Stewart, Fletcher, and Tarr’s run on Batgirl won’t just be remembered for the iconic redesign of Batgirl’s costume, which has found its way into other mediums, like the DC Comics Superhero Girls toy line or the Batman Bad Blood animated film, or the cyberpunk-meets-Williamsburg aesthetic of Burnside. It will be remembered as a comic that showed that not all DC superhero books had to have art that looked like Jim Lee’s, kicked ass while still being stylish as hell, and most of all for having a diverse, multifaceted cast of characters that fans of all genders, races, sexual orientations, body types, and disability status could see themselves in.
Like Barbara Gordon’s agile mind, writers Cameron Stewart and Brenden Fletcher tend to balance several plot threads in each Batgirl issue, and this one is no exception. The three main ones are real estate developers using teenagers in various street gangs to drive out tenants so they can gentrify Burnside, Stephanie Brown aka Spoiler getting a bounty put on her because she witnessed Eiko Hasigawa (Catwoman’s lover during Genevieve Valentine’s run on the book) executing mob leaders, and also her continued lapses of memory, which might have led to a scientific breakthrough. Although, Stewart and Fletcher’s plot has a lot of moving parts, it comes organically out of character relationships and the dark, lovely world they have crafted through thirteen issues with artist Babs Tarr, colorist Serge Lapointe, and other collaborators.
First of all, I’d like to give a round of applause to the cleverness of putting an artist named Bengal on a comic book featuring a tiger themed villain and extended fight sequences of Batgirl against tigers. Batgirl #44 begins immediately after last issue when the new villain Velvet Tiger kidnapped Jo, the fiancee of Barbara Gordon’s friend Alysia and also framed her friend/gadget provider Qadir for murder. The plot of this issue involving the rescue of Jo, several showdowns with Velvet Tiger, and almost a half dozen supporting characters is packed to the brim by writers Cameron Stewart and Brenden Fletcher. However, the sheer expressiveness of Bengal’s art and Serge Lapointe’s colors along with a nice dose of adorable in the several romantic scenes keep the issue afloat and entertaining.