With the news and controversy about its upcoming Joker variant cover which was pulled, Batgirl and its creative time have been in the spotlight for good or ill. At the beginning, Batgirl #40 is a little confusing with lots of transhuman and AI ideas connected to the villains that Batgirl has been fighting since the new creative team took over. However, Brenden Fletcher, Cameron Stewart, Babs Tarr, and Maris Wicks end up sticking the landing and have Batgirl exorcise demons in a quite literal way with the help of her supporting cast and the people of Burnside. Babs Tarr and Cameron Stewart create a flurry of panels to simulate Batgirl’s quick fighting style, and Tarr also gets to take another crack at showing her eidetic memory. Colorist Maris Wicks mainly uses a dark purple tone for background, but softens it for happier scenes and uses a blur effect for the memory scenes.
The big reveal last issue that the Big Bad of this arc of Batgirl was a sentient AI was a little jarring. It is clever that Fletcher and Stewart did make the seeming throwaway references to the Tinder-like app Hooq end up paying off with the app based on Barbara’s own brain patterns and algorithm. This creates a villan that is connected to Batgirl’s dark past and her skill with computers, but it hurts the possibility of her using a dating app like another person. (Maybe Hooq 2.0 is in the future.) However, Fletcher and Stewart end up using all this tech-y stuff to strengthen Batgirl’s resolve as a character and give agency and little spotlight moments to some of her supporting cast members, especially her roommate Frankie. Babs Tarr gave Batgirl’s new group of friends distinct looks and body types, and Fletcher and Stewart have given the people close to her different personalities and roles in her fight against crime that culminates in this issue.
In Batgirl #40, Babs Tarr shows her versatility as an artist in drawing scenes ranging from a care free two page spread of youthful partiers to a high tech battle and even something from Batgirl’s past. She and Stewart layer panels to give Batgirl’s strikes and kicks power and tenacity. Batgirl is really angry at this “entity” smearing her name and reputation. Tarr adds extra frown lines to AI Batgirl to show how rage-filled and unrelenting she is in her quest for justice.
Like leit motifs in a film score, Maris Wicks matches particular color to moods. There is the stark purple for the scenes involving Batgirl fighting her evil AI, then a yellow orange for more hopeful scenes where she fights back. The bold backgrounds complement the small panels and give the issue a heightened, fast-paced tone once the action gets rolling. Batgirl #40 might not satisfy every fan, but it’s a well-designed comic with slick action beats, a gorgeous color palette, and some character growth for Batgirl and her friends. It is a true celebration of the character.