Last month’s Batgirls saw Stephanie rescued from her father by Cass, and both girls sufficiently back to normal after their role swap and dangerous interactions with their parents. This month it’s time for them to look into just who might have sent Cluemaster after Steph, and why.
This issue acts as a wrap up to the body swapping arc we just read, with the Batgirls receiving a letter sent a few weeks earlier that leads them to the Mad Hatter’s place. From there they battle their way through puppets, and strange concoctions to face off against Hatter and figure out just why he sent Arthur Brown after Stephanie.
The answers we get to the questions of this past arc are nonsensical at best, and feel like a cop out at worst. We’re essentially told that the whole reason any of this happened was for Hatter’s amusement, and to sow chaos. Which is fine, I guess? He’s a Gotham Rogue and it’s not really unheard of to have a character in Gotham do something simply for the fun of it all. But that lack of depth to the whole thing kind of pokes holes into other elements of the story, like how he’d know Cluemaster and Batgirl are related when he can’t even say how many Batgirls there are.
It’s also one in a growing number of guest appearances by major Rogues in Batgirls. The majority of these appearances have been brief, and pointless like Riddler, Killer Moth and now Mad Hatter. I’ve complained before about the book’s tendency to have them show up just for big character clout and I hate that I have to do it again. If you’re not going to do anything interesting with these characters, beyond making them the Ah ha! moment behind strange plot elements, then why use them at all? Just to remind readers they’re in Gotham? I’d much rather see a well written plot, with characters who make sense or have depth than gimmicks.
Beyond Hatter’s inclusion, the story’s other main element is the inclusion of Langstrom serum, used by Hatter to turn one of the Batgirls into a Girl-Bat. Stephanie is the unlucky recipient of this trap, and makes a surprisingly cool hero turned bat creature. It’s this part of the story I enjoyed, since it touches on her relationship with Cass to help her deal with the effects of the serum, over having an all out brawl.
I’ve said before that one of the things I like best about this series is the relationship between Steph and Cass, and while I’ve had a few problems with how the emotional beats have been handled over the last few issues, I think this one gets back to what I like about them. They are friends, and as corny as the power of friendship can be, I thought it was sweet that their friendship is what helps Steph in this issue. And while I don’t think the issue as a whole completely resolves all the trauma and stress built up over the past few, it does work well to give the characters a moment to release some of those pent up emotions.
Neil Goodge is the main artist this month, with finishing from Geraldo Borges and like I said Steph makes a pretty cool Girl-Bat. The design works well with her colors and keeps her recognizable enough as Steph and as a person changed by Langstrom’s Man-Bat serum.
The colors through the issue are lovely, especially during the Hatter’s tea party. The table is filled with puppets of various Bat characters and Rico Renzi does a great job making them, and the scene, bright and vibrant to fit the rather unhinged tone of the party and fight.
The issue wraps up fairly neatly, giving readers an actual ending this time instead of a cliffhanger or teaser to incite interest in the next issue. I appreciate a quiet ending, especially at the end of a longer arc. It lets the story breathe a little and doesn’t create artificial tension where there doesn’t need to be any, instead leaving readers satisfied with how things wrapped up.
- Steph and Cass are besties, and you love that
- You like tea party fight scenes
- It is always fun to have a character transform into a Man-Bat
Like a lot of issues of Batgirls this one had ups and downs, and taken apart from previous issues it has enjoyable moments. Within the greater context of the series it struggles with leaning on elements that haven’t quite worked in the past, like frequent use of major villains as guests rather than actual players. Still, if you enjoy the relationship between Steph and Cass this issue has its moments.
DISCLAIMER: DC Comics provided Batman News with a copy of this comic for the purpose of this review.