Personally I’d prefer that DC would spread out the release of Batgirl 42 and this year’s Batgirl Annual more, especially when they release in a month with 5 Wednesdays. That said, I’m not complaining that we get pretty much a triple dosage of Barbara Gordon fighting crime in one week. Of the two I decided to review the annual, but Batgirl regulars should also check out Batgirl 42 – it’s good.
This year’s Batgirl annual is a story told in 4 parts, each allowing Barbara to team up with a different member of the greater Bat-family. The full story is written by Cameron Stewart and Brenden Fletcher, the main series writers. The first 18 pages features Dick Greyson (formerly Nightwing) and is drawn by Bengal. Next up, Spoiler shows up for 5 pages, drawn by David Lafuente. Batwoman is next, drawn by Ming Doyle for 6 pages. The last 7 pages, drawn by Mingjue Helen Chen, takes place in the Gotham Academy. I’ll be splitting this review into those four parts.
The Greyson team up is epic. They take on a bunch of terrorists while trying to rescue diplomats and take back a stolen weapon. What makes this team up so epic is that Barbara still believes that Greyson’s dead, and he’s trying to keep it that way. While Dick acts in the shadows and hides, Barbara works with his teammate, “Director”. The action is tense, especially when Barbara gets close to figuring Greyson out on several occasions. The art is great. It looks simple at first glance, but there’s a lot of environmental detail, expressive faces and great use of angles. The action also flows well from panel to panel.
The Spoiler team up is just fun, with Stephanie Brown excited to work with Batgirl for a short while. I’m not all that familiar with the character (I’ve only read her in the first trade of Batman Eternal so far), but she seems like a fun and enthusiastic hero in training. The art is also great here, and matches the style of the first 18 pages very well. Brown’s excited expression are adorable. My personal favourite panel is the one where she tries to spar with Batgirl, who easily blocks her every move.
The Batwoman portion of the story is probably my least favourite. It’s still good mind you, but it takes a more serious tone. That would be fine if it was a full comic, but it’s a bit too short to really dive into the differences between Bargirl and Batwoman. That said, it continues the story in an organic way and brings us a good fight scene with a villain tough enough that the vigilantes must double team her. The art is more straight forward in this section and less stylized, but that’s suitable for the more serious part of the story. It’s good and the fight flows well, but it’s not anything special.
The Gotham Academy part of the story almost feels anticlimactic compared to the Batwoman part, especially how easily Batgirl takes down the terrorist after she and Batwoman had to team up against her earlier. That said, it perfectly captures the fun, mysterious mood of the Gotham Academy series. So does Helen Chen’s art. It almost looks like an anime in the best ways, with detailed backgrounds, great lighting effects and Maps’ adorable smile.
Even if I didn’t like the Batwoman part of the story quite as much, this is still a great comic with four different stories that tie together. It’s not only a good Batgirl story, but it’s a way to tap into the rest of Batman’s extended family of titles. For $5 you’re getting 36 pages. The way comics are priced these days, that’s worth it in my book, and I’d recommend this to Batgirl fans and even Gotham Academy readers. I can’t really comment on the other characters involved since I don’t know much about their current statuses, but they do help make this comic enjoyable.