In Review: Batgirl Annual #3

Everything in this is tops, save the Batwoman sequence which just stands out as odd.

The cover: Batgirl cautiously makes to round a corner, pointed batarangs ready to use on anyone that surprises her. She certainly would be surprised if she saw who was about to turn the same corner — Dick Grayson. He’s got two police sticks to take out anyone he encounters. The sad thing is, she thinks that Dick is dead; he can’t let her know that he’s alive. It’s a long story, but it’s best if they never meet, though artist Bengal looks as if he’s going to be creating a conflict. Good images of both characters with some excellent coloring on the sunlight falling on Barbara. Overall grade: A

The story: This is a four part story, all contained in this annual, with Batgirl encountering four distinct characters of the DC Bat-universe as she goes on a quest to find out what the group Gladius is doing. Cameron Stewart and Brenden Fletcher are the writers of “The Gladius Objective” and things start out with some major action as Batgirl swings into a street to save a bystander from getting run over by a truck. The man can’t remember who he or the year, but yells, “What is the negahedron?” Using the crime fighter’s greatest tool, her cell phone, she takes a picture of the man and sends it to computer expert Frankie who IDs him as Orin Denby, “President of the United Nations Economic and Social Council. Went missing nine days ago along with four U.N. diplomats.” She goes on to discover him close to Shrike Tower on CCTV. Batgirl goes there and encounters the Director who claims to be tracking a device “stolen from our agency by terrorists.” The two agree to team up. When separated momentarily, Helena (the “Director”) contacts her partner Dick Grayson about Batgirl’s arrival. This complicates things because she thinks he’s dead. “She’s smart. Observant. She could peg me by body language alone. I’m going up. Let’s hope I can stay ahead of you.” The rest of this story involves the two women taking out Gladius goons, while Dick tries to stay out of Batgirl’s way. The image on the cover does occur, and it’s got a cool outcome. After this adventure, Batgirl is on the run to acquire something and she runs smack into the Spoiler, who’s looking to learn how to fight from her. The Spoiler is played for comedic effects and I really didn’t like that. She’s a joke, plain and simple. The story goes extremely serious when Batgirl next meets Batwoman. It was neat to see Batwoman, but the tone was so decidedly different from anything Batgirl’s been in since these writers took over the monthly, it came out odd. The final characters that Batgirl meets with are the leads from Gotham Academy. Their inclusion fit in well with the story, but, again, made the Batwoman segment seem completely out of place. Overall grade: B-

The art: There are four artists on this book: Bengal (Pages 1 – 18), David LaFuente (19 – 23), Ming Doyle (24 – 29), and Minjue Helen Chen (30 – 36). The best art of the book comes in the first eighteen pages from Bengal. This art is very Manga-esque and I liked it! The last two panels on Page 5 are funny and every action scene is really cool! I also loved seeing Mr. Grayson trying to keep out of her eyesight. The third to last panel on Page 18 is perfect. I was also really fond of LaFuente’s work. His Batgirl looks great and he puts a lot of personality into the Spoiler, though I wish the story had allowed him to draw her a little more seriously (grouse-grouse-grouse). This sequence of the annual looks the most like Babs Tarr’s work. The last panel he illustrates just gives me the warm fuzzies. Doyle’s art works well on Batwoman, but the Batgirl that appears in this story looks nothing like Tarr’s. In fact, this Batgirl looks about ten years older. I just don’t like the look of this artwork with this character — it doesn’t fit in with the other work in this book. Chen’s art is fantastic, a huge swing in the right direction after the previous story. It’s like looking at stills from an animated movie (Hint, DC: Do a Gotham Academy film and get Chen in on the design). The facial expressions of all the characters are terrific and the when someone goes wide eyed in thought or surprise I went there with them. Overall grade: B

The colors: There are also four colorists on this issue: Bengal (Pages 1 – 18), Gabe Eltaeb (19 – 23), Ivan Plascencia (24 – 29), and Mingjue Helen Chen (30 – 36). Bengal’s got some pretty realistic coloring on his pencils. The story doesn’t really provide many opportunities for bright colors, but what’s done makes the story seem very real, considering it’s got three super heroes battling an army of baddies. I really like Eltaeb’s work on the Spoiler sequence. This has the joyfully bright colors that can be found in the Batgirl monthly and reminds me of Eltaeb’s tremendous skill; I’ve never seen him do a less than stellar job on anything he does. Plascencia colors the Batwoman pages like one of her comics, with stark colors on gray backgrounds. The setting could have had more variety than what’s done, but I believe that it was colored this way to maintain the tone of the Batwoman’s book, and that’s a shame because the colors could have upped the visuals. Chen colors her own work and it, like Eltaeb’s, is fantastic. Its soft colors match the art perfectly and just made me feel so upbeat as I was reading this portion of the annual. Three strong jobs, with one being flat. Overall grade: B

The letters: Steve Wands is the letterer for this issue, and he provides opening title and credits, yells, sounds, a cell phone’s screen text, text received, whispers, a blue tooth’s transmissions, and the closing/open ending. He does a great job on every book I’ve seen him do and this annual is just as good. I really like his text transmissions. He was the first letterer I’ve ever seen do this in a comic book and I’ve fallen in love with it. If it’s not done in a book he’s on, I get worried for Wands. Overall grade: A

The final line: The Batwoman pages were so different from the rest of this book it lowered my grade. Everything else is tops, but those six pages are just glaringly in the wrong book. Overall grade: B

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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