Art by: Bengal, David LaFuente, Ming Doyle and Mingjue Helen Chen
Cover Price: $4.99
Release Date: July 30, 2015
Over the River and Through the Woods
It's Annual week here at Weird Science and I got the brunt of the work this time. It's not that I don't enjoy an Annual issue once and a while, but I am a very lazy man and these issues are so long. It reminds me of a quote from Mike Tyson who said, "I don't understand why people would want to get rid of pigeons. They don't bother no one." Wise man that Mike Tyson...wise beyond his years. While this Annual sadly has nothing to do with pigeons, it does have a lot to do with Batgirl and her catching up with some pretty fun Gotham guest stars. It's one of those Annuals that isn't necessary reading, but...let's discuss it below in the review, shall we?
The first part throws Batgirl face-to-face with Helena Bertinelli, Spyral and Dick Grayson. Well, not so much Dick since he's supposed to be dead and doesn't want to blow his cover. As Barbara and Helena do their best The Raid: Redemption impersonation, Dick is playing "backup" (more like "frontup") and clearing out the thugs in front of them. There isn't a whole lot to the story...an evil organization and it's leader, Gladius, is using hivemind technology on world leaders to create a super brain. It's James Bond stuff and only here to give a reason for Barbara to fight thugs with Helena. As for Dick, the fun of the story are the near misses and questioning glances between him and Barbara that never amount to much, but are fun watching unfold.
The next part continues with Batgirl teaming up with Spoiler. As a fan of Batman Eternal and Catwoman, it was cool seeing Stephanie Brown again, especially since she fits this book so well. While they continue chasing down Gladius, it is brief and after enjoying the little bit we got, felt liked a missed opportunity.
Fletcher and Stewart do not give us time to catch our breath as we whisk off to another teamup, this time with Batgirl and Batwoman. They follow the clues which lead them into a fight with Gladius herself and along the way, save Kate Kane's old army Colonel. In a story that already felt a bit too forced, this bit took the cake. I'll forgive it, however, because it leads to one of my favorite places in the DCU...Gotham Academy.
Barbara goes back to school and after a telltale head bit, runs into two of my favorite characters, Olive and Maps. It ties into the awesome beginning run of Gotham Academy and has some cool Batman '66 references as well as a shoutout to my man, Damian Wayne. I'm not sure how newcomers will feel about this part, but I loved it.
The issue ended with a whimper, but this Annual was less about the story and more about getting Batgirl out and about with some of Gotham's better guest stars. Most of these are starring in new books and we haven't gotten the chance to see them interact with anyone outside their space, so it was cool to see it here. My favorite part was the Gotham Academy ending, but I may be biased since I adore Maps. I will give everyone involved kudos for making all the guests fit in the style of the Batgirl book...except maybe Batwoman.
The art was a mixed bag, but four artists will do that. I really enjoyed Bengal's beginning and Mingjue Helen Chen's end, but had a problem with the Batwoman art. The more realistic style made Batgirl and Batwoman look old...very old. It threw me out of the issue at points.
Bits and Pieces:
This Annual is not a necessary read for anyone, Batgirl readers or not. It was fun, however, and great to see Batgirl interact with some of my favorite Gotham characters. There were a truckload of artists on this issue and while it was a mixed bag, I enjoyed it for the most part. If you can't get enough of this new Batgirl, go out and grab a copy of this Annual. If you are looking to jump into Batgirl, go back and pick up the last two issues of the regular run.