In Review: Batgirl #44

Extremely fun to read, balancing action with relationships.

The cover: If anyone had told me three years ago that I’d be looking at a cover on Batgirl that looked like this, I would have said they were crazy. And I have to say I couldn’t be happier to be so wrong. The Velvet Tiger is about to put her claws into an suspecting Barbara Gordon and Luke Fox, who look like they’re about to get a lot more closer than friends. Excellent cover from Babs Tarr with a nice image of the title character out of her costume and in normal clothes trying to have a normal relationship. The outstanding element of this image is the gigantic villain behind them, with her claws so close to piercing flesh. This is a classic comic book cover layout carried out to perfection. The coloring is also very strong. It’s rare to see a comic book with this much pink on the cover and it really makes it stand out. Overall grade: A

The story: “An Ambush of Tigers” is an appropriate title for this story written by Cameron Stewart and Brenden Fletcher. The issue opens with Batgirl on the search for Jo who’s been missing for twenty-four hours. Making her feel anxious are Alysia’s comments before going out. Coming upon a room filled with empty cages and straw, Batgirl sees a cellphone. Reaching for it, a boot slams down on her hand: the Velvet Tiger is there. She kicks the crime fighter in the head, but Batgirl is able to give her a kick to the head, then wrapping her to a cage with a bat-gadget. “Now tell me where I can find Jo and the tigers before I get nasty,” says the confident hero. Using her claws, the Velvet Tiger slashes her way to freedom, then produces a device and points it at Batgirl. “I know a thing or two about what makes tech tick, Batgirl.” She presses a button and several of the hero’s devices on her belt activate, producing a small explosion, giving the Tiger enough time to escape. There’s a clever twist in the story where Batgirl learns that Barbara was warned of this villain’s arrival days ago. Batgirl seeks assistance from someone the Tiger hit in her everyday life as Lani Gilbert. It was neat to see that Batgirl can’t accomplish Jo’s rescue on her own and has to rely on friends, especially the unexpected arrival of the friend that makes a stunning entrance on Page 16. The story with Jo and Tiger wraps up, and the relationship on the cover is addressed on 18 and 19, with things taking a twist. Then there’s the final page — Okay, that’s really cool! This continues to be a fun hero book where a costumed crusader is trying to do the best she can with the help of her friends. Overall grade: A 

The art: Bengal does a good job on this book, beginning with an awesome shot of Batgirl speeding on her cycle, which is spouting a neat trail of flames. The second page is an excellent splash revealing the Velvet Tiger to Batgirl for the first time. The quick scuffle between them has an excellent sense of movement, from the Tiger’s kick to Batgirl’s response. I really like the panel where the Tiger frees herself from the rope. The close-up of the Tiger at the bottom of 3 nicely shows her cat eyes, awesome make-up, and those gorgeously fierce sharp teeth. She has a great villain snarl. This issue has the expected small panels, such as on 5, which has thirteen panels, giving the book an outstanding rapid pace. Bengal makes the most of each panel, expertly creating full emotions on each character while still moving the point of view of the panels around to keep the page interesting. This is most helpful on the heavy dialogue pages, which are essential in telling the story, that could have become a drag if drawn by a lesser artist. I also enjoy the over-the-top comedic reactions, such as on 8. Something also must be said about the actual tigers in this issue — they look terrific! Sometimes an artist is competent only in human characters, with animals getting the short stick, but Bengal doesn’t do that. His work on these animals is fantastic. The visuals on this book are really, really good. Overall grade: A

The colors: It hasn’t been an issue before on this book, but the colors caused some problems. First was the use of a grey font for some characters’ dialogue, such as on the first page or where Batgirl mutters. It was difficult to read and instantly took me out of the story. When paired against the pale blue background in three panels on the opening page, they become a blob. Second was the faded coloring done in some panels on the actual art — it just didn’t look right. This happened on Page 8. It’s understandable that the third panel would have faded coloring to show the reader that one character is outside a car’s window, but there’s no justification for keeping the colors faded when both individuals are outside the car. Complicating things is the coloring going bright in the next panel. Why the fade, Serge LaPointe? The coloring greatly improves when Batgirl and the Tiger battle: it’s bright and strong. However, Pages 18 and 19 have a filter being rotated through almost every other panel. There’s no reason to do so for the story or the art. Such random flip flopping between bright and dim hurt the reading of the book. Overall grade: C- 

The letters: Transmissions, opening title, opening credits, dialogue, sounds, computer font, yells, a machine voice, and a fantastic new computerized speaker (or is that thinker?). Steve Wands has done an incredible job on this title since he first came on and I’m always impressed with what he does, including the superior sounds on this issue. Overall grade: A+

The final line: Extremely fun to read, balancing action with relationships. If only the coloring had been more consistent. 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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