Batgirl #26 review

Grotesque is back on the Gotham crime scene and Batgirl is pursuing him after his latest murder.

Flashbacking like crazy, Barbara Gordon wonders what’s made him go from electric-boogalooter to bogeyman, art thief to psycho-killer. Instead of simply stealing, he’s murdering the owners and posing them as historic masterworks. Dead man becomes still life fruit bowl, that kind of thing. Tasteful

Multi-tasker supreme Babs also finds time to think about her own relationship with art.

Catching up to Grotesque in a posh building, our heroine is caught off-guard.

Grotesque escapes, Babs has a lucky escape, and next day…

… she meets a very cute new cop. Honestly, is Evan not adorable? So I’m taking bets – gay, or supervillain?

It looks like the Burnside era is officially over, with Babs firmly in regular Gotham this issue – the only mention of the hipster district I can recall is a pizza house sign on a taxi cab. While I’m not a big fan of a pretty harmless thief going the serial killer route, at least the crime scene images are coloured all in red by the ever excellent Jordie Bellaire so it’s easy to not look too closely. And Grotesque is the perfect member of Babs’ rogues gallery to set her up for a fall, as electric baton meets spinal implant.

The sequence that follows, as a disorientated Batgirl struggles with both the use of her legs and perception of reality, is very nicely composed by penciller Paul Pelletier and finished by inker Norm Rapmund.

The jagged vertical panels smartly evoke disorientation and a sense of falling. The art throughout is great – I wish Pelletier was on a regular series, rather than an issue here or there. I especially like Babs in civvies, her style reminds me of her Seventies outfits in the days of Detective Comics and Batman Family.

Writer Mairghread Scott is settling in splendidly on Batgirl – this week’s annual was also a very entertaining read. While I miss thought balloons in comics – narration takes away from the immediacy of events, and I wonder just who our heroes are talking to – Scott gets necessary information across and builds Babs’ character. There’s a terrific, appropriate nod to The Killing Joke, for instance.

I do wonder that Babs is so quickly back on her feet and smiling with nary a hint of a bruise or pain mere hours after her painful encounter with Grotesque; that’s something Scott might watch in future. Overall, though, I’m very pleased with how things are going – the Burnside bit felt fresh at the start, but quickly got old, with the constant bar-hopping and tech villains.

Deron Bennett is our letterer and all credit to him for neat, accurate work, and scene-appropriate variations in presentation, such as a sharp diagonal setting as Babs loses control of her body.

This issue sports two very different covers, a moody main image by illustrator Sean Murphy and colourist Matt Hollingsworth, and a cute variant by Josh Middleton. If I had to choose one – and as a digital buyer, I don’t – I’d plump for the first due to the Bill Sienkiewicz-style treatment of Grotesque and striking hues. The Middleton pic is lovely, though, it makes me think of French children’s book covers from the Seventies. Which is odd, as I don’t believe I ever saw one. Must be the chicness!

If Burnside Batgirl wasn’t for you, climb aboard Babs’ Bat-cycle… you may well like this.

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