By Hope Larson, Minkyu Jung, Jose Marzan Jr., Mat Lopes, Deron Bennett
Batgirl #22 is the start of a new arc titled “Strange Loop”, and is a solid jumping on point for anyone looking to get into the series. Larson’s story delivers a day in the life of Barbara Gordon and Batgirl in a really welcoming way. Readers get a handle on her personality and struggles in a few pages, and the fact that she’s going to college for a Library Science degree is perfect for her character. Jung has a great handle on the character as well, and he shows that in Babs’ facial expressions and outfits. Overall, this issue serves as an easy introduction to Batgirl.
Jung knows Barbara Gordon intimately. Her costume design shows inspiration from Batman without being over the top and the way she approaches conflict is established immediately in this issue. Her fluidity in combat is emphasized, and her day to day conversations are equally as thought out. Babs has always been empathetic and caring, especially when it comes to people she cares about. When she catches up with a few friends throughout the issue, Jung illustrates either her happiness, or concern for them. It’s refreshing to see a superhero character show what she’s thinking on her face instead of trying to brood away emotions.
Larson’s narration helps a lot with this. When Batgirl fights or interacts with others, Larson pulls the curtain back and lets readers see what’s going on in her head. We see a thought bubble transition into a dialogue bubble in an interesting way. Sometimes it does come off as a bit too forward or cheesey, but when it works, there’s valuable information about why Batgirl is the way she is. Again, there’s something honest about telling a story this way.
Conversely, the larger narrative doesn’t evoke quite as much emotion as the character herself. Generally that’s typical of comics, but the style of this arc’s plot leaves many of this issue’s events up in the air. With that being said, this issue proves that the creative team has such a relationship with Babs that it’s difficult not to trust them. If the plot continues in the direction it seems to be going, we’ll get an intimate look at Barbara and at least a few more scenes of her precise fighting style.
For readers who want to start reading this series, Batgirl #22 is the perfect issue. Even for those with no knowledge of Barbara Gordon, Larson and Jung present her well enough that it doesn’t matter. Each part of her life is touched in some way without it ever feeling rushed, likely due to solid panel layouts. It’s hard not to feel invested in the series; by the end of this issue, readers will feel like Babs is one of their long lost friends. Check out this series if you’re looking for a superhero series with a mix of action and personal behind the mask scenes.