After two relatively action/Batgirl heavy issues, Barbara Gordon’s personal life comes back to the forefront in BATGIRL #43 as she attempts to balance issues in several friendships with a spate of tiger attacks.

BATGIRL #43 by Cameron Stewart, Brenden Fletcher, and Babs Tarr

BATGIRL #43 opens in quite an unusual way, with a vicious tiger attack in an office building. The scene shifts to Barbara and her former roommate Alysia Yao planning the latter’s wedding, which we learned of at the end of #42. The two are knee-deep in preparation when Barbara gets a call from Frankie informing her of the tiger attack, prompting her to guiltily leave.

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Batgirl arrives at the location of the murder to find that it’s owned by Luke Fox (AKA the New 52 Bat-Hero Batwing) and the two are able to deduce that the final person to access the building (and presumably let the tiger in) was Batgirl’s tech-ally Qadir Ali. Batgirl assures him that she’ll get to the bottom of what happened and clear his name. The next day, Barbara attempts to console Qadir’s sister when she sees a report of another tiger attack at a different Burnside company. Rushing to the site she encounters Frankie, and the two have a contentious discussion about Frankie’s desire to do more field work while Barbara wants her to remain out of harm’s way.

READ: Why Brian Loves Reading BATGIRL So Much!

Barbara has to blow off yet another maid of honor duty, this time a wedding dress fitting for Alysia, but is able to stop another tiger attack and contain the animal. Afterwards, a wounded Barbara returns home only to argue with Frankie about working in the field again. A frustrated Frankie disregards Barbara’s orders and steals her cowl. She finds Qadir and enlists him to help her build something apparently to allow her to help Batgirl in the field. Meanwhile we learn that the activist group that Alysia’s fiancé Jo is a part of had rescued the tigers used in the killings. Fearing someone is trying to frame them, Jo attempts to free the tigers, however she’s confronted by a classic Batgirl villain making her New 52 debut.

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It’s no secret that I’m a big fan of the Stewart/Fletcher/Tarr BATGIRL run, and #43 might be my favorite issue so far. After the previous two-parter mainly focused on Barbara as Batgirl dealing with her father as Batman, it’s great to see the series return its focus to Barbara Gordon’s personal life. The story also does a tremendous job tying the two together seamlessly, with the personal and vigilante elements of Barbara’s life and relationships weaving in and out of each other. The reveal at story’s end also adds a classic villain to Batgirl’s rogue’s gallery, hopefully paving the way for future stories.

As is to be expected, the heavy lifting characterization moments of the story are carried by Barbara. She spends a majority of the issue dealing with issues with her respective best friends cause by her Batgirl life. It keeps tearing her away from her maid of honor duties, which clearly bothers bride to be Alysia, though she plays it cool. Meanwhile, Barbara also has to deal with Frankie’s desire to get out into the field to fight crime. Speaking of Frankie, her turn in this issue is quite interesting to me. After spending so much time to set Frankie up as Oracle in everything but name, I’m very curious to see if the creative team is actually going to have her become a full-fledged costumed vigilante, and how they’ll work her physical disability in if they do.

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Babs Tarr’s artwork continues to improve each month, which is saying something since it’s been some of the best on the stands since BATGIRL relaunched last October. Though still assisted on layouts by Michael Lacombe, the overall look of the series has become almost all Tarr since the book came back from the “Convergence” break. The figures have become even more animated in style, especially when Barbara is in costume as Batgirl.

By now, it’s no surprise that BATGIRL is one of the best drawn and solidly written comics in DC’s stable, but this month is even better than usual as the creators have seamlessly weaved Barbara Gordon’s personal and bat-lives into a fascinating tapestry.

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