“Batgirl” #46 is a mixed bag, but the good kind. Cameron Stewart, Brenden Fletcher, Babs Tarr and Rob Haynes infuse some realistic elements alongside those that are a bit more in the superhero tradition, and it all comes together with pleasing end results.
This is a comic that isn’t afraid to mix ninjas, cybernetic implants and the pressure of joining a gang. The first two are in a fantastical fashion, the third very down-to-earth and a genuine problem for people these days, and yet, Stewart and Fletcher make it work, because they approach it all with the same tenor. There’s no mocking of one part or treating something as silly and cartoonish. Instead, each plot progression is treated as a genuine problem for Barbara and Frankie to tackle, and keeping a friendship intact is just as important as tracking down a hero who’s being chased by ninjas.
Speaking of friendships, the progression of Barbara and Frankie’s working relationship has been a lot of fun; there’s no way “Batgirl” #46’s plot thread involving the pair would have worked so well if Fletcher and Stewart hadn’t laid out such a gradual progression since taking over the book a year ago. Even as Frankie appears to be positioned to take the new Oracle role (or one with a different name even if the spirit is the same), there’s conflict between the duo that wouldn’t have been half as strong if it wasn’t for the fact the pair cares about one another. The friendship here is as much a reason for the disagreement as it is the resolution, and it rings especially true.
Tarr’s art (with a few pages featuring breakdowns from Haynes) is as on point as ever, with a charmingly loose style that slides and bounces from one panel to the next. I love how Batgirl’s hair flows behind her when she ducks, in a manner that almost reminds me of liquid; it’s a technique that brings to life a feeling of motion in an otherwise static medium. The emotional moments come to life here too; Barbara’s “I’m such a dork” statement wouldn’t have half of its impact if it wasn’t for how well Tarr draws Barbara and the way she is unable to meet Frankie’s eyes. The layout for that moment is great, too, with the two stacked panels so Frankie is at the far end of one and Barbara is at the far end of the other. With both of them having their own panel at opposite sides, that distance feels huge (both metaphorically and literally). It’s a fun little storytelling trick that lands perfectly.
“Batgirl” #46 works nicely, and I appreciate the wrap up of the issue, which shows us not everything can be neatly tied up with a bow. The dangling plot thread from earlier in the issue comes back with a vengeance, and it will be fun to see how the most realistic aspect of the comic is so far the hardest one to solve. As always, I’m already eager for next month.