Review: Batgirl #3
You know when you have to take a three-hour train ride from your current home city to another city for a cool event or to visit friends? Batgirl #3 is the comic book equivalent of that train ride. Sure, the seats are comfortable, there is wi-fi, and you have time to relax and read, but it’s just a transitional period before the real fun starts. Batgirl #3 does have its good bits, like artist Rafael Albuquerque and colorist Dave McCaig’s depiction of the punishment that Batgirl takes from the MMA fighter Wen Lu or her eidetic memory. Writer Hope Larson also uses thought bubbles to provide a barbed running commentary on Babs’ interaction with an annoying businessman on her plane ride to Seoul, which skewers both public transportation harassment and modern day snake oil salesmen like But the issue is all setup for the real fun stuff, like a Seoul rooftop battle between Batgirl and Teacher’s acolytes as well as more information about her friend Kai’s secret.
The thought bubbles are both a blessing and a curse in Batgirl #3. At their best, they allow us access to Batgirl’s immediate unfiltered thoughts like how she got beat up so badly in her MMA fight that she had to access her long term memory to remember what happened. At their worst, Larson simply narrates the action on the panel like when Batgirl tries to investigate the connection between Wen Lu and Teacher through various gadgets. The thought bubbles get in the way of Albuquerque and McCaig’s art of Batgirl’s stealthy recon. They are clear enough storytellers for readers to piece together the investigation and the trap that Wen Lu sets for her.
On a more positive note, Larson and Albuquerque tag team to make Batgirl a mixture of competence and vulnerability. Of course, she gets dropped by one of the best MMA fighters in East Asia, but she uses this loss to train and choose a different move to take out her opponent. (Wen Lu gets away because there are a few issues in this arc to go.) Albuquerque doesn’t shy away from showing the bruises on Babs’ face after she gets her ass kicked, but he almost immediately cuts to a double page “rewind” spread where she replays the events of the fight in her head. These pages allow readers to get a look at Babs’ thought process as he zooms into her mistakes in the fight and when she got distracted by the “Student” tattoo that she saw on her opponent in Batgirl #1. Batgirl isn’t just a superhero, but a lifelong student too, and a second chance can be deadly for her enemies. (Unfortunately, the second chance in this issue gets delayed until Batgirl #4 is released.) Albuquerque should also be praised for giving both Batgirl, her trainer May Hao, and Wen Lu physiques that look like they practice combat sports than making them look like the stereotypical wasp waisted super model superheroines.
Batgirl #3 is a well-executed table setting issue as Rafael Albuquerque excels at showing Barbara Gordon as a superhero, beaten down MMA fighter, and as a suspicious friend as she and Kai part ways. Hope Larson keeps most of the information about him hidden and spends most of the issue switching the setting from Singapore to South Korea. Her plot is connect the dots detective work and sets up a battle royale in an upcoming issue so don’t sleep on this comic just yet.
Story: Hope Larson Art: Rafael Albuquerque Colors: Dave McCaig
Story: 6 Art: 8 Overall: 7 Verdict: Read
DC Comics provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review