Batgirl #28 // Review
For Batgirl, escaping from the police is easy. Knowing what to do after the escape isn’t. Having been seriously injured in her tangle with the masked villain known as Grotesque, Barbara Gordon has moved-in with her father while she recuperates. Any investigation of Grotesque will have to navigate under the gaze of a concerned father. Batgirl’s investigation will lead her to the clocktower headquarters of the Birds of Prey as she investigates the connection between Grotesque and the mysterious Dark Web. Elsewhere the dark specter of the demonic entity Wyrm lurks in the background.
This issue focuses on aspects of Batgirl’s skills which aren’t exactly dynamic on a visual level. She’s one of the best computer hackers in the world and while there’s real drama there, the visual appeal of that skill doesn’t have much physical impact. Norm Rapmund and Paul Pelletier have found a way to mix a sternly-focused Batgirl against the text boxes of internal monologue and simple imagery in the background to maintain intensity. Delivering vividly on the drama of Batgirl’s least-visual talent, Joshua Middleton’s variant cover features a shadowy, beautifully-rendered Batgirl intently working online at the Clocktower.
A solid quarter of the issue features a tense conversation between Barbara and her father. Father and daughter feel a bit stiff in Rapmund’s hands, but the tension of father/daughter concern is carried to the page effectively. Rapmund is at his best when handling the kinetics of combat at the beginning of the issue. There’s a graceful flow to the action that glides across the page as Batgirl evades bullets in her escape from the police. Tension increases with Batgirl springing to action at issue’s end, but this installment is dominated by non-physical drama as “Art of the Crime,” leads-off into its final chapter in Batgirl #29.
The emotional drama is possibly most compelling in the presence of Wyrm. The interaction with the human and inhuman is amplified by Jordie Bellaire’s ethereally sinister greens and pale yellows. The color scheme for Wyrm seems to be borrowing from the Wachowski brothers’ decision to place the virtual world of The Matrix in the light and sickly phosphorous green of an old PC. It’s a ghostly glow that delivers the impression of spectral evil even if it feels horribly outdated. There’s that feeling that Wyrm has been drawn out of some primordial Lovecraftian virtual reality that predates even old monochromatic CRT monitors.
Scott guides the story through the penultimate chapter with a somewhat stilted rhythm. It’s an awkward collection of moments to try to frame inside a single issue. This is an issue that leads from action-escape to interpersonal drama to investigation and revelation. The disjointed progression keeps the escalation of tension from sweeping the narrative to its fateful final chapter. The only significant physical action happens in the first couple of pages, and much of the drama seems focused on longer-range issues with Batgirl and Wyrm that will likely echo out well beyond “Art of the Crime.” This is a bit disappointing, as the overall premise of Grotesque as an art thief who has twisted into a sociopathic killer has great potential. Throwing in Wyrm and the Dark Web as an evident lead-in to the next multi-issue story seems a bit misplaced in a story that could have focused a bit more on the nature of art, property, life and reality. As interesting as the current multi-part story is, Scott seems firmly focused on the story that will develop in issue #30 and beyond.