Ever since DC’s World’s Finest comics put its two most popular heroes, Batman and Superman, together in the 50’s, super hero team-ups have been a major part of comics. Sometimes, heroes team up for a single issue or storyline. Sometimes they team up for an entire series, like the excellent Birds of Prey. This month’s Batgirl Annual #1 features a team up between our titular hero and Fandomentals’ favorite, Supergirl. In the spirit of team-ups, Jorge (who usually covers Batgirl) and Ian (who covers Supergirl) decided to team up to tackle the Annual together.
Part 1: World’s Finest (Ian)
Part one of this oversized annual is the lead-in to next month’s new Supergirl arc. It opens on Batgirl getting the drop on an eco-terrorist. She’s trailed him all the way from Gotham to National City. Then who should appear but National City’s own Supergirl. Supergirl startles Babs’s query and he escapes, but she has a new mission for Batgirl.
It seems that Supergirl has been getting telepathic messages in Kryptonian. It’s coming from a Cadmus facility with Wayne Tech security systems in place. Supergirl promised her boss Director Chase to stay away, so naturally she wants Batgirl to help her break in quiet-like. Babs reluctantly agrees and the two head out.
Things are going fine until the alarm goes off. Seems Bruce has sealed up the backdoor into his own security system (that Babs helped design). The only way in now is to shut it down completely which will alert the facility that someone is messing with the system. Bats and Supes are on a timetable now, so they hurry inside to find the source of the messages.
Before they can find the one sending Kryptonian messages to Supergirl, they run into Caleb, otherwise known as Frostpoint. He’s one of Cadmus’s experiments, and when he hears the alarm he freaks out and goes full on Killer Frost. Batgirl and Supergirl knock him down using teamwork (and actual rocket fuel), and he gets his act together. They promise to get him out of there, but first they need to find the reason why they’re really there.
Supergirl’s super-hearing picks up Director Chase, who is actually on the scene, so they need to hurry. Finally, they find Gayle, the telepath who’s been reaching out to Supergirl. She is looking for a way into the Phantom Zone, and Supergirl is the key. Before they can figure out why anyone would willingly go to the Phantom Zone, Gayle drains Supergirl of some of her strength and poofs, presumably to that very place.
Supergirl, Batgirl, and Caleb escape to the desert where they can recover. Batgirl reassures Supergirl on a mostly passable rescue mission (even if they didn’t get the one they were there for). They have the feeling, though, that this isn’t over. Supergirl intends to call on Batgirl again should the need arise (which it most certainly will).
These two were so cute together. With Batgirl taking the lead and Supergirl playing the overeager apprentice role, they have a great chemistry. Nothing against the main Supergirl comics, but I really love the way Hope Larson writes Kara. Her syntax is just formal enough to make her sound like English is her second language, which is adorable (in my head, she sounds vaguely eastern European). Babs plays the role of mentor well. With her brains and Kara’s brawn, there is nothing these two can’t handle.
The art as well is a pretty significant departure from the Supergirl title, as it’s not nearly as stylized as it has been so far in that book. It’s nice seeing Supergirl being drawn in a more traditional style than in her main title. One complaint I did have is with the opening scenes. It is pouring down rain, which seems strange for National City (a stand-in for Los Angeles), and it made the art a little muddy at the opening. Not sure why that decision was made, but it didn’t take away from my enjoyment of the story.
In short: This whetted my appetite for the Supergirl/Batgirl team up Starting in next month’s Supergirl #9.
Part 2: Rain Check (Jorge)
In the second part of this annual issue, Rain Check, Batgirl follows suit with a mostly light-hearted story just without a sidekick. (Unless you count Alysia, which you should.) Even though she can be a pushy best friend, who wouldn’t be in that situation? The best part of both these stories however, is that they’re not related to The Son of the Penguin. It’s not that I don’t enjoy Hope Larson as a writer, I do and she’s produced some really wonderful stuff. But, compared to her most recent issue, this is a refreshing take on Batgirl’s current adventures. I don’t just mean refreshing because Larson isn’t writing this portion of the issue, but it’s nice to see a change in the writing. Though I’d have liked to see it during the current timeline rather than before issue 1 of Batgirl Rebirth, but that’s just me being picky.
What I liked most about this half of the annual, as with the first part, is the excellent dialogue. Vita Ayala shows her worth to comics. While many of the more recent Batgirl titles may have lacked for action, this one did not. This had everything missing from what she’s producing lately and it’s accompanied by her snarky and witty script, a pair made in heaven for something so exclusive as an annual edition. Ayala channels something very similar to Hope Larsons script that keeps what’s good about the Batgirl Rebirth run while still adding something new.
The annual issue gives us the return of a classic Burnside villain, Riot Black, who is as vile and creepy as he looks. The issue does seem to follow certain trademarks of the current writing, such as less focus on combating the current villain and more about Babs’s personal life. We are given a lot of generous moments with Riot Black including some really good fight scenes. For those of who don’t know Riot Black, he’s a villain with cybernetic enhancements who likes to rob people of their personal information and other such mischiefs. He first appeared in Gail Simone’s early run of Batgirl.
In this issue we see the criminal hacker attempting to ‘upgrade’ himself in order to access data and information in a much quicker way. This of course poses a threat to Batgirl because he could directly connect to her cellphone and use the information to expose her secret identity. Both the beginning and end of this issue being merry goose chases, the latter especially. Thus we see a return to form (literally, since this issue is before Rebirth) for Batgirl as she attempts to secure this beast before he hunts his target and becomes a sexual predator. Seriously, towards the end it gets pretty uncomfortable.
Yet another common trope Ayala shares with Larson is portraying how difficult it can be to juggle being Batgirl and still having a social life. Alysia Yeoh is another veteran from the Gail Simone days and has been close to Babs from the New 52 to now. Between Babs being Batgirl and Alysia spending time with her girlfriend, Jo, the two have hardly gotten to see one another. It makes me sad because Alysia is one of my favorite side characters in Batgirl. Damn it, Barbara find time for your friends! Joking aside though, it was really nice to see Alysia in the spotlight again. Recently we’ve only seen her briefly and as not much more than a plot device.
Rain Check focuses on the two celebrating their anniversary as friends after Babs has repeatedly canceled on her. Of course, this is all while Batgirl is still trying to keep tabs on Riot Black, who has fallen off the grid for now. The entire issue is full of laughs as Babs is forced to keep Alysia safe all the while trying to deal with stranger danger. The final fight is probably my favorite part of the issue as the balancing act truly comes to the height of its tension with a lot on the line should Babs falter in just the right way. The character development is as high as it can get in 20 pages, but is most appreciated.
Ian: Both of these stories were lots of fun, and as a Supergirl fan, it was cool seeing another writer take the reins for Kara. I follow Batgirl as well, and I thought the Rain Check story fit in well between Cameron, Stewart, and Tarr’s great run before Rebirth and Larson’s current run. I’m always up for “superhero juggles real life and friends with punching badguys” stories, and this one did not disappoint. The centerpiece here though, in my opinion, is the World’s Finest story. It really got me pumped for the next arc of Supergirl, and I’m interested to see where Steve Orlando and company go with it in the main Supergirl comic.
Jorge: Both Worlds Finest and Rain Check brought something entirely new to the Batgirl table and it was incredibly well done. Between the antics and team ups of Babs, Kara, and Alysia we see charming and lively dialogue as well as plenty of suspense and action. It’s interesting to see different artists work on Batgirl. They kept the familiarity of Larsons writing yet with a fresh take on story. Eleonara Carlini shines on the art, though I’m probably biased because I adore her work in Green Arrow Rebirth. Maybe she’ll come on as permanent staff(fingers crossed). I hope Larson read this part of the issue and takes something back to Batgirl when the following issue of Son of the Penguin comes along. Because we need a change, a good change like Rain Check.
Images courtesy of DC Comics
Batgirl Annual #1 Credits
Script: Hope Larson
Pencils & Inks: Inaki Miranda
Colors: Eva De la Cruz
Letters: Deron Bennett
Writer: Vita Ayala
Artist: Eleonora Carlini
Colors: Mat Lopes
Letters: Deron Bennett