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.
Throughout Cameron Stewart, Brenden Fletcher, and Babs Tarr’s run, Batgirl has proven that it is the visual crown jewel of DC Comics, and issue 49 is a victory lap, especially thanks to the powerful work of Ming Doyle and James Harvey along with the sunny, suburban Stepford horror of Roger Robinson. It is also a tour de force into the beautiful and damaged psyche of Barbara Gordon and a real turning point in her arc in the New 52. Issue 50 can’t come soon enough.
With clever dialogue and rapid plotting of Cameron Stewart and Brenden Fletcher, the fierceness, cuteness, and sadness of Babs Tarr’s art, and the battle of genres and tones created by colorists Lee Loughridge and Serge Lapointe, Batgirl #48 is an excellent outing for the title, and there are more cool reveals to come. There is definitely a lot of darkness to endure before the colorful fun returns. If it ever does.
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.
Despite its flaws, Southern Cross #6 is a great read. Trippy horror art and a creepy plot worthy of Lovecraft makes it one of the most unique comics in both sci-fi and horror. With what looks like more to come in the second arc, Southern Cross is a cult classic in the making for Image’s extraordinary catalog.
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.
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.
One of the things that writers Cameron Stewart and Brenden Fletcher and artist Babs Tarr have shown in their run in Batgirl is that Gotham can be home to other stories and genres other than dark conspiracy, horror, or detective tales. Batgirl #42 could be classified as a techno thriller comedy, or just a straight up superheroes defeat supervillains with an added personal layer because Barbara is teaming up with her dad even if they don’t know it. The art continues to be the biggest highlight, and Tarr’s lines continue to be sweeping and pretty, and her character models are quite adorable. Jake Wyatt and Michel Lacombe handle the layouts and showcase Batgirl’s speed and tenacity with swooping, diagonal panels even if a sequence in the big climactic fight sequence against Lightspeed is a little muddled. Colorist Serge Lapointe brings a bold, bright palette to the issue, but switches up his style for softer, happier scenes with Batgirl in her civilian life as well as going a little Post-Impressionist for the bits featuring Batman and the Gotham skyline.
Over the years, a variety of comics creators (Scott Snyder and Kyle Higgins most recently) have developed the setting and history of Gotham to make it a place where stories not involving the Caped Crusader can be told. One of these stories is Gotham Academy, a mix between a high school slice of life story and an old fashioned Gothic mystery. (One of the main characters is even called Heathcliff.) Gotham Academy #4 involves the series’ leads, the enigmatic second-year Olive and the nerdy first-year Maps, trying to decipher an esoteric symbol while trying to find out who the school’s ghostly intruder is.