Wednesday, October 26, 2016
Batgirl #4 Review and **SPOILERS**
The Letter T…Tea…All the Tea in China…Batgirl’s in China!
Writer: Hope Larson
Art: Rafael Albuquerque
Colors: Dave McCaig
Letters: Deron Bennett
Cover: Rafael Albuquerque
Cover Price: $2.99
On Sale Date: October 26, 2016
**NON SPOILERS AND SCORE AT THE BOTTOM**
Batgirl is still traipsing around the Asian continent…she was in Korea, last I remember. Or maybe she was on her way? I don’t think it’s cultural myopia to not recall Batgirl’s itinerary precisely, she’s done a lot of traveling in these last four issues. I’ve wanted to visit Okinawa ever since I saw the Karate Kid 2, and thanks to the first issue, I don’t have to! I wonder where she’ll wind up this time? Let’s find out, together! Read on!
Let’s pick it up right from where the last issue left off: Batgirl stands atop an unfinished skyscraper, flanked on either side by the Moth and a guy wielding a hammer and wearing a hard hat, helpfully named Hardhat. She immediately knows that these people are after Kai, or more specifically after some biological weapon he was carrying on his person. And by on his person, I mean in his person. No, not up his butthole, don’t be gross. It’s in his stomach, with all that, uh, bile and those digestive enzymes that you’d think wouldn’t make the best environment for smuggled bacteria, but what do I know? Bacteria’s been around for billions of years, I’m sure much of it can handle a little acid wash. So while Batgirl battles, she chats, and through chatting realizes that these fighters—and indeed all the fighters assembled under the “Teacher”—are failed college students. That’s why Moth had a study guide for Physics…because she flunked? Huh? Also, in China one test decides your whole future, and getting this biological weapon off of Kai is their second chance…at becoming biological weapon thieves. Schoolgirl shows up, and instead of fighting Batgirl decides to split and give Kai a head’s up that there might be some garish characters looking to beat the snot out of him.
As it so happens, Teacher herself is with Kai, and uses those ill three-segment nunchucks to beat him silly, then extracts some of his blood with a syringe. While Kai lies bleeding in a back alley, Babs calls Frankie from the airport and asks her to look up Neil Barry, a guy Kai mentioned early on in this series. Seems he almost flunked out of school, but graduated by cheating and then charmed his way to the head of some Japanese biotech company before running off with one of their experimental drugs. And this drug makes you super-smart temporarily, but has a host of awful side-effects, including cancer. So Barbara figures it out: these bad apples organized under Teacher want the drug so they can do really well on that one life-affirming Chinese test! Which is the stupidest fucking plan in the universe! I mean, I understand the stakes are high here, but there are easier ways to artificially boost your brain power without having to extract a vial of someone else’s blood. I mean, you still have to study for crying out loud, no drug can make you know something you didn’t learn beforehand. Having figured out this diabolical plan, Batgirl visits Kai in the hospital and gives him a bunch of shit for putting Barbara Gordon in danger…and this whole scene is just odd. I could swear the first issue ended with Kai figuring out Barbara is Batgirl, and he even notes how she’s never in danger because Batgirl is always looking out for her. Plus, Batgirl knows a bunch of personal stuff about Kai that only Babs should know. This scene is so stupid, and the dialogue reads like something translated from Chinese, but the gist is that the hospital’s antibiotics wiped out the smuggled biotech, and now Neil Barry is gonna have his legs broke. Batgirl agrees to get the bacteria back, but only if Kai promises to help old ladies cross the street from now on.
Back in Shanghai, Batgirl is wandering around thinking of how she can find this Teacher, when she notices a food truck with a Soder Cola logo on the back. And then it hits her like a Bill Dozier revelation: Teacher must have advertised! Is this still taking place on planet earth? Was the part where the kid carrying a Soder Cola bottle led her to see a Soder Cola sign really necessary? Babs hops on the internet—because it didn’t occur to her to search for Teacher or any related stuff before this, obviously—and is able to pin down the Last Chance Cram School, which is then easy to find because it’s behind a door with the words Last Chance Cram School on the front, I shit you not. Inside, Teacher is holding a vial of the super serum, so Batgirl flings a batarang at the glass tube and shatters it, spilling that sweet, brainy Kool-Aid everywhere. It looks like Teacher dies, but at the end, it turns out…she hasn’t!
This is what happens when you write a story while walking down a flight of stairs. I don’t remember seeing Teacher once this whole series, yet now it’s like she and Barbara are old pals. The whole idea of this drug being smuggled in Kai stomach to begin with is ridiculous, but the reason behind why the students are trying to get their hands on it is even more insulting. I don’t understand thing one about Kai and Barbara’s relationship. Why is she so mad at him? Does Kai know she’s Batgirl? What the hell was the purpose of beating the tar out of him in the first place? The saving grace here is that I have loved the artwork, and continue to love the artwork and plotting. But this story needed some more editorial oversight to make it coherent.
Bits and Pieces:
There are too many convenient plot holes and unanswered questions in this story, and some of the answers given in this issue are incredibly stupid. I don't really mind the ideas behind this story, but the execution seems ham-fisted and sloppy. Rafael Albuquerque's art on the book is phenomenal, however, and lends a lot of drama to otherwise head-scratching scenes.