Since Rebirth started Batgirl has been a solid series under the guidance of Hope Larson. It’s been a reliable read with Larson delivering fun adventures to further establish Barbara Gordon as a solo hero who can stand on her own. Now Larson’s run on Batgirl, like other creative runs this week, is at its end, with Batgirl #23 being her final issue. This final story arc started off weird with Larson having Batgirl get stuck within her own head as the story’s villain has her cornered. With that set-up will Larson end her run on Batgirl with a bang or whimper? Let’s find out with Batgirl #23.
Writer: Hope Larson
Artist: Minkyu Jung
Inker: Jose Marzan Jr.
Colorist: Mat Lopes
Story Rating: 4 Night Girls out of 10
Art Rating: 7 Night Girls out of 10
Overall Rating: 5.5 Night Girls out of 10
Synopsis: From inside Batgirl’s head Fruit Bat tells Barbara Gordon that she must escape the loop she is on her own or she will die.
Back in the loop Barbara is in, Batgirl fights of a steroid-enhanced May Hao and another unknown fighter. Batgirl uses her speed to stab both fighters with tranquilizers.
Batgirl ends up carrying both fighters to a nearby hospital to get treated for the drugs they used to enhance their strength.
Barbara then heads over to her apartment and tries to meditate in order to get herself out of the loop. Just as Barbara feels like she is going to break the loop she hears Frankie talking to her and it break concentration.
Right after her concentration is broken she gets a phone call from her dad. Jim, who has been captured by a gang, tells Barbara that he needs her to get the items from his bank box and bring it to a specific location.
Barbara quickly changes into her Batgirl costume and heads to where Jim is being held captive.
In an abandoned train station Batgirl confronts the gang leader, who turns out to be Martina Falcone. Martina, who knows Batgirl’s identity, tells Batgirl that she is bored of her life and wants to be the next Batgirl. Batgirl pins Martina to the wall and asks why she should allow her to be her protege. Martina says if not she will kill her dad.
Batgirl thinks about what to do and realizes that every time she feels like she is going to break the loop her brain is tricking her to act as if this is her normal life in and out of costume. Batgirl decides she needs to do what is not normally expect from her and ends up walking away from the situation with her dad and Martina.
Barbara changes back into her civilian clothes and hopes that she is right about what her brain is doing.
Barbara goes to Kai’s place and tells him she is tired of her current life. Kai isn’t sure what Barbara is talking about. Barbara reveals she is Batgirl and that she wants to go out with Kai. Barbara kisses Kai and this breaks the loop that she has been in.
Back in reality, Batgirl recovers and easily destroy the bad guy, whose name is Lou, loop gun. She then ends up countering all of the guy’s attacks. When the guy looks to use a knife his ex-wife smashes him with a guitar, knocking him out in the process.
Batgirl turns the guy that held his family hostage into the Burnside Police Department.
After drinking some coffee realizes that while she doesn’t know where life is taking her she will continue moving forward. Batgirl then swings into the city as the sun starts to rise over Gotham City. End of issue.
The Good: Batgirl #23 is not a comic that ends Hope Larson’s run on a memorable note. That is not to say this issue was bad. Larson, as has been the case with her entire run, delivered a solid story that further pushed the narrative of Barbara Gordon growing confidence as Batgirl. Unfortunately it does not translate to an exciting ending that’ll leave readers remembering how things ended with this era of Batgirl.
The strongest aspect of Batgirl #23 is how Larson challenges the normal way Barbara Gordon approaches overcoming a bad guy. Most of the time she is able to use her mind and fighting skills to overcome whoever she is facing off. That ends up leading Barbara to being pragmatic in her approach as Batgirl. Taking Barbara’s usual approach and using it against her was a smart of challenging the character to overcome the latest struggle she is in a different way.
Throughout that struggle within the loop going on inside her head Larson did a good job at showing how tough this was for Barbara. Seeing how each time she got close to pulling through made the Batgirl side of her come out highlighted both the strengths and weakness of who the character is. That struggle to approach things differently and go on the road not traveled made it so when she did do what we don’t expect from her even better. The last thing to break the loop being Barbara revealing her identity to Kai was a good way to show that she understands that she doesn’t have to shut off parts of her life just to make herself a better Batgirl.
Minkyu Jung once again delivered very good looking artwork for Batgirl #23. Jung is a great fit for this series as he highlights the bright colors of Batgirl’s costume well. The energy he brings to the issue is a positive one that both highlights the struggles Barbara Gordon is going through while also not giving up on overcoming every obstacle put in her way. The way Jung, along with his inker Jose Marzan Jr. and Mat Lopes, made changes with how the mental and real worlds Batgirl was in made the issue stand out even more.
The Bad: While Batgirl #23 does highlight how strong a hero Batgirl is it did not end Larson’s run on the high note fans would hope. A big reason for that is because the villain that was used was a random bad guy who fans have zero connection to. The new bad guy, who is barely given a name, made this final story for Larson’s run feel more like a filler arc. Even if it challenged Batgirl in a different way than usual the lasting effects is not something that you picture this final arc in Larson’s run having for the series.
It would have been a much more meaningful ending if this final arc actually involved a villain that we’ve seen tackle in the past. Whether it was Penguin, Jim Gordon Jr. or another villain in that level, it would have made what Batgirl learned through this experience be more meaningful for the character. It would have also made the story go from feeling like a filler arc to one that ended things on a high note for what has been a fun creative run under Larson’s vision for the series.
On a similar note, there was a big missed opportunity to make the mental loop that Barbara was in be more effective by using a character we have seen before. Whether it was Jim Gordon Jr. or possibly a surprise turn from a supporting character, it would have been great to see someone of consequence as the one who kidnapped Commissioner Gordon to break Batgirl’s meditation. By once again introducing a new character in Martina Falcone, Larson missed the opportunity to have the reader care more about the struggle in Batgirl’s decision to not save her father in the mental loop. But since the Martina Falcone character was new it made the decision way to easy since neither Batgirl or the reader had a connection to the tough decision it could have been otherwise.
Additionally, Barbara revealing who she was to her old friend Kai fell extremely flat. That is mostly because up until Batgirl #23 we have not seen the character of Kai in this series for well over a year. The character was newly created by Larson, and while we know that Kai and Barbara had a connection, there wasn’t enough time spent to develop Kai in this series to make this feel like a big, well-earned moment. It once again would have been more effective if the reveal happened to be something like a public announcement to all of Gotham City that she is Batgirl. That would of stuck to Barbara going against what she would do in the situation she was in with the mental loop while also being an impactful moment for her as Batgirl.
It was also disappointing to see the appearance of Fruit Bat be nothing more than a cameo appearance. Given how the story was developed Fruit Bat could’ve easily been taken out of the story and Barbara still would have had to deal with the same mental loop. It would have been more effective if Fruit Bat at least help bookend Batgirl #23 with another quick appearance congratulating Barbara for overcoming the mental loop on her own. Without a follow up scene Fruit Bat’s appearance just came off as deus ex machina to speed up the story.
Overall: Batgirl #23 ends Hope Larson’s run on this series with a story that felt more like a filler arc than a strong bookmark to end a creative team run. The characterization of Batgirl, as has been the case throughout her run, was solid by Larson. Unfortunately having the story in Batgirl #23 filled with “villain of the week” style bad guys that fans have zero knowledge or connection to made this ending feel less meaningful than it should have been. If your a Batgirl fan Larson’s run is still one I recommend checking out even though how it ended left a lot to be desired.