Batgirls #16 – Becky Cloonan/Michael W. Conrad, Writers; Neil Googe, Geraldo Borges, Artists; Rico Renzi, Colorist
Ray – 9/10
Ray: After the emotionally intense arc which found both the girls being confronted with their dysfunctional parents, things take a lighter—and much more bizarre—turn this issue. We now know that the Mad Hatter is the mastermind of the troubles over the course of this series, and the Batgirls have finally tracked him down—with his help, as he invites them to a twisted tea party. The banter between the girls is a lot of fun, but things take a disturbing turn when they invade his sanctum and find an army of seemingly alive puppets attending the “party”—which immediately attack. It’s not clear what these abominations are supposed to be, but the fight segment is one of the creepiest in the series. It soon becomes clear that Hatter isn’t there in the flesh, but he’s left an unpleasant little surprise for the Batgirls—in the form of a gas attack of Langstrom serum that transforms Steph into a “girl-bat.”
I’ve seen this concept before in fanart and it’s usually Cass who gets transformed, so having it be the peppier and more optimistic of the two who becomes a “monster” is an interesting twist. Man-Bats aren’t evil or inherently dangerous, but they are feral, so Cass wisely takes a different approach than just trying to fight her best friend. The series once again does an amazing job of emphasizing the emotional connection between the Batgirls, laying it on pretty intensely in the last few pages (although not to the extent of last issue). The art depiction of Steph as a Man-Bat finds a nice balance between making her scary and intimidating and also making sure we can still see the humanity lurking under the surface. This has been an odd series so far, with a lot of mood whiplash, but surprisingly it manages to make the whiplash work. The story feels messy and real, in a way few comics usually do.
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GeekDad received this comic for review purposes.