Monday, April 3, 2017

Review: Batgirl Annual #1

"Together again for the first time!"

It's a tag line I love in comics. Between universal rewrites, reboots, and new people using classic superhero monikers, I have seen it plenty during my comic reading years. And it could apply to Batgirl Annual #1. Because this is the first team-up between the New 52/Rebirth Supergirl and Batgirl.

It seems almost a little odd that here we are 6 years out from the New 52 and this is the first time these two characters are talking to each other. And thankfully, writer Hope Larson makes them fast and easy friends. Enough of New 52 angst and isolationism! These two should be friends!

It is even better that this story is a sort of secret mission, something that neither Bruce or Kal involved. This is something they want to do together on their own. It is clearly the beginning of a beautiful friendship and a multi-issue arc (we know this from solicits). And that makes me truly happy. I don't read Batgirl but the book jibes with Supergirl nicely, name dropping the DEO and even adding an evil Cadmus into the mix.

The art is done by Inaki Miranda and the style has a vibe similar to what Joelle Jones is doing on Supergirl Being Super. There are some nice page layouts as well which accentuate the action as well.

This is a definite read for fans of the Rebirth Supergirl!

The story is titled World's Finest because of course it is. How great is that?

There is little bit of luck to the beginning of the story in that Batgirl happens to be in National City stalking the Red Spur, a cowboy-clad member of the Environmental Destruction Agency. But before Batgirl can snag him, Supergirl swoops in. I just love how immediately they both recognize each other and say how happy they are to meet.

There is a little bit of youthful exuberance and swagger in Supergirl's approach. Grabbing his hat and striking a 'howdy Ma'am' post in that first panel followed by a flex and a 'red eye of anger' gaze.

For me, Supergirl is around 17 and Batgirl is around 21. So there is a sort of older sister/younger sister vibe to the proceedings. And that works, especially when thinking about the overall tone of the Batman and Superman families.

Red Spur slips away during the introductions but Batgirl doesn't care. He's easy enough to track down again.

But immediately the two just slip into a team-up. Supergirl is asking for some help in breaking into a Cadmus facility. And she wants Batgirl's help so it can all happen on the down low. These smaller inset panels do a nice job of giving us how the two interact with each other physically, palling around.

How funny that National City has a reputation for being a New Age, hipster city.

It turns out that Kara has been receiving telepathic messages in Kryptonian.

Someone named Gayle is being held against her will in a Cadmus facility and needs Supergirl to help her escape. Now the name Gayle should resonate with Supergirl fans but more on that later.

Batgirl knows this is a trap. An incarcerated psychic contacting the hero? Her name is Gayle and but she is talking Kryptonian? It all seems fishy and it should. But this is a young Kara who thinks a survivor of Krypton is a prisoner. She is all in.

She needs Batgirl's help to slip by the vaunted WayneTech defenses. She could just bash through the walls but she wants this done quietly.

To keep with the high social awareness that comics is embracing these days, Supergirl says people looking for any excuse to hate an illegal alien like her. You would think that a President would remove the 'illegal' status from Kara since she is working for a government agency. Or maybe Kara would go through the work to become a naturalized citizen.

As sometimes can happen with 'very special' moments, this seemed a little bit over the top.

Batgirl decides that she will help leading to this super-hug.

This opening introduction scene is just wonderful. You can see that these two respect each other. Miranda does a great job with showcasing the emotions of these two. Nice expressive work.

This panel should be a t-shirt or a poster.

The two break in but not without some hiccups. Batgirl sets off the alarms and then decides the right thing to do is disable them all together. The two meet a young boy with cold powers named Frostpoint who is being experimented on. And they are trying to stay ahead of the security forces now swarming the place.

Earlier in the story, Kara really seems panicked saying the two cannot be caught in the building. Here we see why. She had asked the DEO to do this mission and they declined. Now the DEO is there to investigate. Cameron Chase will not only be angry ... but also disappointed. I feel like Supergirl is worried about seeing her 'mom' upset at going ahead and doing something she was told not to.

Finally we meet Gayle in a prison section of the Cadmus facility.

She has psychic abilities but also telekinesis. She 'speaks' psychic Kryptonian because she has 'The Key to the Phantom Zone' inside her head. There is a person in the Zone and 'he' can help her. (We know from solicits it is the Phantom King.) Gayle is leaving so she can get there. Using her powers she overwhelms Kara and teleports away.

Now longtime and even new time Supergirl fans will know that Gayle Marsh is classic Kara villain Psi's real name. This Gayle even looks like the classic Psi.

Looking for more information about Psi? You came to the right place!
I cover all of her prior appearances here:
That includes her recent appearance in Sterling Gates Adventures of Supergirl.

The two heroes grab Frostpoint and escape. Recovering while staring at the stars they realize, like Bogey and Louis, that it is the beginning of a beautiful friendship.

Viewing them 'upside down' has a cinematic sort of feel for some reason. And the quips and sharp repartee works very nicely.

This really is a prologue to a bigger storyline. But I loved it. Every bit. So much fun! An evil Cadmus! And a new Psi!

Batgirl and Supergirl! Together again for the first time!
This makes me happy!

Overall grade: A


Anonymous said...

"It seems almost a little odd that here we are 6 years out from the New 52 and this is the first time these two characters are talking to each other."

Completely crazy, isn't it?

I just love how Batgirl was hanging upside-down in the first panel. Completely impractical way to stalk someone but it's cute.

I real like Miranda's art. Since the first panel it's obvious Supergirl admires Batgirl -and even feels a bit self-conscious around her-, and Batgirl respects the younger hero. Perfect sisterly relationship.

And Barbara's "I'll clearly need a cup of coffee to go through this" look was priceless.

Unfortunately Kara's explanation about Cadmus and Gayle tiped me off about Saturn Girl's absence. The solicit clearly told Babs had to break into Arkham and asked Kara help. We were misled.

I cannot believe I missed what Gayle's name meant until someone else pointed it out to me.

Kara making homework in her bedroom, wearing a shirt and jeans. When I saw that panel I right away thought of the angry, grief-stricken loner who refused to get over her tragedy and try to fit in. How far she's come, right?

"Batgirl knows this is a trap. An incarcerated psychic contacting the hero?"

Hah! True. It reminds me of this "Girl Genius" scene:

"As sometimes can happen with 'very special' moments, this seemed a little bit over the top."

Indeed. It's like that short story in "Action Comics #900".

Kara's reaction when she heard Chase was around is priceless.

And then we have "COIE #7 Homage", number 156,847. Proper, though, given that issue meant the end of the Kara/Babs friendship in mainstream comics for thirty-two years.

However I'm still wondering why and how Gayle was imprisoned. She can use her psychic powers, read minds and move objects. It looks a plothole. Maybe there was a dampener field around her cell? But then how she could broadcast her thoughts?

My theory is: Cadmus disabled Gayle's powers but whatever system they used wasn't working anymore (possibly because the "key"). Gayle could have run away at any time but she needed Supergirl to find the Zone and become whole again, so she called Kara and waited.

And then we have the Saturn Girl issue. It was a great issue, but I was expecting to see both girls meeting Imra, so I'm a bit disappointed.

However, Kara telling she's been in the Phantom Zone threw me off. New 52 Supergirl has been ever stuck in there or Larson got her mixed up with TV Supergirl?

However, my issues are minor quibbles. This Annual was great, full of hilarious and heartwarming scenes, and brings back to the DC universe a friendship that was wiped out by editorial contempt and carelessness. I want more.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for sharing Anj. I haven't picked up the issue yet, but already I got the HUGEST grin on my face! Especially
the "Too Tight!" shot... BRILLIANT!

> Batgirl and Supergirl! Together again for the first time! This makes me happy!

+1000000000 to that! It's been a long time coming!


Anonymous said...

This was fun in extremis, I'm glad Psi is back in the mix (given the traditional gaps in Kara's rogue's gallery) and the fact that Babs and Kara were instant besties from the first moment warmed my heart. I love how Babs hacked Kara's phone #....too bad BG can't guest on "Supergirl" the TV series that would be a nice shot in the arm. Back in the bronze age, Batgirl and Supergirl were conspicuous by their lack of a team affiliation, I always thogught they'd be an excellent nucleus for an all female super-team within the DCU...alas no one at DC Editorial could read minds by long range in those days.
Looking forward to this storyline....


Anonymous said...

"Back in the bronze age, Batgirl and Supergirl were conspicuous by their lack of a team affiliation,"

True. I wonder why. Kara at least was a Legionnaire, but Batgirl... Was she ever member of a super-team before founding the Birds of Prey?

More reviews have come out. Weird Science graded the Annual low, which is unsurprisingly because that site's contributors dislike the current Supergirl and Batgirl's books. Batman-News tore it to pieces. Obviously the reviewer is entitled to his opinion, but that review was so full of factual mistakes and trivial complaints I'm convinced the reviewer skimmed through the issue looking for excuses to trash it instead of reading it. Among other things he complained about "World's Finest" being a lame title, thought Caleb was a Kryptonian and told the story continued in the "Supergirl and Batgirl Annual" for God's sake!

And why on Earth people keep bringing up that stupid Kara/Cassandra Cain's fight I'll never figure out.

Oh, well. Supergirl and Batgirl are friends again, so I'll ignore bad reviewers and be happy.

Anonymous said...

I have no problem with the "illegal alien" scene, any more than "Squee", or that she cares in the slightest about Cameron Chase. As a reader I haven't been shown why she should care about Chase, and given her personality up to the Rebirth I need more than being told she care to believe it. Or how she's learned enough about Earth culture to know to say "Squee" for that matter.

Considering how often Supergirl has been chased, shot, imprisoned, tortured, and otherwise shown extreme "hospitality" since the beginning of the New52 I'm actually glad they had her feeling a bit skittish about how she's received as an alien. That she joined the DEO and accepted adopted parents so easily given what's gone before has seemed unrealistic to me. That she shows some concern here is honestly a bit of a relief.

Anj said...

Thanks for great comments.

I wonder if the 'zone' comment is a origin tweak to conform with the TV one.

And last anon, I think the isolated Kara was given time in the New 52. By the end with The Perkins/Green run she had embraced Earth.
For me, it was hard to get behind a hero who hated everyone. And yes, we haven't seen much of Chase yet. Maybe this was that peek behind the curtain of their relationship.

Martin Gray said...

Nice review, as ever, Anj... the only difference between our reviews* is that I thought Kara's trepidation was a little over the top.

Now, I'm dying to know what you made of the Batgirl strip that followed.

* Hey, second-to-last Anon, I did a review too! If I gave ratings if get on those ruddy round-up posts... Anyway, if you get time, feel free to drop by.

Anonymous said...

"And yes, we haven't seen much of Chase yet. Maybe this was that peek behind the curtain of their relationship."

I didn't think that scene implied Kara regards Chase as a parental figure of sorts. I thought Kara was freaking out because she didn't want her boss to catch her red-handed.

Anonymous said...

Looking forward to "Kara and Bab's Spring Break in the Phantom Zone!"



Anonymous said...

I cannot tell you how fun it was to read the review, which makes me want to get a copy or two of this annual.

I love some of the elemets of the TV show, including SG's bubbly personality and penchance for hugs (SQUEEE!). Her chemistry with Batgirl is AWESOME.

"Together again for the first time!"


And Supergirl in that cowboy hat...boy is she ever a pretty filly!

And the panel where they are upside down...PRICELESS.

I also suspect a little bit of the energy of DC Superhero Girls where Batgirl and Supergirl are BFFs.

This looks like a fun read. IF ONLY BATGIRL CAN SHOW UP ON THE TV SHOW!

Two of my comic book crushes together...this is heaven!