In “Batgirl” #44, writers Cameron Stewart and Brenden Fletcher team up with Bengal, who steps in for Babs Tarr and does a nice job with the art for the conclusion to “An Ambush of Tigers.” As the second half of a two-parter, “Batgirl” #44 gives new readers a chance to get caught up, regardless of familiarity with the series before this issue.
This leads to a large amount of dialogue, which flows more smoothly than caption boxes but forces letterer Steve Wands’ word balloons to threaten Bengal’s art in several places. The voluminous dialogue makes Barbara Gordon, Luke Fox, Velvet Tiger and all of the other participants in the story more complete, adding not only story measures but also character descriptors and attitudes. The fight against Velvet Tiger is fairly straightforward and typically two-note, as the hero loses to the villain, makes adjustments and returns to battle; however, the characters are lively enough to season the course of “Batgirl” #44 with uncertainty.
Bengal is more certain with his artwork, telling a straightforward story peppered with all sorts of gestures and expressions and giving the characters life in the panels they inhabit. His style is a nice compliment to regular series artist Babs Tarr, but he packs a few more manga-inspired choices in his work, including large, cartoony eyes, pointy noses and sweat drops the size of quarters. It all works with the story nicely and stays in keeping with the spritely manner Batgirl has enjoyed since Stewart and Fletcher took over. His animated characters exist in believable settings and he even does a nice job rendering the tigers (imagine that) in this comic. Colorist Serge LaPointe’s colors are on target with the rest of this series to date, adding kinetic energy to the backgrounds with a variety of pastel hues.
Bengal plays up Velvet Tiger’s confident sexiness, making her that smug girl everyone knows and most people dislike. Visually, Velvet Tiger is an interesting contrast to Batgirl: less utilitarian, more glamorous, but also visibly sinister. Velvet Tiger is a femme fatale certain to turn heads and catch interest, and Fletcher, Cameron and Bengal do a fine job updating this character, who could stand to have a little more character development in the near future.
The Velvet Tiger storyline wraps up in “Batgirl” #44, but the ongoing subplots continue underneath it all, shaping Batgirl’s cast and seeding future drama. Other subplots pop up in this comic, including new developments for Frankie and Luke Fox. Fletcher and Cameron have done a grand job building up Burnside and the inhabitants around Barbara, and “Batgirl” #44 is a sharp sample of everything this title can be.