“Batgirl: Endgame” #1 is a pleasant surprise largely because of its near-silent narrative approach. Aside from sound effects and emojis, there are no words, except one exclamation in the final panel as a concluding flourish. “Batgirl: Endgame” is a rare thing, an event tie-in and one-shot that keeps the action simple, focusing only on four characters: Batgirl and a mother, father and child. It only has small-scale significance in the Batverse and in the Endgame plot, but that’s probably why it works very well as a one-shot. The excellence of the visual storytelling makes it worth checking out.
“The Battle for Burnside Bridge” is a boring title, alliteration aside, but it’s informative, both defining the scope of the story and the object of the action. All the events in the story are common tropes in action movies: a bomb, the rush against time, a child to be saved and a lone hero. Bengal’s perspective angles are suitably dramatic, but no different from classic cinema technique. However derivative, though, Stewart and Fletcher’s script is tightly paced and there are no wasted panels. The silence throughout gives the reading experience a hushed quality that amplifies suspense by steering the reader’s focus towards gestures and transitions.
While “Batgirl: Endgame” #1 is all action and no talking, it’s got heart and manages not to be trite. Particularly successful is the three-panel sequence in which Batgirl communicates with Tiffany Fox on top of the school bus by miming instructions. Bengal’s composition and facial expressions are superb here. The surrounding emoticon texting panels are strong too. This scene of brief yet charged character interaction gets the reader invested emotionally, and Bengal’s empty backgrounds are a smart choice that narrows the world to just Batgirl and Tiffany. This scene also reinforces Barbara’s characterization: her can-do attitude, her upbeat and cheery demeanor, her concern for citizens and her strategic mind. The concluding scene and the overall arc of the short story are neither surprising nor novel but, from start to finish, it’s executed well.
For this kind of script, more than the usual share of responsibility and acclaim belongs to the artist, Bengal. His art has thin, flexible lines with high contrast definition in the wrinkles of clothing and black silhouettes. There is little traditional shading, but Bengal also handles the color work and that’s how he adds dimension. The effect is clean, graceful and pretty.
More importantly, his page and panel composition are excellent. Bengal is a wonderful choice for this story because, while he likes dramatic shots, he never sacrifices narrative effect to visual showboating. His transitions, body language, gestures and facial expressions are all up to handling the challenge and burden of a near-silent story.
Bengal’s color palette throughout is simple and echoes Batgirl’s colors: all black and red and yellow and light accents of green. He leans towards transparent, light-filled effects instead of flat saturation. While his color isn’t nearly as impressive or subtle as his linework and narrative skills, it’s fine and doesn’t interfere with the action or the mood.
“Batgirl: Endgame” #1 is small-scale done right, a one-shot that hits all of its goals because the scope is narrow and well-defined and the talented creative team delivers on technique and storytelling.