Written by Brenden Fletcher and Cameron Stewart
Art by Bengal, David LaFuente, Ming Doyle, and Mingjue Helen Chen
Colours by Bengal, Gabe Eltaeb, Ivan Plascencia, and Mingjue Helen Chen
Letters by Steve Wands
Annuals are a tricky feat for comics creators. It’s an anniversary celebration for the character or the creative team and it’s a love letter to the fans who love them. A lot of the time, they can feel gimmicky and yes, that is a part of the charm but there’s a fine line that needs to be balanced by a genuine love for the character and the story told in the annual. You can definitely feel that love and care here in Batgirl Annual #3. Brenden Fletcher and Cameron Stewart weaved together a case for Barbara that involves her teaming up with many of DC/Gotham’s superheroines and superheroines-in-training (and Grayson too!). Each new team-up throughout this case features a new artist and it’s such a great transition from artist to artist. I don’t want to spoil too much so you guys can just enjoy what each guest artist/star bring to the table.
Guest Contributors Bengal (Batgirl: Endgame, Naja), David Lafuente, Ming Doyle, and Mingjue Helen Chen are all incredible with their small stories and they all bring completely different strengths to the visuals. Bengal, who also did the cover art for this issue, is amazing with the action scenes. Batgirl’s attacks really do seem to fly off of page, or rather the panel. You can really feel the cracks from the impact in all the attacks. Bengal’s also really good with characters’ facial expressions and body language. His art is so expressive that very little dialogue is needed.
The transition from Bengal to Lafuente was effortless and Lafuente’s brings great comedic parts with facial expressions. Ming Doyle’s part in the comic harkens back to a good old-fashioned vigilante team-up mission. Although Ming Doyle’s art is a little more realistic than the others, it works well with this particular guest hero.
The issue ends with Mingjue Helen Chen’s Gotham Academy crossover and it really does combine the best of both of those comics. Although Maps and Olive (mostly Maps) are also bright and eager to set out into action, you can see the stark difference between them and Batgirl. While Barbara is fairly young, she is older than they are and she’s a more experienced detective. Their scenes together are wonderful and really tie in what’s happening in both worlds, adding more depth to the newly explored Gotham universe.
Verdict: BUY BUY BUY BUY! Batgirl has undergone several changes over the last couple of years but I feel like the core of her character has stayed the same. She’s a mentor, a friend, a detective, a team-player, a leader, and an inspiration. We see amazing snippets of all these facets in this issue and Stewart, Fletcher, and all the artists and colourists do a phenomenal job celebrating all that is Barbara Gordan. This is one the best single issues I’ve read this year and if you’re a fan of Batgirl and Barbara Gordon, you’ll definitely love this one as well.