In Review: Batgirl #50

This is how an oversized fiftieth issue should be!

The covers: The Regular cover is a nice updating of the first issue where this creative team took over this title, Issue #35. Instead of just having the title character take a selfie in the bathroom, she’s joined by, from left to right, the Spoiler, Black Canary, the Operator, and Bluebird. The middle three look ready for action, but I’m completely smitten by the expression on the Spoiler’s face and the slight smile on Bluebird. This is a great cover by Babs Tarr. There’s also several versions of the Batman v. Superman Variant cover by Kevin Nowlan. The first is the fully colored version showing both heroes high above the city; the second shows only Batman colored in, because, naturally, of his close ties to Batgirl; the third is a partially colored version, with black and white from Superman up, while Batman and below is colored; the final version is entirely composed of Nowlan’s pencils. In addition to the fully colored version, I like this. Overall grades: Regular A+, Variant full colored A+, Variant Batman colored B, Variant partial colored C, and Variant sketch A+

The story: This is how an oversized fiftieth issue should be! The story is a great coming together of all of Batgirl’s enemies, from the minds of Cameron Stewart and Brenden Fletcher. The issue opens in dramatic style, “Three hours from now:” with Batgirl inside a burning building at gunpoint from the Fugue. He tells her, “It’s over, Barbara Gordon. You’ve lost. For good.” He then fires his gun, and with a turn of the page the story is in the “Now.” The Fugue is selling the identity of Batgirl to the highest bidder. Sitting in the dimly lit room is the Velvet Tiger, the Jawbreakers, Killer Moth, Corporal Punishment, and one other individual whose name is never given in the story. The V.T. makes the situation tense, aggravating the Jawbreakers. The Fugue finds a way to diffuse the situation, but only to his benefit. Meanwhile, Batgirl is meeting with her allies. She knows exactly what the villains are up to and, in a sensational double-paged spread featuring dueling dialogue between the her and the villain, both sides tell what they will do to thwart the other. Splitting the groups allows for some one-on-one action, and Stewart and Fletcher do not disappoint. Each hero and villain gets some respectable time as they battle, exchanging barbs while they try to best the other. This was perfect superhero storytelling. With this many characters I wanted to see each get some of the spotlight, and they do. Even better, no one is slighted — each is fighting at the ability a reader would expect and it was fantastic! Naturally it ends with Batgirl and the Fugue battling. Their confrontation is resolved well, as are possible future attacks from this baddie. I loved this! Overall grade: A+

The art: Six different artists are responsible for this issue. It’s not stated in the credits who’s responsible for what (C’mon, DC! Give credit where credit is due!), but it does seem that each battle is illustrated by a different talent. The artists are Babs Tarr, Roger Robinson, John Timms, Eleonora Calini, James Harvey, and Cameron Stewart doing the breakdowns for Pages 27 – 35 and 36 – 38. The first five pages have good images of the both sides of the impending battle, but it’s that double-page spread on 6 and 7 of Burnside that’s excellent. Whoever created this page designed it masterfully, with a map, the path of each time, inserted head shots of speakers, culminating in both sides thinking how things will end. I particularly like that Batgirl, with three of her allies behind her, is drawn in the 1960’s Batman opening credits. The illustrations for Bluebird versus Killer Moth are okay, but are the most simplistic of the issue. The sequence with the Spoiler taking on the Jawbreakers is good, with the hero’s leap into empty space beautiful. Corporal Punishment versus the Operator has the most action, as they are the two strongest characters of the book, and there are a lot of punches thrown and Manga speed lines to show their movements. Black Canary battling the Velvet Tiger contains some outstanding illustrations. A thin line is used on the characters, and though this is the most cartoony looking of the book, it’s my favorite. I wish I knew who drew these pages! A close runner up for best art is Batgirl versus the Fugue. Page 30 is a spectacular piece, created as full page splash that’s been shattered, allowing each piece to tell a part of the battle. The third panel on the last page perfectly captures the joy on both characters’ faces, and the last panel of the book has me eager for more adventures. As a whole, this is a good collection of different artists working on each chapter, but it would have been better if it were just a single creator. Overall grade: B+

The colors: There are a trio of colorists on this book, and, like the artists, it’s not credited with who does what. The three are Serge LaPointe, Lee Loughridge, and James Harvey. The coloring really brings the book to life. The opening page is drawn well, but the colors make this a spectacularly explosive introduction. It’s a dramatic shift with the transition to Page 2 set at the meeting of the villains, which is, naturally, in a dark room. Blues and purples rule and they look great. That double-paged map (Yes, it’s that impressive) is colored in a fantastically dated colored scheme, brightened only by the characters of the present stating what they’re going to do. The Spoiler’s fight is an amazing coloring job, with the Jawbreakers’ costumes making them beautiful to look at. The fight scene involving the Operator uses too many similar colors, making the visuals somewhat lackluster. The final battle with Batgirl looks spectacular on every page, with 30 being the standout of the issue; those colors make the scene so much more surreal. Overall grade: A-

The letters: Finally — one contributor! Sensational Steve Wands, who has done a sweet job on every issue of this current lineup of contributors, does a great job with this issue. Scene settings, dialogue, story title and opening credits, sounds, map designations, powerful letters for each match up, transmissions, one character’s unique font that begins on Page 15, and some closing texts. This title has introduced Wands’s talents to me and I’m the better for it. He always creates a wide variety of visually interesting and appropriate fonts for this book. Overall grade: A+

The pinups: There’s a pair that close out this book. The first is by Cameron Stewart, showing three girls looking at their phones as the Batsignal illuminates behind them. Love it, especially the graffiti behind them. The final pinup is by Joe Quinones with Jordan Gibson. This has Batgirl in costume at a huge rave, surrounded by several familiar faces. The colors on this are exceptional, but her doing Adam West’s Batdance is the reason to check this out. Overall grades: Both A

The final line: This should be the model on how to do a fiftieth issue. A sensational story featuring all the famous and infamous faces that have made their way through this book, and visuals that are strong. Overall grade: A-

Patrick Hayes was a contributor to the Comic Buyer's Guide for several years with "It's Bound to Happen!" and he's reviewed comics for TrekWeb and TrekCore. He's taught 8th graders English for 20 years and has taught high school English for five years and counting. He reads everything as often as he can, when not grading papers or looking up Star Trek, Star Wars, or Indiana Jones items online.
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