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Review: ‘Batgirl Vol. 3: Mindfields’

batgirl-vol-3-mindfieldsBatgirl Vol. 3: Mindfields
Writers: Cameron Stewart and Brenden Fletcher
Artists: Babs Tarr, Bengal and others
DC Comics; $16.99
Rated T for Teen

This is the third and final collection of the 18-issue run on DC’s Batgirl by the writing team of Cameron Stewart and Brenden Fletcher and primary artist Babs Tarr, a run that serves as a veritable how-to when it comes to revitalizing and making relevant a character in desperate need of rehabbing. I would like to think that what the trio and their collaborators accomplished can be replicated elsewhere, and that they didn’t simply catch creative lighting in a bottle, but, if so, DC doesn’t seem to be doing so elsewhere across their superhero line. Not even with the relaunched Batgirl comic by a new creative team that followed, which is already on its second issue.

Regardless of what the future of Batgirl or her DC stable-mates may hold, we got a trilogy of pretty great trade paperbacks out of Stewart and company’s time spent detailing the adventures of the cool, likable, fashionable, and social media-era Barbara Gordon, aka Batgirl.

As becomes clear in these final seven issues, Stewart and Fletcher had their story arc plotted from the start, or at least did a remarkable job of making it appear so, as the the climactic battle against new foe The Fugue incorporates all of the many (mostly young female) allies she worked with throughout the run and many of the villains she made in those same issues, a sort of snowballing escalation of conflict that is something of a victory lap and something of a greatest hits collection.

The final issue features a going-away party for Barbara during which all of the many characters–some of whom were unique to this run–appear, echoing the scene of their first issue, in which Barbara is welcomed to hispter locale Burnside, which is to Gotham City as Brooklyn is to New York City, with a party that the artists lay out in the exact same format.

Taken as a whole then, these three collections tell the complete story of Barbara Gordon’s time in a new neighborhood, where she becomes the local superhero. The exact ending is perhaps a little trite, as Stewart and Fletcher engage in some pretty obvious rearranging of various story elements to smooth the way for the next creative team to take the baton, but again, their three volumes work perfectly well as a complete story, regardless of what came before or what follows.

In contrast to the previous two volumes, Batgirl of Burnside and Family Business, Mindfields has many more artists involved: While Tarr is still the primary artist, and her design work and style inform the many guest artists, it nevertheless takes 11 other artists to fill these 160 or so pages.

The format is perhaps a little unfortunate too, as the final issue of Batgirl is followed by a one-shot special Batgirl: Endgame #1, a tie-in to Batman crossover story in which The Joker turns Gothamites into Joker zombies. It’s written by Stewart and Fletcher and drawn by Bengal, and it’s a very well executed silent story, but it feels out of place here, stripped of its context. It scans like a bonus feature, but is placed as if it were the final scene of a movie.

Batgirl Vol. 3 may be imperfect then, but it’s close enough to make it one of the DC Comics runs of the past five years that belongs on everyone’s shelves.

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J. Caleb Mozzocco About J. Caleb Mozzocco

J. Caleb Mozzocco is a way-too-busy freelance writer who has written about comics for online and print venues for a rather long time now. He currently contributes to Comic Book Resources' Robot 6 blog and ComicsAlliance, and maintains his own daily-ish blog at EveryDayIsLikeWednesday.blogspot.com. He lives in northeast Ohio, where he works as a circulation clerk at a public library by day.

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