Look I get it, a superhero’s alternate persona is always as important as the vigilante themselves. But there has to be a balance between the two, unless the character has no qualms about their secret identity or if the comic is solely based on the alter ego. This my problem with Batgirl’s current arc; while the past few issues had come with this balancing problem it was still a decent ratio, we still got plenty of action with Batgirl whether it was in a fight or some simple investigation. Batgirl #9 went too far with the amount of Barbara that was seen to how much we saw Batgirl, it was more like a 20 to 80 ratio where the first two issues kept at a nice 40 to 60. This wouldn’t be so terrible if it wasn’t so focused on romance.
The last time we saw Barbara she was enjoying herself by going on silly dates with Ethan Cobblepot while still not sure whether she could trust him or not. Clearly she did considering, she was dating and kissing him and all. However, with all this cringey lovey-doveyness, we got a pretty good flash into Ethan’s childhood history and his early adult life when he decided to finally confront his father who we learned wanted absolutely nothing to do with him, typical Penguin. While as Batgirl, we delve deeper into Ethan’s company, VicForm. As we see more of his apps we can only speculate as to why he’s hiring villains as employees for pretty legitimate, if sometimes offensive, roles. After a fight with Magpie the issue ended with Ethan showing an almost obsession with tracking Batgirl’s every step, to get her out of his way. And we’re left with the question of what will happen if he discovers her identity.
Barbara is overwhelmed
As I mentioned before, this issue is very centered on Barbara herself rather than as Batgirl, a theme that seems to be getting worse and worse in its execution. They did at least try to give her an interesting story to follow even if it wasn’t the best. Ironically enough, we open to Barbara thinking that she’s spending far too much time as Batgirl and it’s cutting into her personal life, most importantly her tutoring. Upon her return she learns of yet another VicForm app that’s sweeping in its popularity, yet, this one isn’t centered on a service. Similar to PokemonGo it’s an app where you can have a virtual pet, walk it and socialize it using GPS and internet connectivity with other players. Her kids seem to love it, yet with her current bias over VicForm she lets the kids know the dangers of these kinds of apps and their data-mining targeting. Funnily enough, as she leaves for the day almost everyone around her using the app, if brainwashing is Ethan’s ultimate goal, he’s doing a good job. What I did like about this section was Barbs and the kids; they’re making her less awkward day by day.
As much as she’s got going on, life continues to pour more on her in terms of her social circle. Her friend Alysia gets into a pretty big fight with her girlfriend over her idea of insemination. With Frankie recently moved out, Barbara is happy to have her stay at the apartment but doesn’t relish it in the face of all she’s still got so much work to but having a pretty tough time concentrating. On top of that Ethan has not been answering her. As he comes back into the fold not only has Barbara realized that all these apps have been data-mining her, which we kind of figured with how badly he wants to get to Batgirl, it’s still a surprising twist to see how far he actually is getting with it. Should Barbara be afraid of this, should we? Like clockwork he finally calls her back to invite her to a masquerade party.
This part had so much potential to carry the rest of the issue to a better standard. Upon her arrival to the party she raises some really serious questions to Ethan, most importantly whether this is a true social call and that he wants her there or if he’s just doing this as a publicity stunt. Their relationship, while not hidden, hasn’t been reached by the public eye. This party is the spotlight but does he want Barbara there because he cares about her or is it just a great image to see him with the daughter of a police commissioner? Of course though, the moods momentum is ruined when he pulls her aside for some lovin’ to assure her of the former. A wasted moment honestly.
Batgirl gets an (un)expected visitor
Other than the opening tidbit as Batgirl her lack of attention brought the comic down, a lot. Towards the end however, she does get a role that will lead up to the next issue quite nicely. After leaving Ethan to his guests she decides this is a perfect time to investigate VicForm HQ while he’s indisposed. With all the apps, the villains, the datamining, we finally get to see if Batgirl will find some real dirt on Ethan but instead she’s greeted by a bunch of henchman with signature bowler hats. The Penguin is there to greet her and gives off the vibe that he may actually be on her side, quite the twist given the entire issue.
One of the more redeeming qualities of this issue, both covers were great, nearly the same thing but I enjoyed the shadier variant cover to the original. Expression was heavy in this comic and I especially like the way they pulled off showing us what the Doggo app looked like. Both brief fights were done pretty well and I liked the way the Penguin was portrayed. Yet, the best panel was probably the masquerade. While the series is colorful, it only is in the shade sense, more pencil like. This scene was much more pastel looking than shadier which was a nice change.
While this was the weakest this series has to offer it still had some redeeming elements. It should take a lesson from this and switch up the themes form focusing too much on Ethan and Barbara’s relationship and instead look more towards whether he is a villain or not. The Penguins surprise appearance, along with Barbara’s work with the kids carried the issue enough to make me excited for the next issue, even if it is just because it can’t be hard to top this one. Wasted moments also hurt this issue as they could have used them to much better advantages.
Final Score: 6/10
DC Universe Rebirth Batgirl #9: Son of the Penguin, Part 3
Script: Hope Larson
Pencils and Cover: Chris Wildgoose
Inks: Jon Lam
Colors: Mat Lopes
Letters: Deron Bennett
All Images Courtesy Of DC Comics