Batgirl recoups from her butt-whuppin' by getting down to the mystery at hand: what is specifically happening in this book. The story seems told in broad strokes, with incidental stuff like character names dropped unceremoniously in some thought balloon. The art and motion in this comic book has been phenomenal, which is little surprise considering Rafael Albuquerque is at the board. This issue has good doses of story and action, but I am beginning to lose a little faith in this series.
Wednesday, September 28, 2016
Batgirl #3 Review and **SPOILERS**
Writer: Hope Larson
Art: Rafael Albuquerque
Colors: Dave McCaig
Letters: Deron Bennett
Cover Price: $2.99
On Sale Date: September 28, 2016
**NON SPOILERS AND SCORE AT THE BOTTOM**
There's a Batarang in your belt
That's what makes you Bat-iful
Don't let nobody ever make you doubt it, yeah
Your fist is hard and strong
That's what keeps you beating on
Can't keep you down, there ain't no doubt about it
Don't forget, it's all about respect
Nothing else will do
Remember it's your life
Live it any way you like
And practice your kung-fu!
This is for Batgirl
All around the world
Stand up, put your leg up
Kick that villain in the body
This is for Batgirl
Stand up and be heard
This is for my ladies, my sidekicks, all over
This is for Batgirl!
Barbara Gordon is licking her wounds after being thrashed by Mixed Martial Arts champion Wen Lu. And I mean, she really got her ass kicked. I don’t want to make too much of a thing out of it, but Babs seriously got her meat lumped. It looks like she got hit in the face with a bag of bricks. Barbara got cold housed. And to make things more humiliating, she finds out that Wen Lu is deaf. Barbara tries to play it off, like “Oh, that’s why she didn’t talk in the ring!” No, Wen Lu just knew she was about to batter you senseless and didn’t feel it was necessary to have a conversation you’d forget later anyway. “All that deafness must have given her the hyper focus necessary to beat a great fighter like me!” Keep telling yourself that, Barbara. Fact of the matter is: You. Got. Beat. After the fight, a couple of fan girls do run up to Barbara and say they want to be MMA fighters too, and Babs shunts them off to her new coach, who owns a gym in town. So there’s some good outcome here, despite Barbara getting a full-court whupping. Did I mention that? She got black-and-blue tattoos.
Thinking back over the fight with Wen Lu, when Barbara got her head rattled, she remembers seeing the same tattoo on Lu that she saw on that freaky Sailor Moon ninja girl from the first issue—and remembers this distracted her and probably uses that to explain why she took a mat nap! Girl, stop trying to explain it. Someone pounded your drum and you took an L. For some reason, remembering this tattoo makes Babs realize that Kai is in trouble! I’m not sure how she figured that out, but she’s suited up in the familiar purple and yellow on the next page, having caught some ninja lady in a white costume in their domicile. She calls out to Kai, who is hilariously being held behind a door with a chair propped up against the doorknob like a cuckolded husband. Like, is he in danger? Seems safe as houses to me in there, while the lady in white rummages around the place. While Batgirl mixes it up, she thinks to herself, “I know who you are, Wen Lu. I know what you’ve got up your sleeve.” I hope she plans on sharing this information with the reader, because I understand only about 70% of what is going on at this point. Batgirl punches her antagonist out of a window, but she spreads a cape and soars off because that happens in comic books. As Batgirl stands at the shattered glass, practically signing her work, she starts second-guessing the advice given by Japanese hero Fruit Bat in the first issue, and considers that maybe she’s a special case that needs different training. Newsflash, Barbara: You got your face caved in! Just accept it! Happens every day! It wasn’t a fluke, or a grand conspiracy, or the result of some misunderstanding by a decades-old kung-fu master! You caught a bad one! Accept it and move on.
Barbara sees a miniature spy camera and ascertains that’s why Moth—that’s the lady in white’s name, incidentally, just stated in one of Batgirl’s thought balloons for the first time—was hanging around the joint. Finally, Barbara changes into her street clothes and releases Kai from his prison…and look, we have to talk about this. In the first issue, Kai figured out Barbara was Batgirl. Babs didn’t confirm it, but she didn’t deny it. He also acted super shady, and Kai’s whole being there while she’s on her East Asian walkabout is suspect. Then in the last issue, it looked like they were hooking up, and the intimacy scared Barbara—but they both played it off like Batgirl was a non-topic for the whole book. Now, we’ve got Batgirl saving Kai yet Barbara shows up to release him, and they never talk about it! Instead, Barbara accuses Kai of being shady as hell and asking why a ninja Moth lady would be rummaging around his stuff. He’s all dodgy about the answer, so Barbara takes off. Which is all the well for me, because Kai was a constant source of storyline confusion most of the time.
Babs takes off to Seoul, Korea, where she plans on meeting their new superstar Wen Lu by triangulating coordinates off of the spy camera left behind by Moth. Okay, I’ll accept it. While in flight, she also tries to dig up some dirt on Kai, when an annoying white dude sits next to her and explains that he sells probiotics because they make you poop better. In a very Bill Dozier’s Batman bit of detective work, Barbara realizes that the thing that people are trying to get off Kai isn’t an item, it’s a disease! Or something. It’s part of his innards, is the point. This is why he had food poisoning the other day, she surmises! Also, Babs, you ate some nasty shit that day. I don’t know why you keep making excuses but you can’t fault a man for puking up tentacles. Barbara suits up and visits Wen Lu, who is in her gym working out. Exploiting her deafness, Barbara sneaks into Wen Lu’s locker and finds a prep book for a college entrance exam. Babs is all suspicious, but she’s just trying to better herself, dude! Gosh! You are always looking for the “angle,” but maybe some things are simple: Wen Lu wants to be a Physicist, Kai puked his guts up because he tried to eat something gross to impress you, and You. Got. Snuffed. Face it. Sometimes the secret to life is that you’re not as good as you think you are.
At the end of the book, Babs is trapped by Moth and a construction guy, and they’ll hash it out next issue. Look, I like this book. I like the way it looks, I like the way it reads…but there are just too many weird characterizations that confuse the hell out of me. Like, oh, everything between Barbara and Kai. I have no idea what that relationship is, if there is one. Also, this whole learning to predict others moves by seeing into the future. It’s hokey, sure, but my thing is that since Fruit Bat I haven’t gotten the idea that anyone else has this power. I think she wanted to learn the move and Fruit Bat was like, “Ehh…go on a quest around lower Asia, maybe you’ll luck out. Don’t bother me, kid.” The art, the layouts, I love—Rafal Albuquerque seems to capture the fun of Batgirl of Burnside with the cramped quarters of Blade Runner, and the whole thing seems very manga-inspired. Again: I enjoy this book. But if you start asking me a bunch of deep character questions pertaining to the series, I might not be able to answer them. And that’s not a great sign.
Bits and Pieces: