Going into this series you have to expect some light-heartedness. As I mentioned previously, this comic is a far cry from the darkened plots and more sinister challenges Barbara Gordon faced in Gail Simone’s version of Batgirl. Instead we are given a story that delves deeper into allegories meant to mirror the social issues of our own day. DC fans could see this as no surprise, especially if they’ve read anything about Green Arrow. Yet, despite that, this isn’t a criticism. I’ve actually enjoyed someone else taking the public interest role and fleshing it out to expose its merits and its flaws.
Therein lies my problem with the second part of The Son of the Penguin; it doesn’t completely abandon its current running theme but it does stray a good distance too far for comfort. This wouldn’t be so much of an issue if in return it gave us an equally compelling one in return. However, it does not and while still showing some faint hints of the previous chapter, it focuses far too much on the romance between Ethan and Babs. While this in itself gives us a good backstory on Ethan, it can get pretty cringe worthy.
The last time we saw Babs, she made her return to Burnside after a long leave of absence while traveling around Asia and taking on up tight mobs that happen upon a sort of twisted yet oddly noble goal. Not long after her return she jumped right back into a sort of normal life: enrolling back into college, volunteering to help tutor young children in advanced computing and tackling the Burnside nightlife both as Barbara and Batgirl. Amongst the snobby gentrified hipsters, who use an app that is completely offensive and who act as entitled as Paris Hilton, we meet Ethan Cobblepot—the son of the Penguin. Between not trusting him and being strangely attracted to him, our Babs goes on ultra-stalker mode. Of course to find out more about him and his relation to his father, and to find out more about his startup company, VicForm. Also to go on a date, shame Barbara, shame. But without further ado, here’s my review of Batgirl #8: The Son of the Penguin part 2.
Well, let us jump right into it. The issue’s open is actually pretty funny. Here we think that Babs and Ethan’s date is hijacked by Two-Face. I would have actually liked that, only it was a Gotham villain themed escape room. I did warn you that it would get pretty cringe-y. Afterwards, the two proceed to continue on their date and move towards asking about one another’s personal lives. That is until Babs asks the one question we all want to know the answer to…no not how the hell did Penguin get some poor woman to sleep with him. Rather, what was it like to have Oswald Cobblepot as a father?
Surprisingly enough, Ethan is pretty straight forward with his answer. Be it because he actually does trust Barbara or there’s some ulterior motive that he is hiding behind. The flashbacks to his past are actually one of the better points of this issue. He was the apparent love child of a waitress who worked at the Iceberg Lounge. While she was head over heels for the man, he couldn’t care less about her. When he fired her he at least had the decency to provide for the child from a far and see that neither of them went wanting, in return for her silence of course. After Ethan was accepted into college Penguin sent him one last check to cover his tuition, not realizing that Ethan would receive a full ride. Ethan used his reason to return the check to his father as an excuse to finally meet the man but was met with only disgust. He used the check to start up his company VicForm. By the end of the comic we can trust that maybe he does feel something for Barbara, but as to Batgirl, he has plans for her…for getting her out of his way.
Trouble in Burnside
When not being lovey dovey with Ethan, Barbara begins to grow her roots in the city again. First, by keeping her promise to help out public school children with computers. Half these kids were already really good but it was nice to see Barbara have some normalcy in her life. Plus it is very beneficial for her college courses. If you thought Babs/Ethan was cringe-y wait until her night out. At a bar with a theme of a laundromat… Yeah I’m completely serious.
Barbara saves a woman from a drunken hipster and then finds out about VicForms second app. The first being the incredibly ridiculous homeless remover, this one a little better in taste. It allows you to be walked home by someone, almost like an Uber, so that you get back safely. After the first one employed a villain, it was time that Batgirl had to find out if this one did. It did, obviously. The fight with Magpie was pretty fun to read but it is worth mentioning that Ethan is hiring ex and current villains? That’s not shady, not at all.
There’s not much I can say on this that hasn’t been said previously. The covers are great but can sometimes be misleading, as with this issues center on the Magpie. While the fight was a big portion of the comic it wasn’t the main theme. The fight scenes are drawn out really well and Barbara as well as other pivotal character are drawn with much more emotion than previously. This might be because of the change in inks to Jon Lam. Babs’s expressions tend to make me chuckle and I appreciate it, no matter how silly. Also is it just me or did that little girl form the school look like Clementine from the Telltale Walking Dead? Just saying.
As I mentioned from the start, I get what the story was trying to pull off with the whole Barbara and Ethan romance, but it just didn’t feel compelling enough to take the plot where it needed to go. Not fast enough anyway. I also enjoyed Ethan’s backstory and his still questionable agendas; it gave me something to look forward to in the next issue. The trend of his villain employees is also something I’d like to see explored more and maybe more POV from the penguin. Of course assuming he’ll have anything to do with the plot.
As for Ethan and Babs, it will be interesting to see what will happen to their current relationship if he finds out she is Batgirl or if she finds out that he wants to get rid of Batgirl.
Final Score: 7.5/10
DC Universe Rebirth Batgirl #8: Son of the Penguin, Part 2
Script: Hope Larson
Pencils and Cover: Chris Wildgoose
Inks: Jon Lam
Colors: Mat Lopes
Letters: Deron Bennett
All Images Courtesy Of DC Comics