The Son of the Penguin story arc concludes in today’s issue of Batgirl. It’s been kind of a fun arc, starting off with Batgirl going on a couple of dates with the technical genius who wants to take over the Penguin’s criminal empire. The mystery was very intriguing and the plot felt like it could go in a number of directions, including one where the Penguin’s son wouldn’t be evil after all. Too bad my thoughts on the conclusion are mixed.
First off, let’s talk about what’s good. Written by Hope Larson, Batgirl 11 does have an interesting villain. The Penguin’s son has some serious daddy issues, sure, but it makes for an interesting opponent when you match it with his immense technical skills. He’s somewhere between a smart and competent young man and a vain, self-centered jerk, but one who might be able to mature at some point. He’s obsessed with social media and likes to know what everyone’s up to. It’s an interesting commentary on modern society.
On the other hand, the climax in this comic is kind of ridiculous. He’s somehow using Wi-Fi to control people’s minds, and the twist of his high tech glove is enough to give crowds of people complex commands and alter every computerized display in the city to show security video from only a few minutes ago. This kind of technology feels like it belongs in a parody more than a superhero comic in a franchise that’s generally supposed to be grounded. And yet, somehow everyone’s free of these Wi-Fi mind control effects as soon as Batgirl and the Penguin’s son enter a park, even though a lot of their cellphones also have Wi-Fi. There are some good teasers at the end, and the build-up toward this issue was really good, but it’s hard to take things seriously when technology is portrayed as this powerful. Also, why are Batgirl and the Penguin somehow immune to all this when they didn’t know about this mind control ahead of time?
The art by Chris Wildgoose is good. It’s a simple, clean look that would work quite well for an animated series as is. There’s a huge crowd in several scenes in this comic, and there’s a wide variety of outfits, looks and poses within the crowd. Facial expressions do a great job at conveying emotion, whether it’s the Penguin’s son looking smug throughout most of the comic, Batgirl’s changing curious looks when she’s figuring out what’s going on, the zombie looks in the mind controlled crowds and the variety of confused faces when they’re freed by going into the park. The colouring by Mat Lopes is great. Everything is bright, colourful and appealing to look at.
Despite my criticisms, I enjoyed reading this comic. The lighthearted mood and the art made it hard not to. That said, what could have been a brilliant closer to a fascinating story ended up being too silly and unrealistic to take seriously. By no means is that enough for me to drop this series, and I still think it’s worth checking out for those who want a more lighthearted series in the Batman franchise, but I’m not sure if I’d recommend this particular issue. It also does kind of concern me about the future of this series.