Batgirl # 69 Review

Reviewer: Kevin S. Mahoney
Story Title: Love’s Labors… Destruction’s Daughter Part 4 of 5

Written by: Andersen Gabrych
Penciled by: Pop Mhan
Inked by: Jesse Delperdang/Robin Riggs
Colored by: Jason Wright
Lettered by: Nick J. Napolitano
Editor: Gregory Wright
Publisher: DC Comics

Batgirl has been an off-again on-again title for a while now. Certain plots or ideas have had merit. The idea of Cassandra confronting Cain, or coming to terms with her upbringing as a pint-sized hired killer has substance. The repeated skirmishes with Shiva have been entertaining if gnomic. Cass’ repeated inability to live a normal life or learn basic non-combat tasks (reading heads that list) is a good source of pathos and an obvious avenue for development that just… never… went… anywhere. And for every arc of that caliber readers received, there’s some dreck to sift through. To be fair, sometimes an unscheduled crossover sapped the title’s momentum, and sometimes the book just lacked a clear direction. But there hasn’t been a maintained jazzy feeling in Batgirl since the original creative team left.

The current arc really has the potential to change all that. The carrot at the end of this story: readers will learn the identity of Cassandra’s birth mother. The previous three issues have brought Batgirl into contact with martial artists, oddball biker meta-humans, the League of Assassins (led by Shiva!), and most recently, both the Secret Society of Supervillains and Victor Freeze. Now it’s up to the least well-rounded member of the Bat-family (and no the new Red Hood doesn’t count) to foil a terrorist plot, get out from under the machinations of two groups of villains, and perhaps even pluck some information from the taciturn Paper Monkey. All this, and the trampling of a DCU villain’s “sacred cow” in the final panel, propelled this book forward at break neck pace.

The story contains non-verbal narration from Cassandra, with mixed results. Reading her thoughts helps readers understand her predicament as well as her opinion of it. At the same time, choosing to express an essentially illiterate character’s thoughts and feelings in a self-conscious monologue is ill conceived. There had to be better ways of elucidating the situation, including having Shiva or Nyssa read Cassandra’s body language, heroine/villlainess verbal sparring, or even a flashback sequence. Choosing an inarticulate character to explain and characterize events to readers inevitably results in either bad characterization (too intelligent phrasing) or diffuse interpretation (language too vague to be a meaningful expository addition). It was a conceptual mistake that took readers away from the action in this chapter, and that’s a bad mistake in a book like Batgirl.

The art in this issue exceeds the title’s also-ran record. Pop Mhan, renowned for a certain exaggerated style, neither reinterprets any significant character nor short changes anyone with a cartoony précis of how they ought to look. While Nyssa’s sexy outfit is completely impractical, it fits given the issue is set in her inner sanctum amongst her guards and most valuable widgets. The coloring might veer a bit too far towards orange and red hues, but no single scene looks lazily monochromatic. There just could have been more blue, green, red, or purple used. The interior art is buoyed yet not upstaged by a Tim Sale cover that misrepresents the ongoing arc. It’s a striving if imperfect performance, which fits the book’s ongoing overall struggle very well.