Just as Batgirl is starting to put together the clues left behind by Cormorant, the unthinkable happens: her brother is released from prison!
This was certainly not where I expected the series to go next! After all of the action of the past few issues, this month tells a much quieter story, albeit one that will likely have lasting effects on Barbara. To the issue’s credit, it doesn’t attempt to wrap such a heavy story up in a neat little bow. The release of James Gordon, Jr. is sure to put a strain on Barbara’s already-frayed nerves going forward, so it will be interesting to see how this new development will pay off.
This series is at its best when it focuses on how Barbara reacts to things as a person, rather than as a superhero. This issue finds a way to show both, with Barbara resulting to more drastic measure than normal to get the information she wants. It’s chilling to see the normally good-natured Batgirl pushed so close to the edge.
What’s more, it doesn’t feel out of character. If this were any other villain, then maybe an argument could be made for this being the wrong tone to take. However, James, Jr. has always brought the darkest side of Barbara out, something that Mairghread Scott takes full advantage of in this script.
This is the ugly side of Barbara Gordon. Even the appearance of Frankie (oh, how I miss Burnside) does next to nothing to temper her vendetta. The appearances of so much of Batgirl’s supporting cast is a great move, helping to illustrate how single-minded Barbara is in her pursuit. Not even her job or her friends or her own father will dissuade her.
Speaking of her father, Commissioner Gordon continues to be the best at saying the right things in absolutely the wrong way. He’s a good father, but a terrible communicator. The divide between he and Barbara continues to widen. The hope of seeing these two patch things up has become one of the most intriguing aspects of this run on Batgirl.
The artwork in this issue really shines, as well. Elena Casagrande handles the bulk of the issue, wonderfully conveying Barbara’s increasing unease and frustration. Scott Godlewski stepping in for two pages to handle a tense stand-off at gunpoint.
The standout pages in this issue are those that contain the argument between Barbara and her father. To communicate the lights flashing on top of Gordon’s squad car, colorist John Kalisz brilliantly bathes each panel in alternating reds and blues. It’s a cool moment that also serves to illustrate how hurried and frantic the exchange between them really is.
The only real drawback comes from this issue’s status as a supposed tie-in to The Batman Who Laughs. Having not caught up on that series, the last few panels are a little confusing, as is the issue’s placement in relation to the current Batgirl storyline.
Also, I’d be remiss if I didn’t point out how utterly inaccurate the cover art is in relation to the story, no matter how great it looks. At this point, though, these are small qualms that are fairly easy to ignore, especially since the rest of the issue is such a winner.
This issue of Batgirl left all of the conspiracies and political intrigue from the last several issues in the backseat and set out to tell a difficult personal story. The result is the best issue of the series in a few months.