Barbara Gordon’s double-life continues to wreak havoc on her personal life as she attempts to rescue a friend, learns part of her roommate’s secret, and just maybe finds a new love interest in BATGIRL #44.

BATGIRL #44 by Cameron Stewart, Brenden Fletcher, and Bengal

Batgirl 44 cover

The forty-fourth issue of BATGIRL kicks off with our heroine searching for Alysia’s fiancé Jo, who’d been abducted at the end of the previous issue. Batgirl tracks Jo’s phone to a warehouse, but only finds her abductor, the Velvet Tiger. The two fight to stalemate before Velvet Tiger uses a sonic device to set off all the gadgets in Batgirl’s utility belt, allowing the villain time to escape.

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Batgirl heads back to Fox Tech with the device and finds Qadir there working on a project that he quickly hides from her. She questions why he’s back at work after the events of the previous issue, and he responds that Luke Fox received a box of evidence from Batgirl’s partner clearing his name. Before the conversation can move any further, Luke Fox (formerly known as the vigilante Batwing) arrives and the three turn their focus to Velvet Tiger’s device. By examining the programming code, they deduce Tiger’s identity to be tech CEO Lani Gilbert, and realize that all the victims of her tiger attacks were freelance employees who’d left her company.

CATCH UP on the first part of this story with our BATGIRL #43 Review here.

Batgirl heads to Gilbert’s last known address, and confronts her again. The two begin fighting with Jo’s life quite literally hanging in the balance over three ravenous tigers. Luckily Alysia had followed Batgirl and is able to free Jo, giving Batgirl the upper hand. She’s able to tranquilize the animals, however Velvet Tiger turns the tables and immobilizes Batgirl with one of her own tranq darts. Just before she can literally carve up Barbara, a sentient bat-cycle appears and saves the day by incapacitating Velvet Tiger, calling the police, and getting Barbara to safety. The next day Barbara goes out for a coffee date with Luke and confides in him that she believes the bike was somehow connected to Frankie’s desire to help her, and possibly take on a costumed identity of her own. The two eventually end up sharing a kiss, and Barbara asks Luke to accompany her to Alysia and Jo’s wedding. Without giving too much away, the issue ends by revealing how Qadir, Frankie, and the bat-cycle are tied together in way that will have lasting ramifications for Batgirl.

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BATGIRL #44 does a very solid job of telling it’s own story while still pushing the overall narrative of the series forward. It does a successful job of wrapping up the Velvet Tiger story that started last issue, effectively wrapping up the mystery of her identity and presenting an entertaining fight between her and Batgirl. In the large arc, the issue establishes Luke as a new love interest for Barbara and does so very well. Their relationship is already better than the one Barbara had with a GCPD officer earlier in the creative team’s run. Likewise, the events at the issue’s end move the Frankie storyline forward in a surprising way.

From a characterization standpoint, BATGIRL #44 falls flat for a majority of the issue. Outside of the final two pages, all of the regular characters are presented in a very barebones fashion, including Batgirl herself. The one exception to this is the backstory and actions of Velvet Tiger. This version of Lani Gilbert has very interesting motivations, that are very modern while still maintaining a timeless comic-villain quality to them, and I personally hope she becomes a recurring character in Batgirl’s rogues gallery.

Get your head around Barbara Gordon’s time as Oracle here.

Regular series artist Babs Tarr is off this month, with art chores instead taken on by French artist Bengal. He does an admirable job, especially with the Batgirl action sequences (which shouldn’t come as a shock to anyone whose seen his work in the BATGIRL: ENDGAME and BATGIRL ANNUAL one-shots from earlier this year). However, because Tarr’s artwork has become so synonymous with the book it’s absence makes the book feel a bit lacking even with Bengal’s admittedly good art.

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Overall, BATGIRL #44 is not a bad comic book. It features an entertaining story that moves along several key plots, though admittedly weaker characterization than normal and art that, while very good, doesn’t quite live up to the (admittedly insanely high) standards.

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