The mystery villains who hired the assassin Cormorant to kill Congresswoman Alejo stand revealed: the trio calling themselves Vulture, Shark, and Fox.
Their goal is to use Alejo's death to forestall talks of closing Blackgate Prison, the underground economy of which Shark, at least, makes a tidy profit off of - but further, being able to claim they slew a congresswoman would solidify their potential move into Gotham's world of organized crime.
But the trio is concerned by Batgirl's involvement in Alejo's campaign, so they send a package to the campaign headquarters to lure her out:
The hand brings Commissioner Gordon to the crime scene, which in turn stirs the bad blood between Barbara and him, but also Alejo, who has made police reform a central platform of her campaign - a position Gordon is none too thrilled about, since he sees it as casting an unfair light on the department.
While everyone else is distracted, Barbara manages to get some scans of the hand for study later. Weirdly enough, the hand winds up having clues that link to three different missing persons, none of whom have anything in common.
Following the various trails of breadcrumbs, Batgirl traces them to a grand-opening gala for the underworld, which turns out to be hosted by none other than Vulture, Fox, and Shark!
Batgirl by Mairghread Scott is a solid, good-but-not-great straightforward superhero romp. There’s nothing Earth-shattering about Batgirl working a mystery to stop an organized crime takeover, but at the same time, that straightforwardness is a lot like comfort food. We fans have perhaps come to expect capital-E Event Comics to rock our heroes’ worlds each month in the modern comics era, so to find a comic that so quietly excels at telling a relatively simple tale of good guys solving mysteries and stopping bad guys is an unexpected breath of fresh air indeed.
It’s not all cut-and-dried black-and-white, of course. There are plenty of active subplots – I’m particularly fascinated by the growing rift between Commissioner Gordon and his daughter, here heightened by his presence when the campaign she’s volunteering for becomes an active crime scene; and the sudden and urgent news that Babs’ company, Gotham Clean Energy, is experiencing a hostile takeover. And there’s also Jason Bard’s creeping presence, which may or may not be a portent of bad things to come.
But mainly, it’s just fun watching a Bat-person crack a mystery in an orderly, step-by-step process. It’s an elemental part of the Bat-mythos, but one that tends to get swept under the rug in favor of high adventure. Kudos to Scott for recognizing how important it can be to get back to basics.
That said, there’s a bit to this story that could be improved – mainly the villains. There may be some higher metaphorical value to Vulture, Shark, and Fox later on down the road, but right now, they just come across as boilerplate villains who happen to have animal heads. I’m on board with their goals – trying to use Blackgate’s underground economy as a means of prying their way into controlling Gotham’s organized crime – but the characters themselves don’t really have anything original or interesting about them.
Ah, but the art. Paul Pelletier has, for three decades now, been one of comics unsung heroes, a consummate professional with a clean line, bold panels, and a sensibility that is all his own. I’d know a Paul Pelletier drawing anywhere, but with equally legendary Norm Rapmund on finishes and mega-star Jordie Bellaire handling colors (is there anything she isn’t coloring right now?), Batgirl stands out as one of the best-looking comics on the racks.
Batgirl is part of a quiet revolution of back-to-basics superhero comics. Do yourself a favor and check it out! This is a mystery worth digging into!
Batgirl #34: Bad Things Come in Threes
Writing - 8/108/10
Storyline - 7/107/10
Art - 8.5/108.5/10
Color - 9/109/10
Cover Art - 9.5/109.5/10
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