Speedlines, wildly gesticulating characters and telegraphed, exaggerated emotions welcome readers into the latest chapter of Batgirl’s adventures as told by writer/breakdown artist Cameron Stewart, co-writer Brenden Fletcher, artist Babs Tarr, colorist Maris Wicks and letterer Jared K. Fletcher. In “Batgirl” #39, citizens of Burnside chase after Batgirl, who is trying like heck not to hurt anyone (herself included).
The strength of the collaboration between Stewart and Tarr brings the acting and expression of the characters to a level rarely found in a DC Universe comic. The duo fill these pages with dynamic storytelling and ridiculously fun visuals, but Tarr puts a solid polish on the drawings with choices like having Batgirl bite her bottom lip as she disarms a rolling pin-wielding assailant.
Colorist Maris Wicks appears to be having as much fun coloring Tarr’s drawings as readers will have looking at the panels. Wicks shakes things up with different textures and tones, from a crayon-like finish on the smoke clouds to a magnificently radiant sunrise. Along the way, the backgrounds melt away in Barbara Gordon’s apartment as the dialogue shifts to character beats and emotional developments. Likewise, Batgirl’s battle with a gang of ruffians focuses in on the characters in the fight rather than the setting in which the fight occurs.
Tarr adds in understated, independent little words balloons like “heh” and “ughh,” giving voice to gesture and making the body language audible. Fletcher makes the rest of the text and dialogue flow and drift around the characters and the action, dropping in information from Batgirl’s phone and display text from the screen on her motorcycle.
The story itself plants plenty of drama in Barbara Gordon’s life. Stewart and Fletcher begin steering this adventure towards a significant payoff but cannot help but make sure there are more gripping developments along the way. “Batgirl” #39 is a fine sampler of the story and characters Stewart and Fletcher have crafted for Burnside, but it resists being remedial, instead choosing to invite readers to join in mid-story. Along those lines, the writers demonstrate that they know when to fill the scenes with dialogue and when to let the stunning artwork do the talking.
The last page sets up a cliffhanger but points the reader to both the next issue of “Batgirl” as well as “Secret Origins” #10. Given that Stewart and Fletcher are writing that installment as well, it should congeal nicely with the rest of this series, but it seems ill-timed as “Batgirl” #39 takes readers right up to the bleeding edge of this sweeping adventure.