This series gets even geekier this issue as Barbara Gordon continues to restart her life. She’s not in as dire straits as Black Canary, whose every possession was torched. Dinah has since been crashing with Babs and her less-than-enthusiastic roommate Frankie. Babs gets even more supporting cast members when she submits her thesis at Burnside College, after her laptop was mysteriously swiped last issue with all of her information on it. She meets a hot young professor named Jeremy DeGroot, and brother/sister Nadimah and Qadir (Muslims, further diversifying what is already one of the most diverse casts in comics). Qadir, in particular, works in the robotics lab, so I expect him to be an important resource for Barbara in the future.
But in the main story, Batgirl has a mysterious doppelganger who has been contacting her… and others. In this case, she must confront two anime obsessed superfans who are terrorizing the campus on stolen “robotic bikes” while recklessly slinging samurai swords. Batgirl takes quite a beating, due to her lack of a grappling hook (since when?!) and it takes the arrival of campus police to drive the pair off, but something about their departing statement, “Tomorrow cries danger!” triggers a memory in Batgirl.
Back at her apartment, she begins the process of recovering her research, while looking up ‘Atomina’ an anime that she watched as a young girl. She realizes that the two troublemakers on bikes are modeled after the villainous Jawbreakers from the cartoon.
Ultimately, Batgirl manages to gain enough information, some of which is gleaned from a visit to a hipster Japanese import store, where the clerk typically talks down to her for not knowing enough about anime culture.
In the end, Batgirl uses her new info for a rematch with the Jawbreakers, but that only leads to more questions about the mysterious second Batgirl.
It’s extremely rare that a comic book capture actual urban youth culture. Too often if comes across as forced, dated, clearly ripped off from whatever teen movie the writer last saw or just plain made up. Cheesy dialogue, painful fashions, over-sexualization… all have plagued comics since the original ‘Teen Titans’ first exclaimed that The Flips were “Ginchy” and “Gear!” This is one of the first times that young people in a comic come across like actual real urban young people. Everything from their complete immersion in up-to-the-minute technology to their dialogue and fashions, even the locations they visit make me feel like my college neighborhood. I expect loads of vegan restaurants and vinyl record stores to factor in at some point.
Of course, this just means that in ten years, people are going to read these issues and snicker at how tacky and out-of-date everything is. Catch 22.
Obviously, I’m a big fan of the writing, from the intriguing second Batgirl story to the dialogue and character development, but the art is no slouch. It’s not exactly mainstream, but it’s absolutely gorgeous and works well in both the quieter moments and action sequences. There are even some nifty visual effects that help deepen the action bits, making them much better than simple straight-forward fight scenes.
I just love this book! I’m not even sure how DC approved this drastic change. The past two issues are nothing like those leading up to if after the New 52 relaunch. I kind of wish this was just how the series had launched. But I think it’s a change for the better. This is one I’m sticking with for the foreseeable future.
Written by Cameron Stewart & Brenden Fletcher
Art by Babs Tarr with breakdowns by Cameron Stewart
Cover by Cameron Stewart with Alternate Cover by Cliff Chiang