Cameron Stewart, Brenden Fletcher, Bengal, Serge Lapointe
I’m not entirely sure if it’s a coincidence or the work of Bat-Group editor Mark Doyle, but I can help but notice that the 3 DC books I read every month have really great alternative artist to fill in for their respect books. Bengal, previoulys seen on the Batgirl: Endgame one shot and the lead story in this year’s often-mentioned-by-me-Batgirl Annual, fills in for the first time on Batgirl proper, and delivers some fantastic visuals. While he’s not as experimental or fashion savvy as regular series artist Babs Tarr, Bengal’s more traditional lay outs and strong body language make for a good looking comic none the less. Bengal’s style is comparable to Tarr’s in that they’re obviously from a generation of artist raised on anime and manga, but where as Babs is Shoujo Manga/Anime, Bengal is very much shonen. This is evident in the big fight scene in the issue, which is the bulk of Bengal’s best art is present thanks to incredibly well choreographed panels. And even though some of the character heads are a little too lumpy or round at times, my biggest fault with the art doesn’t lie with Bengal. I felt the pale colors provided by usual on point colorist Serge Lapointe take a bit away from the visuals. Batgirl has been a book which has been visually define by being kinetic and bright, but the muted colors take things back a notch this time around.
Brenden Fletcher and Cameron Stewart (as well as previous series writer Gail Simone) deserve a decent amount of praise for giving Babs a wonderfully diverse cast of supporting characters. Despite living in the fictional area Burnside, based on super gentrified real life areas like Portland and Brooklyn, Fletcher and Stewart have surrounded Babs with some wonderful characters from various walks of life, and quickly made them stand out in a number of fascinating ways. It’s a shame the same can’t be said about this month’s villain, who felt rather disposable and a bit of an afterthought. I understand it’s hard to build upon on of the strongest collection of villains in comics when you’re NOT Grant Morrison, and that the team is channeling Batman 66 as well as Batman The Animated Series, but it would be nice to see Batgirl face a more formidable foe instead of another throw away villain who wears an absurd amount of eye shadow. My issues with the Velvet Tiger aside, the writing in this comic is still pretty great. Barbara’s various relationships with her friends all fell genuine thanks to the superb dialogue, and while there’s plenty of talk, it never feels like too overbearing. Fletcher and Stewart also know when to dial back and let Bengal and letterer Steve Wands handing all the heavy lifting with the fight scenes, leaving the slick action sequences relatively uncluttered.
Despite my various critiques/nit-picks with the comic, Batgirl #44 is ultimately another fun issue of this great run. Bengal’s art is quite solid, and the writing is on par as usual, and I really felt like I got my $3 bucks worth with all the content crammed into 20 pages. Between this and the previously reviewed stellar Grayson installment, it was a good week for Bat-Family fans.