BATGIRL #42 finds Barbara Gordon simultaneously trying to protect her father Batman from the villain Livewire while at the same time evading him as he hunts for Batgirl.

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BATGIRL #42 begins precisely where the previous left off, with Batman telling Batgirl she’s under arrest. Barbara tries to flee, with her father giving chase until the two end up in an abandoned construction site. The elder Gordon shuts down his suits surveillance system and tells Batgirl that he doesn’t agree with the GCPD new policy to eliminate masked vigilantes but that he has no choice in the matter and that she should lay low so he’s not forced to bring her in.

Barbara has no plans to give up the cowl since she feels that her dad doesn’t have the experience to deal with threat as powerful as Livewire, and turns to her allies for help in stopping her. First Frankie is able to find Livewire’s location by tracking power surges through the city, and equipment master Quadir is able to provide a device that should neutralize Livewire’s electricity powers.

Sure enough Batgirl finds Livewire right where Frankie said, however she’s arrived after Batman. Just as Barbara suspected, the villain’s electrical powers proved too much for her father’s suit and she had to rescue him. After convincing him to work with her, the two are able to weaken and distract Livewire enough to deploy the Quadir’s device which successfully shuts down her powers. Batgirl attempts to bond a bit with her unknowing father, but he simply responds that one day he won’t be able to let her leave. An exhausted Barbara retreats back to her apartment, only to find her friend and former roommate Alysia there with an announcement that should cause reverberations throughout the book for months to come.

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BATGIRL #42 is the most action-heavy issue of the current creative team’s run, with the initial Batman/Batgirl confrontation and the Batman/Batgirl/Livewire fight taking up a vast majority of the issue. For the most part, these sequences work. The Batman/Batgirl chase is dynamic without being violent, which makes sense as neither of them truly wants to hurt the other. The climax features some great teamwork between the two Bats, though the quite literal dues ex machina ending left me a bit cold. I would have preferred Barbara and Jim coming up with the solution together, but that’s a small nitpick. Overall the almost solely super-heroic tone of this issue is a successful change of pace for the series, but the ending seems to promise that the personal ins and outs of Barbara’s life will be back on the front lines as the book moves forward.

From a characterization standpoint, the main thread of the issue is the somewhat strained father/daughter relationship between Jim and Barbara Gordon. Continuing on last issue’s theme, Barbara attempts to understand her father’s new role as Batman and protect him from danger’s she thinks he’s not ready face. For his part, Jim is unaware that Barbara is behind the cowl, but he’s incredibly conflicted about taking Batgirl off the streets, feeling it’s an overall negative to Gotham City. The way the two come together to fight Livewire, and the bit of banter they exchange after her defeat are a major highlight. Livewire is an effective villain for the plot, but character-wise she’s not developed all that deeply over the two issues. As for the supporting characters, both Frankie and Quadir make brief appearances that just reinforce their respective roles as Barbara’s best friend/Oracle and tech-guru. Alysia’s brief appearance at the end of the book seems to set her up to be more integral part of the book going forward, which would be welcome.

I feel like every month the art section of my BATGIRL reviews sounds the same, but I just can’t help it. Babs Tarr’s work on this book (this month with Serge Lapointe and breakdowns by Jake Wyatt and Michael Lacombe) continues to be one of the best looking books put out by either of the big two. The issue’s emphasis on bat-action really allows Tarr to flex her super-hero muscles, and makes me yearn even more for a Batgirl Animated Series done in her style.

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BATGIRL #42 shifts the focus almost entirely to Barbara’s super-heroic work as Batgirl, so if that’s an element that you’ve been missing it’s definitely an issue for you to check out. However there’s still enough character progression and spectacular art to keep regular readers happy.

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