In Review: Batgirl #42

An unsurprising story with average art and odd coloring makes this a disappointment.

The cover: Batgirl is not happy with what Livewire’s doing, and you can bet she’s gonna do something about it. Outstanding cover that clearly shows the heroine and villain, with the latter displaying her powers. This image by Cameron Stewart has both characters looking good, giving some strong emotions, and the coloring is good, with the electricity coming off Livewire great and the coloring on Batgirl’s face and hair perfect. However, after selecting the image to accompany this review, the coloring coming off of Livewire’s right hand makes it appear that Batgirl is sneezing. Whoops! Overall grade: B+

The story: The first page is a full page splash that quickly summarizes what happened to Batgirl in the previous issue: her father revealed he’s the new Batman, Livewire returned, RoboBatman showed up, Livewire left, and that left our title character face to face with Gotham City’s armored savior. He’s going to arrest her for being a vigilante, and she tries to talk him out of it. He gives her five seconds to run, but she doesn’t get far. Revealing he’s the “new” Batman, he tells her that he doesn’t want to arrest her, or any of her ilk, as he believes “This city would have fallen long ago without your help. Capturing you and exposing your identities would put many more people at risk. Your families…So I need you to lay low. Whatever it is you do in your normal life, go do it. Hang up the cape for a while. It’s the only way I can keep you safe.” This causes Barbara to remember when her father asked her not to join the police force. She leaves, unhappily. “Surge Protection” by Cameron Stewart and Brenden Fletcher is an okay tale, but it goes through every expected move after this father-daughter separation. There were no surprises. Barbara will be conflicted about putting on the costume, she’ll have to fight Livewire again, and she’ll have to confront BatDad again. Maybe it’s my age and having read too many comics, but this had a definite “Been there, done that” flavor. Was it completely unenjoyable? No, there’s stuff to enjoy, but it’s the scenes with her friends that held the surprises. But I wanted to enjoy the Batgirl portions more so than the Barbara portions. Overall grade: B-

The art: Babs Tarr is the artist, though Jake Wyatt and Michel Lacombe are credited with doing breakdowns. The book has several small panels throughout to show quick motion or focus and are traditional rectangles or squares until Page 8 where some parallelograms begin to appear, with the panels getting much more jagged when the confrontation with Livewire occurs. I like the layout more on these pages as they’re big and bold and exciting. The first seven pages have a bit of action, but come across as rote storytelling. Several panels are without backgrounds on these opening pages. Rather than having the empty space on these panels, the objects could have been closer to the reader to fill them. An argument could be made that the battle also has empty panels, but these are at least filled with speed/motion lines. I do like the expressions that are the characters’ faces: Barbara in the top of the bottom panel on 4, the look of determination at the end of 7, everything on 8 (the art beautifully tells what the dialogue does not), the joy and anger coming off of Livewire, the wink on 12, the smile on 17, panels six and seven on 18, Batman’s final appearance, and the happiness on the final page. There’s stuff to like in this issue, and other portions to make one wonder. Overall grade: B-

The colors: Serge LaPointe is using several different coloring techniques in this issue and some are working and others are not. I wish he would stick with one. Several panels in this book have a soft, smeared, almost blurred, look. The first four panels on Page 2 are tightly and brightly colored, but in the fifth panel everything goes soft. I can understand doing this for characters in the background, but the character in the foreground should be bolder. The entire panel is a smear of colors. Things improve, until the second panel on 3 where smears are used for motion. It looks like a misprint. Again, things improve, but on 5 the fifth panel is too light. The character in the foreground is darker than everything else to gather focus, but still blends too easily into the soft background. This soft choice disappears until Barbara dons cowl to go after Livewire and I have to wonder why? Shouldn’t the fight scenes be dynamic? Coloring one panel softly on a page renders it visually unimportant. I was disappointed by LaPointe’s choices. Overall grade: C-

The letters: Dialogue, RoboBat speak, sounds, opening story title and credits, recorded speech, computer speech, and next issue’s tease are by Steve Wands. I’m impressed that he’s able to maintain a consistent size for the dialogue considering how small some panels get. The sounds in the battle with Livewire are terrific. This was the strongest element in this issue. Overall grade: A+

The final line: An unsurprising story with average art and odd coloring makes this a disappointment. What a bummer. Overall grade: B-

Patrick Hayes was a contributor to the Comic Buyer's Guide for several years with "It's Bound to Happen!" and he's reviewed comics for TrekWeb and TrekCore. He's taught 8th graders English for 20 years and has taught high school English for five years and counting. He reads everything as often as he can, when not grading papers or looking up Star Trek, Star Wars, or Indiana Jones items online.
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