Batgirl #32 // Review
Shadows of the past haunt a young masked crimefighter as she tries to protect a candidate for public office in the latest Batgirl. The young crusader finds herself on the trail of an assassin known as the Cormorant in a story written by Mairghread Scott with art by Paul Pelletier, ink by Norm Rampmund and colors by Jordie Bellaire. Scott and company deliver a novel turn in Batgirl’s latest investigations while casting a novel dynamic between an altruistic vigilante and the world she defends.
At the opening of the issue, Batgirl confronts a man named Bard--head of security for Gotham City congressional hopeful Luciana Alejo. Bard’s got a checked past that has landed him squarely against Batgirl. Now they’re working together to defend Alejo as the Cormorant stalks the edges of Alejo’s campaign headquarters looking for the right opportunity to strike. If Batgirl and Bard can work together for long enough to defend Alejo, they just might get answers from the Cormorant. They need to know who hired him if Alejo is to remain safe.
Scott pairs a reformed criminal against one of those responsible for bringing him to justice. Placing them in a dynamic where they have to work together is a novel contrast that casts light on a few different angles of criminality and reform within the context of a superhero story. Not content to keep things on an abstract theoretical criminal justice level, Scott infuses some starkly violent moments into the action which strike a particularly dark tone for a series that has already started to move in a progressively darker territory of late. In the process of drawing Batgirl a bit further into the shadows, Scott manages a nice balance between action and mystery in a solidly satisfying story.
Pelletier’s delivery of drama keeps the issue moving along quite well. Though action feels stiff in places, there are some bracing moments of brutality that are delivered quite deftly in explosive movements. The grimacing and teeth clenching feel repetitious as they carve themselves across the faces of nearly every character in the book, but the action is aggressive and relentless enough to keep the entire issue from feeling wincingly percussive.
Rampmund’s inks lend a moody intensity to the antagonism between Batgirl and the Cormorant. Batgirl is beautiful. The Cormorant is...stubbly. (There’s a whole lot of stubble going on between Cormorant and Bard. It’s a superficial level of grittiness, but it really works. There’s a visceral texture that Rampmund is able to amplify in the issue which goes a long way toward adding atmosphere to the action.)
Bellaire handles all the traditional chromatic embellishment to add depth to the drama. Bellaire’s biggest challenge this issue had to be the backgrounds. Pelletier and Rampmund have heavier than normal load of explosive action panels this time around. The speed line hatching in the background of so much movement and gunfire and shouting is a bit of a mess without much else to ground them. In the heat of battle, Bellaire has gone with a weird orange that actually kind of works when contrasted against the grays and reds that splash around the Cormorant's grimaces. Dramatic intensity is given a shadowy background in gray. It’s not particularly sophisticated, but Bellaire isn’t given much to work with and everything in the foreground looks great.
Batgirl’s shaken at issue’s end. Scott has put her through some really intense action over the course of the issue and there’s a definite tension leading to the upcoming chapters. (The next one comes in the form of a crossover tie-in to The Batman Who Laughs miniseries.) This issue works remarkably well on its own, though. Scott has been doing a good job of delivering individual issues that feel self-contained while building ongoing tension in a larger story arc.