THE PLOT: Batgirl takes on the new Velvet Tiger in a battle for Jo’s life!
MY THOUGHTS: I really did not care for this issue.
It’s not exactly bad, but everything felt rushed and hurried along. The art by Bengal wasn’t nearly up to the previous standard, and the writing lacked the usual spark this team always provides. I don’t know if the change-up from Babs Tarr’s work to Bengal’s makes the difference, and it shouldn’t since Bengal did part of the Annual. The overall story was fine, but the execution did not work for me hardly at all.
I was expecting a lot more from Velvet Tiger in this story, but she’s little more than a goofball with a fancy dress. There’s nothing inherently interesting about her aside from her design; she’s nothing more than a one-dimensional supervillain who laughs to herself and sticks around to watch her victims die by her diabolical death traps. She’s straight from the ’60s Batman show, and not in a good way. If the story had continued into an additional issue we might’ve seen more of her as Lani, interacting with Jeremy and getting a broader scope of her personality. As it stands…ehh. I hope she returns and is made a better deal out of, but she was surprisingly weak as an antagonist.
The plot I found to be pretty convoluted and confusing. I kept re-reading it trying to make sense of why Velvet Tiger was killing people with lions, framing others for them and how that connected to the tigers Jo’s activist group was trying to help and it’s not all that complicated to tell the truth. There are globs of exposition in the middle of the issue that slow down the reading, and it made the story more complex than it needed to be going from #43. We’re also given this sudden backstory with Jeremy about plagiarizing a thesis that comes completely out of nowhere, further treating the character as ancillary when he was set up as a major character from the start of the run. Are we going to be seeing him again? He’s sure to be fired from the school, so odds favor the answer being “no”.
At the end Luke Fox and Barbara decide to get together, which for me comes out of left field in a big way. I don’t know much at all about Luke Fox’s history as Batwing or relationship with Batgirl prior to this story, but the fact remains that this is the character’s second appearance in the title. I didn’t even know he knew who Batgirl was, which begs the question on how well he knows the other members of the Bat-Family. It’s the fastest transition from colleague to romantic partner I’ve ever read, and while I’m sure they make a nice couple, it’s so jarring to see this happen that it rings completely hollow. This is when the benefit of knowing Barbara’s inner thought process would really help the comic out. I know Team Batgirl has sworn off that storytelling device, but in instances like this it’s just hard to gauge where the main character’s state of mind is. I get that there’s an attraction between the two characters, but it doesn’t differentiate to me from any other time Babs has flirted with someone else. We may well get a better expansion on the two’s relationship in the future, but as it stands now it’s jarring and frustrating. It feels like a love subplot that exists solely for the sake of it, devoid of any natural evolution.
So yeah, overall this was really disappointing. Not an awful issue, but not great when reading the series for the past year. I don’t know how this happened, but I’m hoping this is just a blip in the creative team’s batting average.