Someone is killing redheads dressed as Batgirl. With the public believing her to be dead, Batgirl is on the trail of the real killer.
Issue #49 does a decent job of balancing the three characters who are looking for the culprit behind the redhead murders. It also gives readers a bit of time with multiple characters who seemingly fit the build and profile of the murderer. All of the red herrings are people close to Babs, which makes the fact that the issue seems to go with the most obvious answer all the more disappointing.
There’s still very much a chance that the ending of this issue is yet another fake-out, but the reveal is still done in a way that seemingly comes out of nowhere. Couple that issue with a few lines of exceedingly awkward dialogue, and you have a mystery story that doesn’t feel all that mysterious, as well as multiple characters acting just slightly left of how they normally would. It almost feels like the final pages of the script descend more into melodrama, and it feels kind of off.
On the plus side, the artwork from Robbi Rodriguez is fantastic throughout. There’s a moody, almost horror-noir feel to the issue as a whole, but particularly the final pages. The rain-drenched confrontation is continuously lit up by ragged lightning bolts stitching across the backgrounds. Through it all, Jordie Bellaire’s colors bring everything to life. The more grotesque moments are drenched in darker shades, particularly during the opening murder sequence and the final exchange between Batgirl and Jim. Meanwhile, the city lights have an almost artificiality to its colors, almost like Gotham itself is hiding the awful truth from Batgirl. And while I deeply dislike a certain twist in this issue, Andworld Design does some interesting things with the lettering of dialogue that help to differentiate who Babs is dealing with.
While much of Castelucci’s run has embraced a larger sense of scale, it still excels in the quieter character moments. The distrusting glances shared between Barbara and her brother, the awkward dancing around issues with Jason, the silent resignation of Jim Gordon when he realizes he can’t stay out of this case. This creative team understands these characters so well, and that especially comes through in those more intimate moments.
Next issue brings the grand finale of this volume of Batgirl. It’s hard to tell where this last installment may lead. Even though I have some qualms with how this issue ends, this story arc still has me intrigued.