Written by Cameron Stewart, Brenden Fletcher
Art by Babs Tarr
Colors by Maris Wicks
Published by DC Comics
Release Date: November 12, 2014
Let’s be blunt: there were clear groups of people that loved and people that hated the new direction of Batgirl after issue #35, last month. However with graduate school, burning down her best friend’s home, and motorcycle riding, sword-wielding cosplayers, this latest issue has Barbara hitting a great stride. It could be just what was needed to win a few doubters to the fan-side.
Finding the right beats to balance the new image of Batgirl makes the previous issue feel like a pilot that was still looking to find the narrative. Now there is a clear direction that follows a Scooby Doo mystery pace. The storyline and changes in locations seem to flow more logically. This is done through introducing new supporting cast members, new interests from Barbara’s childhood, as well continuing to visually integrate her eidetic memory flashes. One new character, named Qadir, comes across as being a genuine peer for Barbara both intellectually and resourcefully. With DC’s television shows like The Flash and Arrow having their heroes adopt an “in the loop” support system of people, it’s clear Barbara could easily develop her own throughout this title… if she’ll trust them and let them in.
What felt like plot holes or problems in issue #35 were actually openings to drive the story this month. From Batgirl’s quest to fix her computer problems, to dealing with losing her traditional armored uniform; the story acknowledged Barbara’s choices were not perfect. A mid-battle injury show the creators are up front that Barbara is dealing with rational consequences. They’re exactly what this book needed to quiet down some of the more… traditional?… fans have been crying foul about her new leather duds since their reveal this past summer. Instead of ignoring these arguments the story looks to take them head on, making them part of the plot points.
One thing that will sell some readers, but take others out of the story, are the humorous beats. From a cute professor that is a little bit older, to geeking out over seemingly “yep, there it is” technical specifications, or acknowledging the influence of anime on a peer group; you’ll either love them or pause over the moments. It’s not a difference in target age of the book vs. the reader as much as exposure and interest. They’ll take you out or suck you in. However, these moments in no way kill the story or negate the mystery driven plot. It’s a Warner Brothers/CW styled story that is perfect for the target audience and fans of fun books.
A constant is Babs Tarr’s beautiful art. It’s a fusion of manga, DeCarlo and traditional comics that’s not found anywhere. It comes across as simple, but has tons of details hidden throughout; like an old-school Saturday morning cartoon. From full hair on campus wear to a quick change into the new uniform Barbara is showing more range and style. Also, with her continuous stream of raw deal moments, Babs has gifted Barbara with an instantly recognizable pout. From there Tarr’s art is aloud to rip across the page in full action scenes that require little to no dialogue or extraneous distractions. Just full action to tell the tale.
Also the subtle changes between the current story and the use of Barbara’s memory flashbacks are enhanced by combining Tarr’s art with the layered colors of Maris Wicks. The pastel like shading and overlays provide a softness that is not found in many books. It’s not as common for colorists to have a style so distinct that the average fan can recognize it from a a few panels. However, Wicks ability to blend is so distinct it creates an immediate connection with readers.
Fans of this new direction will get more confirmation about the bold style of where things are headed. Those who were initially thinking this book was not for them might find things to enjoy and have them sticking around, continuing to try future issues. Both groups will get campy, whimsical interactions, fast paced fight scenes and pop-culture references. They’ll also get a reason to stick around with more clues dropped about the strange stalker that seems to know Batgirl’s secret identity. Don’t you want to know where that’s headed? I do.
The Verdict: 8.5/10