Review: Batgirls #13
[Editor’s Note: This review may contain spoilers]

Writers: Becky Cloonan and Michael W. Conrad
Art: Jonathan Case
Colors: Jonathan Case
Letters: Jonathan Case

Reviewed by: Matthew B. Lloyd

Summary

In Batgirls #13, Barbara and Bruce enlist the help of Zatanna to help switch Steph and Cass back to their own bodies.  (What, you didn’t read the Batgirls 2022 Annual?).  Meanwhile, Cass and Steph get on with their “family reunions… .”

Positives

It’s always nice to get an appearance of the Mistress of Magic, Zatanna Zatara.  Her quip about fishnets is cute and does its job, making the illogical and sexualizing habiliment make sense.  It’s the classic costume, part nostalgia and part recognizability.  Dinah doesn’t really look right without them either.  As problematic as they could be…well, they still work in these classic costume designs.  So, thank you for that.

It’s nice to see Barbara and Bruce acknowledge how magic doesn’t really fit into the world of the Bat-characters.  Stage magic, sure, but the REAL magic in the DC Universe definitely fits in another corner, despite a character like Zatanna that connects them directly.  It’s also nice to see that there’s a genuine friendship at play here.

Despite differences these characters may have been through in the past, there is a sold foundation in play that allows them to call on one another for assistance.  Additionally, Bruce entertaining with coffee is… positively human.  This is a Batman that will feel too friendly for some.  Now, it’s not Bat-coffee in the Bat-Keurig, but he’s a relatable (not borderline personality – I’m looking at you Frank Miller!) character that has REAL relationships and history with people.  Batman (IMO) is best when he is humanized.  The overly dark and (possibly) deranged versions distance him too much.  I think we get a balance with this Batman, he’s a person, not a force of nature, while still understanding his mission.

Positives Cont’d

Part two of this story arc, “Vice Versa” continues to show some of the similarities between Cass and Steph while also highlighting their differences.  Steph’s moments with Lady Shiva are truly intriguing.  Is it possible that there’s a heart behind the savage assassin?  Of course there is!  However, it’s rarely if ever explored.

This is a very nuanced look at Shiva and her feeling towards her daughter.  We’ll have to see how Cass feels, but Steph appeared to not only get through to Shiva a bit, but also empathize as well.  This is very interesting, and I hope the creative team keeps building those layers.  I don’t anticipate Shiva becoming the breakout anti-hero of 2023, but it’s a worthwhile exploration of the complexity between this mother/daughter pairing.  How does Cass reconcile the fact that Shiva is her mom, but also a cruel and manipulating killer?

Jonathan Case’s art style fits Batgirls well.  He delivers an absolutely amazing “startled” look on Babs’ face, upon Zatanna’s entrance.  He captures the tone as well, it’s serious, but fun.  It’s about the characters and not the anguish.  He also nails the established color template as he also handles the colors and lettering in addition to the art chores.

The colors on Batgirls are a defining element of the series, and it really shows in Batgirls #13 with a guest colorist.  The purples, pinks and blues give the series a specific look.  A year into the run, it’s clear that there’s something special’s going on here with the colors.  It’s notable that Case gets the look established by Sarah Stern at the beginning of the series.  So, while Stern isn’t working on this issue, her presence is certainly felt.

Negatives

The body switch with Steph and Cass could’ve lasted longer.  There’s a lot of potential for exploration of the concept with these two characters who exhibit similarities and striking differences.  No one was expecting it to be permanent, but this is one time that it could’ve lasted longer.  There’s always the possibility there will be some lingering effects or at least more revelations.

Verdict

Character driven comics will never go out of style.  They may not always get the headlines or the hype, but they are substantially better on the whole.  There’s just more to enjoy, and Batgirls #13 gives the reader a lot to chew on and think about.

Some comics are better when you think about them and let them sink in, others deteriorate as soon as you start thinking on a deeper levelBatgirls, is of course, the former, a series that is ultimately about people and relationships and gets better as everything sinks in.

 

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