A Little Bit Batty: Reviewing ‘Batgirls’ #16
by Scott Redmond
It’s another high-flying adventure as ‘Batgirls’ #16 takes the title characters to another place where their friendship is the core of the story, making sure this remains one of the best Bat-books around. Truly each issue is a wonderful slice of awesome and the fact that this creative team got to take part in bringing us this joy every month is something to be thankful for. If you haven’t read this book yet, do yourself a massive favor and pick it up now.
Cassandra Cain and Stephanie Brown are the best of friends. They’ve proven just how strong their friendship can be. Nothing from body swapping to the specter of death itself can stand between the bond that the Batgirls share. Not even a little bit of madness and some battiness.
Cassie and Steph are characters that I’ve loved since the moment I was introduced to them and seeing them have their moment once more has been so amazing. This series, which also features Barbara as their mentor and other Batgirl (though she’s often getting most of her spotlight over in Nightwing), has been so much fun, especially when it focuses heavily on that ride-or-die bond between these young women. That’s why I’m going to miss it so very much.
Recent solicitations proved that the series will be ending with the upcoming nineteenth issue in June. But we still have some time before then. We’re not here to bemoan the end of this fabulous title, but instead to celebrate it and acknowledge it while it’s still here as well as be happy that this journey was one that we were able to be part of.
Michael W. Conrad and Becky Cloonan know these characters so damn well and make them practically glow on the page, bringing out every single bit of emotion and fun that they can. We finally see them track down the Mad Hatter, whose presence has been hinted at for a bit, and it’s bonkers what they deal with and then it goes even further as poor Steph gets hit by some Man-Bat serum and turns into a Girl-Bat. This is the kind of over-the-top awesome fun stuff that they’ve done in this book, all while never leaving behind the more serious nature of things.
Steph being a Girl-Bat is a giant silly thing but it’s also an emotionally painful thing as Cass must talk her friend down and remind her who she is, so that they can defeat the Hatter and get her back to normal. Truly the way that these two pull at the emotional heartstrings of every single issue is beyond words. It brings that warm feeling to the heart and the moistness to the eye as well as a fist pump because we care about and know them so well now. Cass and Steph are friendship goals and this is a friendship that needs to be celebrated and seen in pages, even if it must be another book from another creative team after this one.
We’re treated to more just wonderful artwork from Neil Googe with Rico Renzi on the colors, but we get a bit of a change here as Geraldo Borges, who has done stellar work over on Nightwing (second name drop of that book, almost like I review it too or something…), swoops in to do the finishes for the last handful of pages to bring the story to its conclusion. Their styles have some similarities but also some notable differences that very much work in the story’s favor.
Googe has a style that very much nails the whimsical but also serious tone that this book has all the time, keeping that lightness around even the most hardened of aspects. Funny enough, harder is something that can be said about Borges’s work because there are a lot rougher sharper edges to that work that also play well in the whimsical and serious realm. Their handling of different places in the story helps a lot too.
We get Googe’s work through the first major portions of the issue with the Batgirls tracking down Hatter and fighting off his creepy, but well crafted, puppets of their Bat-family allies right up to the point where we see Steph undergoing her transformation. That’s when Borges comes into play giving us the conflicted moment where Cass must do what she can to get her friend to remember her and who she is so they can go after Hatter. Both of them though are so great at creating depth and filling the panels with such detail, hitting all the emotional beats perfectly with the facial expressions (love it when full face masks are so darn expressive) and body language.
Both artists’ work is perfectly paired with Renzi’s colors, which bring the same types of light and dark energy into play. Things are vivid with so many colors coming into play, even some points in the Hatter’s lair where the colors feel like they are swirling around, while also balancing them with plenty of shadows and colors of a more toned down, almost ‘normal’, sort of appearance. This helps with some of that depth I mentioned previously and helps the world have a more lived-in and relatable appearance that helps make the fantastical non-relatable elements pop even more.
All together, they make sure that as we move through the issue there are moments to laugh at and bask in their absurdity but then strip that laughter right away as we are struck hard by the emotions. While the writers haven’t changed with the series the artists have rotated around, each group doing a good number of issues though, but every single person that has worked on this book has done magical things and as the internet would say, understands the assignment. Everything that Googe, Renzi, Borges, and others have done on these pages is what helps make this book such a vivid colorful fun amazing series to dive into each month.
This also includes the tremendous work that the letterers have done in this book, as no comic is complete or amazing without their fabulous work, and for this issue, we get to see the return of Becca Carey into that position. Carey was here at the start and helped set the tone for this book in many ways, doing some amazing things with all the types of letters. From the usual placing the dialogue and captions in the best places while making sure that tone/volume are clear (thanks to various alterations to the letters and their bubbles), as well as the great comic book stuff like having a character say their name in logo form that I love so much or just the colorful bubbles and boxes that match so well to the voices.
We can feel the personality of these characters through their words, and the same can even be said for the omnipotent outsider narrator that pops up here or there with their purple boxes. I love that element of this series and that everyone involved knows when to use it and when not to. It pops up in this issue most of the way through, in order to really tell us some deep things about Cass and Steph as they face off as Batgirl and Girl-Bat, things that would bog the scene down if they were saying. Instead, the perfect purple boxes dance around them and give us that inside view and help with all that emotional lifting to get us to pulled heartstring city.
If one can’t tell by this review, or the previous sixteen of them counting the annual, I’m a huge fan of this series. Can’t wait to see what the next three issues have in store for us.
Batgirls #16 is now available from DC Comics.