There are a lot of comics out there, but some just stand out head and shoulders above the pack. With “Don’t Miss This” we want to spotlight those series we think need to be on your pull list. This week, we look at the current run of “Batgirl.”
Who is this by?
The current run of “Batgirl” is written by Hope Larson, penciled by Chris Wildgoose, inked by Jose Marzan Jr, colored by Mat Lopes, and lettered by Deron Bennett.
What’s it all about?
The solo Batgirl book is dually focused on Barbara Gordon’s life outside the cowl, and her adventures as Batgirl. Ever since the first arc wrapped up, the series has more or less stayed in Gotham City, specifically in the Burnside enclave. The first arc with Wildgoose on pencils focused on Barbara’s relationship with Ethan Cobblepot, the son of the Penguin, as well as Barbara’s attempt to give back to the community through mentoring young programmers.
The second, current, arc with Wildgoose on board, is set both in the present and in Barbara’s teenage past, where she and Nightwing (Dick Grayson) are dealing with nano technology being used both as drug and poison. This arc is almost evenly split between the two timelines, allowing some interesting parallels to present themselves.
What makes it so great?
After launching with the art of Rafael Albuquerque, Wildgoose joined in the seventh issue, and instantly brought a new approach to the book. After inking himself on the first arc, Marzan joined the book with the ‘Summer of Lies’ arc, and has brought a slightly heavier line to the title. From a visual standpoint, the book is more similar to the late New 52 ‘Batgirl of Burnside’ era of the book than Albuquerque’s was, but there is a greater sense of wonder and playfulness than even was found in that run.
Wildgoose’s work never feels staged or stagnant, and has such a nice sense of movement. Even a panel like the one below, which is supposed to look like characters frozen in movement, breathes so nicely.
A lot of that playfulness comes from Larson’s scripting, which has Barbara really focused on helping others in all aspects of her life, either as the founder of Gordon Clean Energy, or as a mentor, or as a costumed superheroine. One of the really wonderful aspects of ‘Rebirth’ thus far has been the renewed sense of compassion and hope from the younger heroes of the DCU, specifically Batgirl and Supergirl. Barbara being paired with Dick is an especially great example of how the first generation of Bruce Wayne’s proteges have a more hopeful view of their roles as the later recruits do.
In the ‘Son of the Penguin’ arc, Larson played with the idea of app-culture and data mining, taking it to a place that was skeptical, but never in a “get off my lawn!” judgmental way. The apps created by Ethan were appealing, but had a dark side. It was a nice bit of commentary, but never at the expense of the story. Another thing that Larson has done on each of the last two arcs is found a way to incorporate a little bit of music, a tricky proposition, and both times did it in really fun and unexpected ways.
As much fun as that arc has been, ‘Summer of Lies’ has been even better thus far. I’m a sucker for Dick and Babs together, both as crime-fighting and romantic partners, so this is right up my particular alley. But Larson and Wildgoose have made a few choices that really elevate this arc, even for folks that don’t ship this particular couple.
In the segments that take place in the past, there is an innocence to these two that seems a little out of place for the timeline (though, to be fair, the DC timeline is so screwy, who knows when they were really kids? But they have smartphones, so it wasn’t that long ago), but really works to charm the reader. Consider this scene from #15, where they decide to go undercover at a party:Continued below
Larson writes the characters as the young teens they are, insecure and dogmatic and still testing the boundaries of their relationship and their roles as vigilantes. In all of the scenes set in the past, we see the reality of their responsibilities weighing on them. They have to learn to deal with making mistakes, both by doing the wrong thing and by simply not doing the right thing, as well as learning to trust one another, and rely on their personal judgment.
In the present, we see older and wiser versions of these two characters, but they haven’t lost any of the compassion or hope that they had as teens. They are still gutted when things don’t go so well for them. In #16, which drops today, they follow a path expecting to find a villain, but instead find something far more complex and heartbreaking. You see Barbara, in particular, really crestfallen, and she leans on Dick for support. Larson writes the pair about as well as anyone in recent memory, and imbues their dialogue with so much shared history, respect, attraction, and love that it truly feels like how old friends chat.
While his work is fantastic throughout, Wildgoose especially thrives in the flashback scenes, and his design of Barbara’s original Batgirl costume is one of the best we’ve ever seen. The lines are clean and well designed, and he even manages to simplify and streamline the overly complex Robin costume that has been around since the start of ‘Rebirth.’ He really puts the youth of these characters on display, in every aspect from their posture to the way they leap across rooftops. They try to act tough when confronting a crook, but are carefree and nimble.
Both arcs by this team have had an element of romance in them, but this arc, which shows the attraction between the characters a decade a part, really feels sweet. In today’s issue, we see their first kiss, and it is set up some beautifully through Larson’s script and Wildgoose’s innocent pencils. It just warms your heart.
How can you read it?
The first arc is collected in “Batgirl Vol 2: Son of Penguin (Rebirth),” which just hit bookstores yesterday. The second arc, “Summer of Lies,” is currently ongoing, and can be found digitally or in your comic shop of choice.