So far, writer Hope Larson’s Batgirl run has improved with each issue. She’s on a trip around Asia and met with an old friend, Kai, who’s been making romantic advances that Barbara’s not quite falling for. Meanwhile, there seems to be a small yet suspicious ring of martial artists with a tattoo that means “student.” They also seem to be after Kai and he won’t admit to doing anything wrong. The last issue ended with Barbara entering an MMA style fight as part of her investigation, and her opponent ended up being one of these students. She ended up getting knocked out.
This issue picks up around when Barbara wakes up. This scene makes interesting use of her memory abilities, and she uses it to recall what happened before she got knocked out. Her investigation takes her to the capital of South Korea, where she also utilizes some of her computer skills to track a signal, of course telling you what happens would be a spoiler. This kind of feels like a cross between a superhero story and a Bond movie, and that’s not a bad thing.
The art by Rafael Albuquerque is simple but good. When Barbara wakes up after being knocked out, she looks hurt, but seems to recover a little bit between each panel. The fight scenes flow well and make good use of close-ups, as if you’re getting into Barbara’s head a bit while she studies her opponents. Facial expression perfectly convey emotions, whether it’s Barbara’s annoyed look while her somewhat creepy neighbor on the plane talks about a product he’s trying to sell, her focused look while working her investigation or Kai’s stunned look when she announces she’s leaving. There isn’t too much background detail in most panels, but when there is, it does help set the scene or it highlights something important to the story. Dave McCaig’s colouring is also good.
This is a fun comic, and it feels like Larson is hitting her stride. The characterization feels spot-on, the investigation side of the story is fun, and the drama is just enough to make the readers care without overwhelming an otherwise fun story. Batgirl fans should check this out, as should Batman fans interested in reading about his allies.
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This book is really finding its form now. Batgirl continues to be a series that’s getting the balance between action and characterization just right, and Rafael Albuquerque’s art is always good. A very impressive issue.