Batgirl #43 is a beautiful, energetic blend of interpersonal struggles between Batgirl and her “tech help” Frankie, who has started going out on her own little missions along with a half dozen other little dramas in her personal life with another techno thriller. With tigers because villainous animals make for a nice fight scene. Writers Brenden Fletcher and Cameron Stewart combine oodles of different threats from Gail Simone’s Batgirl run, the previous Hooq arc as well as Batgirl’s relationship with Luke Fox to construct an organic plot from Babs’ supporting cast. (Even though there are a couple new faces.) But artist Babs Tarr, co-breaker downer (That’s probably not the proper term Michel Lacombe, and colorist Serge Lapointe continue to make Batgirl the shining jewel in DC Comics’ artistic crown along with Annie Wu and Lee Loughridge on Black Canary, which is practically a sister comic to it. (There’s also the veterans Greg Capullo and FCO Plascencia on Batman, of course.)
Tarr and Lacombe can set the mood of a page in Batgirl #43 by switching the gutters from white to black and shades in between from colorist Lapointe. When Barbara is chatting with Alysia and her lovely, flannel rocking fiancee and fellow activist Jo, the color scheme is pastel radiant even if Stewart and Fletcher’s dialogue is back and forth as Alysia is stressing about the wedding, and Barbara is trying to balance civilian life, superhero life, and a million other things like seeing whether her friend Qadir actually released a tiger on FoxTek’s premises or was framed.
And, as usual, the energy amps up with Tarr and Lacombe put Batgirl through her superheroic paces. Tarr tries out a new gadget in her Bat-artist utility belt by using directional arrows to show the sheer niftiness of Batgirl’s transforming motorcycle. (I wonder if she and Windblade would be pals.) This sequence showcases Batgirl’s sense of style, tech know-how, and superhero swagger in barely a story beat. Tarr and Lacombe use chunkier panels to show Batgirl’s wrestling moves against the tiger as she has to neutralize her opponent’s powerful frame tumbling and judo throwing against it. There are diagonal cuts between panels to simulate tiger claws slashing. Even if it’s just an animal, Fletcher, Stewart, and Tarr tag team to make this tiger a hell of an opponent that wipes Batgirl out physically and leads to some tension with Frankie as she wants to take the field and investigate the attacks while Babs recuperates and plays wedding planner. (Sorry, J-Lo, GBG has better fashion sense than you.)
Nine issues and an annual of character development really pays off as Stewart and Fletcher weave Batgirl’s friend circle into their issue and overarching plot like multicolored threads in a Burnside hipster’s favorite scarf. (They also manage to sneak in an extended cameo from one of this reviewer’s favorite cartoonists.) Other than the tiger attack, Alysia and Jo’s wedding is the central event of Batgirl, but Stewart and Fletcher don’t lean on a certain genre of romantic comedy’s cliches and tie this huge moment with their activist missions and the tiger attacks. Jo wearing flannel is a storytelling choice as she does dangerous things like try to herd tigers and set them free while Alysia tries on dresses. It is just a small example of many when fashion, characterization, and plot intermingle in Batgirl #43.
Even if the final page villain reveal might not be the most exciting (for now), Batgirl #43 is another opportunity for Babs Tarr to strut her character and clothing design sense, try out some new types of fight scenes, and for Cameron Stewart and Brenden Fletcher to put Batgirl’s well-developed supporting cast to work in another wacky, tech/supervillain/political caper/thriller. It’s hard to fit this comic’s plot in a neat genre box, and that’s a good thing.