However, Case does do a really good job making her mask expressive, even if it’s not in the moment’s I’d prefer it to be. Cass is visibly irritated and surprised by Shiva in a few panels that are quite fun.
The issue wraps up with Cass having finally reached Steph, and when I finished reading I couldn’t help but feel like I’d wasted my time. The events here did little to move me emotionally, and for all Cass’s investigations we didn’t learn much to push the plot forward. I hope that next issue with two girls reunited the plot and tone can find a better balance.
- The art is really lovely, and makes it worth looking through
- Cass investigating on her own is something you wanted to see
- You were interested in a little more of Steph’s backstory
All in all, I wanted this issue to be an emotional look at Cass and Steph’s relationship, something that continues the theme we’ve seen played out over the last few issues, and while it does continue that idea, it doesn’t quite land the way I wanted it to here. The balance between investigation, action, and emotional elements felt off here, as it saved the emotional beats for much later in the story than it should have. While I generally enjoy silent comics, this one really didn’t hit home for me.
DISCLAIMER: DC Comics provided Batman News with a copy of this comic for the purpose of this review.