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Batgirl #2: Beyond Burnside, Part Two

Written by Hope Larson
Art by Rafael Albuquerque
Colors by Dave McCaig
Letters by Deron Bennett

Reviewed by Max Mallet

“I’m not here to be a ring girl. I’m a fighter.”

DC Comics

Batgirl #2

When we last saw Barbara Gordon, AKA Batgirl, she was globetrotting her way from Burnside to Tokyo and now Singapore. Hot on the trail of a lethal schoolgirl-martial-artist who attacked her friend Kai in public, Barbara looks for clues at a couple of mixed martial arts gyms. Meanwhile, Barbara is wrestling with her own insecurities and growing feelings for Kai.

Batgirl’s hunt for this new villain and her tenuous new romance with Kai compete for the story’s focus. It’s difficult to tell which emerges victorious, with abrupt transitions from one storyline to the other.  In all forms of storytelling, expedited dialogue is fairly common, but it’s simply too apparent here.  After the first couple of pages, Barbara doesn’t even mention her new nemesis or her previous introduction to Fruit Bat, which was an integral part of the previous (and inaugural) issue.

Hope Larson does give Barbara a good amount of agency and natural dialogue in this issue. At one point, Barbara’s inner monologue seamlessly transitions from recognizing her own awkwardness to rationalizing why she likes Kai to concluding that she needs therapy.  It’s a believable and even relatable full page of sound writing, and Rafael Albuquerque’s pencils marry Barbara’s facial expressions and posture to her thoughts.  The writing gem of the story happens towards the end of the issue, where Larson displays a full week with individual panels representing each day.  This deft formatting serves to both move the story along and show the Barbara Gordon’s breadth and depth as a character.

There are a couple of instances of questionable dialogue. At times, Barbara and Kai say things that feel very forced. At one point, Kai blurts, “I’m ready to grow up. Know what I mean?” It’s difficult to imagine someone in their late-teens-to-early-twenties saying that out loud. Such dialogue serves more as telling than showing. Additionally, the transitions from Barbara and Kai scenes to sparring scenes are very abrupt.  Additionally, in a couple of recent Nightwing issues, Barbara shows that she has feelings for the title character.  Yet Barbara doesn’t mention this once, even to herself, causing a common comics problem: continuity confusion.  In all forms of storytelling, expedited dialogue is fairly common, but it’s simply too apparent here.

As with the writing, the artwork has its wonderful moments and its hiccups. Albuquerque’s penciling is unique, as it doesn’t resemble the DC house style, favoring a more playful tone. Barbara is very well drawn, appearing athletic and somewhat muscular while stopping short of looking Amazonian. The penciling and colors shine brightest during sparring sequences.  Albuquerque and Dave McCaig depict facial expressions and muscle tone with great care.  Yet, throughout the book, Barbara’s facial expressions vary wildly, running the gamut from over-the-top goofy to sultry.  There’s one instance where Barbara tells Kai that she’s going to the library, and she looks like she’s sucking on a lemon.  It’s unclear why this is the case, and distracts from the story.

Verdict

Check it out. While Batgirl #2 doesn’t improve on the first issue, it certainly has its merit. There are bumps in the road, but there is more to like than to criticize here. It’s a slow issue, and the story arc is at a crawl by the end. However, the two main characters here are pretty well realized, and the art compliments the mood of the story very nicely. This is another DC title, much like Batman and Aquaman, which has substantial boots to fill because of a recent, critically acclaimed run. If you’re a fan of Batgirl and want to experience one of the lighter storylines under DC’s umbrella, you should give this creative team a chance.

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