Batgirl’s DC Rebirth run started off kind of fun, but it didn’t feel like anything special. Barbara Gordon’s trip to Asia sounded like a good starting point, and running into her old friend, Kai, added a touch of drama. It took a few issues to get there, but now it’s great.
There are a few different story points going on in this series, and this issue is where they all start to tie together. There’s a group of martial artists with a Chinese symbol meaning “student” often tattooed on their shoulders, and they seem to be after Kai for some reason. There’s also a bio-encrypted formula, an unknown teacher in charge of the students, and a mystery that’s spanning several countries across Asia. Without dabbing too much into spoilers, Kai isn’t all that innocent, and this formula is meant to help these struggling students pass tests to get into college. It’s a very neat concept for a story, and it gives the villain a clear and possibly even somewhat noble motivations.
The real fun of reading this issue is seeing everything tie together though, so I won’t say anything else. Of course there are a few good jokes thrown in and a couple good fight scenes. Writer Hope Larson is doing a great job balancing character development, story and fun in this run so far. In a lot of ways it feels like a Batman book with Barbara showing off her detective skills, but with a much lighter mood.
The art by Rafael Albuquerque is good. It’s a simple look, and the backgrounds are usually solid colours or barely detailed, but it works for this comic’s mood. When there are background details, it usually either sets the scene, like the other patrons sitting in a café or the “Terminal 3” sign above Barbara’s head in the airport. Both facial expressions and body language do a good job at conveying emotions and intent, like Kai’s nervous look when Batgirl confronts him when he’s in a hospital bed. He raises his arms as if he’s trying to defend himself, while Batgirl leans in very close with her eyes narrowed. That quality continues throughout the issue. Dave McCaig’s colouring is also good. It’s simple like the art, yet it’s bright, colourful and fits the optimistic mood perfectly.
A character from Burnside also makes a small yet vital appearance in this issue, showing that Larson isn’t completely ignoring Cameron Stewart and Brenden Fletcher’s run. That run seemed to be the opposite, in that it started off a lot of fun, but slowly became boring as time went on. Hopefully this trend of Larson’s Batgirl run getting better with each issue continues. As it stands though, Batgirl is definitely worth a read for fans of her character, and anyone interested in a more light-hearted Batman book.