Writer: Hope Larson / Artist: Rafael Albuquerque / DC Comics
A little background: I missed Brenden Fletcher’s run of Batgirl, a series I had been meaning to read – and still plan to – by a very fun comic book writer and generally good human. I found about the new Batgirl series shortly after a viewing of DC’s animated The Killing Joke, a train wreck 30 years in the making that abused and eroded Batgirl as an emotional gimmick based on a book I was never fond of to begin with. Those factors combined, and suffice it to say this is great timing for a new Batgirl comic to dive into, and here we are with Hope Larson and Rafael Albuquerque.
And Batgirl’s gone international. Babs is on a trip through Asia with her first stop being Japan, where she reunites with an old friend, and goes in search of an even older stranger. The comic has a light tone – refreshing after The Killing Joke – and focuses more on setting the tenor for Babs as a character than diving into the story plot. For someone admittedly not a longtime Batgirl reader, I appreciate it as a good jumping in point for those who know just enough but certainly not a ton.
While the plot is getting ready to unfold, Batgirl adds a lot of fun niche elements to this book. Babs and her friend Kai are reunited in Japan, which is a great point of interest for those who enjoy Japanese culture; we look to be exploring different fighting styles and MMA with more depth than we might expect from an action comic; and it’s an international mystery, which will be appealing to anyone interested in travel as Babs is already looking to her next destination adventure.
The art in this book is hit or miss for me, with the hits coming from the panel layouts and readability, and the misses entirely due to facial expressions. I find expressions a bit more exaggerated or toon-y than I’d prefer, and often made scenes look cornier than needed, but those mostly fall away during the action scenes in favor of more convincing expressions.
Overall, I’m in for the ride and looking forward to getting to know Barbara Gordon much better than I do. Here’s hoping for a comic laced with more history, culture, and self-exploration. If this turns out to be anything like the superhero action-travel adventure it has potential to be, I’ll be happy to have read this book.