Batgirl #36 // Review
Sometimes the best part of a superhero story is the escape act. It’s one thing to see a swashbuckling superhero completely in control of a situation cracking jokes while defeating the villain. Sometimes you just want to see them emerge from total hell with a defiant, badass attitude. Writer Mairghread Scott manages this with style in the latest issue of Batgirl. The finale to Batgirl’s latest multi-part story is drawn by Paul Pelletier with inker Norm Rapmund. It’s a major turning point in the life of Batgirl’s alter ego, Barbara Gordon, as she survives intense pressure from all angles of her life, emerging a hero once more.
Batgirl has just taken down a shark-man at least two times as big as her. The shark’s accomplices (a fox and a vulture) aren’t ready to concede defeat, but they sure as hell aren’t in a very good position as Batgirl claws her way through a deathtrap only to have to deal with the loss of her company, her home and more. Everything’s going to hell for Babs, but she’s ready for a change. Survival at the top of the food chain in Gotham is like anything else: only the fittest survive. The fittest are the most adaptable. Batgirl is nothing if not adaptable.
So it’s a really, really rough 20 pages for Batgirl. Scott gives Babs a steely determination that flits gracefully from panel to panel in very assertive dialogue. More than just a badass, Barbara is learning things. Scott is allowing her to show inspiring selflessness. She’s trapped in a lair with villains who would really like to see her dead, but she’ll be damned if she lets them die due to their own stupidity. There’s a really stunning moment between her and the shark that will likely haunt her for many, many issues to come. It’s a nicely-balanced dance with adversity for Barbara.
Pelletier and Rapmund don’t do quite as well with the emotion this issue as they have in issues past. Expressions look a bit stiff and disjointed. Thankfully, Scott’s dialogue delivers the nuances in the drama, allowing the art team to focus on propelling Batgirl through the percussive hell of all-out battle before making it through to the other side to contend with everything she’s lost in the process. The emotional drama doesn’t make it to the page through the artwork, but the intensity of the action is given a dynamic path thanks to Pelletier and Rapmund.
Given how many moving parts there are in a story like this, it’s challenging to get everything to come together ideally under deadline. The great thing about Scott, Pelletier, and Rapmund is that they work well enough as a team to overcome anything that might be dragging from month to month. Here the action is given its place in the art while the emotion is given its place in the dialogue. Next month it might be different. The important thing is that Batgirl can crawl through the hell and make it onto the splash page of the next issue. She’s good at that.