Reviewing this title each month is becoming increasingly difficult – I'm finding there are only so many ways to say 'good story', 'great dialogue', 'fun characters', 'superb art', 'striking covers' … but I'm enjoying the challenge nonetheless as Batgirl continues to be my most looked-forward-to book each month.
This issue, the third and final part of the Batgirl Rising: Core Requirements story-arc, picks-up just where the last issue left-off: Batman is in trouble, Batgirl and Robin are rushing to his aid before his hunters – Roxy Rocket, Riot, and Doctor Phosphorus, each fuelled by a mix of infamy and Roulette's wealth – can kill him.
As Stephanie and Damian race across the roof-tops of Gotham City the bickering – such an enjoyable feature of recent issues – continues: 'What the hell is wrong with you?' asks Stephanie as Damian charges ahead refusing, as he sees it, to be hampered by his companion – 'And you swing like a girl' he counters before disappearing, quite literally, in a puff of smoke to pick up his motorbike.
At the Batcave Barbara Gordon is monitoring the web-feed of Roulette's performance as she tries to locate the source of the broadcast. Aware that Dick is injured and that he needs BOTH Stephanie and Damian if he is going to survive she directs Steph to her private garage, where she's been saving something for a 'special occasion' – and Batman's plight certainly qualifies as just such a special occasion.
As we see Damian, now on his bike, weaving in and out of the Gotham traffic we catch sight of Stephanie advancing rapidly in her own vehicle that's not quite a car, not quite a motorbike … as we find out later on in the story!
Meanwhile, back in Devil's Square, Batman – weak but not yet beaten – is barely one-step ahead of Phosphorus with Roxy Rocket not far behind. Stephanie and Damian, join forces and work together as Dick, now close to being overwhelmed, sees that help from his young companions is just moments away. Wrestling himself free from his assailant Dick jumps to safety as Damian leaps from his bike … moments before it impacts on Phosphorus.
With Phosphorus temporarily out of the picture Roxy Rocket sees her opportunity and swoops low for an attack – as she does Stephanie positions herself beneath Roxy's rocket, hits her vehicle's 'eject' button and fires herself skyward towards Roxy, where the two women fight for control of the aircraft.
With Riot – several Riots in fact – now beating on Dick, Damian positions Phosphorus for a very painful meeting with Roxy. Two down, one to go. As Stephanie leads Dick to safety the young boy – 'little Lord Fauntleroy' – confidently confronts around a dozen Riots … and it soon becomes obvious that he's out of depth: Batgirl to the rescue!
Much later, having put an end to Roulette's plans, Dick, Damian, and Stephanie join Barbara back at the Batcave. As the two youngsters eat, and recommence their bickering that had been largely abandoned while they worked as a team, Barbara and Dick take time-out to talk about where they've come from, where they are, and where they are going – and, perhaps more importantly, why they are going there.
When discussing 'creativity' I'm always quick to acknowledge there's no such thing as good or bad, rather something that is to my personal tastes or otherwise. The Batgirl title very much falls into the former category.
Throughout the series so far the stories themselves have been largely uncomplicated and beautifully told through strong narration and some great dialogue – and this issue continues that tradition. As regular readers will know I'm enjoying the lighthearted bickering between Stephanie and Damian but it wouldn't take much for this fun relationship to cross the line into silly: it's credit to Brian Q. Miller's writing that I'm confident that particular pitfall will be avoided.
I've long-since been a fan of Lee Garbett's art and feel his work gets better with each passing issue – as I've said before, this clean, sharp, confident style of artwork is VERY much to my personal taste and therefore credit also goes to Trevor Scott and Guy Major for their inks and colours.
As the concluding issue of a story-arc featuring no less than four villains, it would have been easy for this issue to have turned into nothing more than a 22-page 'chase-and-fight.' Needless to say, it didn't, as moments of high drama were interspersed with moments of quiet reflection, none more so than the scene, late in the issue, with Barbara and Dick in the Batcave. I was genuinely touched as the two discussed their past – and their futures – and I have a feeling that in time we'll look back to these five panels as something of a turning-point for the two characters.
While I'm not saying the Batgirl title is perfect, I can't, in all honesty, identify any flaws and I'm not sure what else I'm looking for to consider it perfect – it makes me smile, at times it makes me feel a little sad, it makes me think. It makes me want to read and then re-read the issue and makes me look forward to the next.
Reviewed by Zaius