Cameron Stewart, Brenden Fletcher, Bengal, David Lafuente, Ming Doyle, Mingjue Helen Chen
Originally, I wanted to talk about Batgirl Annual 3 in the same review as Batgirl 42, BUTTTTT when your double sized issue has 4 artists attached to it, maybe you give it a separate review.
Batgirl Annual 3 is part art jam issue, part team up comic. Over in Batgirl proper, we’ve rarely seen her interact with anyone in the Bat-family outside of her dad. Here, Babs runs into the newly revived Spoiler, the recently cancelled Batwoman, the adorable leads from Gotham Academy AND as the cover shows, her former…something, Dick Grayson and his boss Helena Bertinelli. Drawing this issue is a murder row’s of artists; Bengal, fresh from the Batgirl Endgame one shot, Gotham Academy alternate artist Mingjue Helen Chen, and making their Bat family debuts, David Lafuente and Ming Doyle, who handle the Spoiler and Batwoman chapters respectively. The annual is written by series regulars Brenden Fletcher and Cameron Stewart, who don’t produce the deepest of plots, but a fun one none the less, invoking silver age team up books like the Brave and the Bold and Marvel Two in One. For five bucks, you can do a lot worst out there, especially when you factor in how good this book looks.
Bengal’s Grayson chapter starts the book off, and Stewart and Fletcher NAIL the voices of Dick and Helena perfectly. It’s a amusing story where our 3 heroes have to stop a group of terrorists in Gotham, and Dick has to avoid being seen by Babs at all costs. Bengal’s manga meets David Lapham art style is perfect for this high action story, and the writers perfectly capture the tone and style of Grayson, including incorporating the series’ key running gag. As someone who really likes the Dick and Barbara relationship, this story work for me on a number of levels.
From there it’s Spoiler and David Lafuente. As someone who wasn’t a fan of Lafuente’s Ultimate Spider-Man run, I can honestly say that his work on this story is incredible. Lafuente’s style has grown since his Marvel days, channeling some Todd Nauck and the late and great Mike Wieringo in his pages. It’s some very kinetic and expressive stuff, and if I have any complaints, it’s that I wanted another 15 pages, or at least for Lafuente to draw theses characters again in the future. After that it’s Ming Doyle’s Batwoman story, which has a cool pulp vibe to it, and reminds me a lot of the good ol Greg Rucka and JH Williams era for Kate Kane. Also, there’s a pretty sweet Wicker Man reference in the story, and I for one always appreciate shout outs to movies remade by Nicholas Cage.
Finally the books ends on Batgirl teaming up with Olivia and Maps from Gotham Academy. While it feels like pure fluff (Fletcher co-writes GA, so their appearance make sense to a degree), Mingjue Helen Chen draws the hell out of this story. It’s so charming that you can forgive it, especially when you get to the final page of the story But this story, like every other one except the Batwoman story, all have the same problem. The villains are pretty forgettable and kind of generic. Like I have no idea if they’re an established threat in the DCU, something brought back for their first New 52/DC You appearance, or created for this book. And ultimately, I don’t care.
Batgirl Annual 3 is something you don’t need to pick up if you think it’s going to tie into the current Batgirl on-going someway. BUT, if you want to see a bunch of great Bat family character interact with Babs while being drawn by some fantastic artists, then yeah, you should buy it.