A Different Type Of Parent Trap: Reviewing ‘Batgirls’ #13
by Scott Redmond
Month after month ‘Batgirls’ continues to be one of the best series that DC Comics is putting on the shelves because of deep heartfelt relatable character moments, engaging plotlines, and just an overwhelmingly fun energy. Every artist brings their A-game to this series, finding ways to keep it serious but fun and always engagingly gorgeous to behold.
A walk-a-mile style body swap gets really complicated when the participants’ parents are deadly assassins and villains. Batgirls continues the madcap and dangerous body swap wish adventure that began in the recent annual issue, leaving one of the Batgirls in a very difficult situation.
We’ve all seen a million stories where two people, whether they are friends or family or something else, end up swapping bodies and having to pretend to be the other. While that is a story that has been done, the key to tackling story tropes such as this comes down to the execution (how it stands out) and the depth of great character. Batgirls is a series known for fantastic character moments/development and writers Becky Cloonan and Michael W. Conrad are masters at executing any type of story they put their minds to within these pages.
In the first issue, there were some hijinks about the body swap but this one changes things up by adding in their parents, Lady Shiva and Cluemaster, which adds a lot of tension to the whole situation. Cass and Steph are best friends and spend tons of time together, so while Steph can somewhat pull off a convincing Cass impression she’s lacking the tools that the real Cass has and despite their rocky relationship, Lady Shiva can tell that this is an imposter and not her daughter.
Shiva and Cass is a tough relationship that has been approached numerous times before, but here having it through Steph’s eyes we get to see a different side of Shiva. A protective side, and a vulnerable side of sorts when all cards are finally on the table. On the other end, we don’t get much from Cass in Steph’s body since she is bound and gagged in the car of Cluemaster, but we do get some snippets of why he kidnapped her and his return from a believed death. The next issue is where we’re set to get more into him, and he’ll interact with Steph now that the body swap is over.
It makes sense to hold off on the Cluemaster stuff till Steph was back in her body because as we saw with Shiva she is the one more likely to be at the center of the very emotionally open stuff. Not that Cass isn’t emotional, but she’s different from her very heart-on-her-sleeve best friend. It also gave us more room for Shiva stuff as well as Barbara/Bruce and Zatanna stuff (that was just fantastic!), and we now will get Cass on the warpath to find and save her friend.
Also, the laugh that emerged at Bruce’s mention of why Constantine is banished from ever stepping foot in the Wayne Manor library was tremendous. I love this book so much.
Speaking of threats, all aspects of the art in this issue (drawing, coloring, lettering) are handled by triple-threat artist Jonathan Case. This is the first time I believe I’ve seen Case’s work and it’s instantly memorable and so fitting for this series. There is a sort of old-school sort of energy that permeates Case’s work which is so vibrant and kinetic through every single panel and space. There is enormous detail on display that captures the characters and their world in full but there is room left to make things feel outlandish sort of.
A lot of this comes from the bright splashes of color that mark the panels from deep purples to bright yellows, some of the more tense scenes having alarmingly bright colors like with Shiva and Steph-Cass being bathed in a bright pink that borders on being close to an almost bloody sort of pink. It’s just a vivid trip of colors through every single page, from those that are more standard to those brighter ones mentioned and it keeps the energy pumped up from start to finish. Everything about this series has been colorful and fun since day one which makes Case’s style of art a perfect fit for this series and what it’s trying to do. Serious with danger and issues amongst the human element but at the end of the day also a fun experience to walk away from.
I mean Case manages to make Bruce Wayne, both as Bruce and Batman, imposing but also pretty friendly when he’s there with Barbara/Batgirl and Zatanna. It’s a good look for the character, I love the issues where artists are able to make him more relaxed around those that he cares about, compared to the stern self that he puts on for everything and everyone else.
Speaking of fun, oh the lettering from Case. Plenty of big right there in the middle of everything bright personality-filled SFX that make sure we can hear everything happening on the page, but also the caption boxes were stellar. Those purple omnipresent narrator boxes are always great and here they take on a slightly different personality as they feel boxier and outside of what is happening in a good way. Can’t forget the more normal style lettering dialogue that has some very fun stuff going on.
I’m very partial to the chilling jagged bubble from Shiva when she is demanding to know where her daughter is as she holds a knife and her face is scary. Or where some of Cluemaster’s dialogue is just words outside of a bubble placed on the back of the rearview mirror.
Batgirls #13 is now available from DC Comics.