Cameron Stewart and Brenden Fletcher have been on fire recently with their new direction for Batgirl. With how they have been able to establish Barbara Gordon’s voice in the ongoing series I am very interested to see what is in store for Batgirl’s first annual under this creative team. From the cover alone it looks like we are in store for a big team up with the thought to be deceased Dick Grayson that should provide plenty of drama. Will that be the case? Let’s find out with Batgirl Annual #3.
Writers: Cameron Stewart and Brenden Fletcher
Artists: Bengal, David Lafuente, Mike Doyle and Mingjue Helen Chen
Colorists: Bengal, Gabe Eltaeb, Ivan Plascencia and Mingjue Helen Chen
Story Rating: 7 Night Girls out of 10
Art Rating: 8 Night Girls out of 10
Overall Rating: 7.5 Night Girls out of 10
Synopsis: Batgirl saves an old man from an oncoming bus. The old man does not remember who he is when Batgirl questions him, with his only memory being of something called Negahedron.
With Frankie’s help Batgirl discovers that the old man’s name is Orin Denby, a member of the United Nations, who went missing a few days ago. Batgirl heads out to Orin’s last known location, Shrike Tower.
At Shrike Tower, Batgirl is attacked by Helena Bartilleni. After getting through some introductions Helena decides to work together with Batgirl. While scoping out the tower Helena quietly contacts Dick Grayson to inform him that Batgirl is with her. Dick, who has just taken out some Gladius troops, says that he has to keep out of sight since Batgirl believes him to be dead.
Batgirl and Helena soon arrive to where Dick left the Gladius troops unconscious. Batgirl wonders if Helena has a partner but does not get an answer. As they march up some stairs a Gladius member is thrown near them which Batgirl buys as a sign that Helena does have a partner.
Batgirl and Helena continue to make their way up the tower, fighting off all the Gladius troops along the way. They soon reach the same level Dick is on. Helena tells Batgirl to watch her back as a Gladius member is right below her. Batgirl heads to take the guy out but when she reaches him she notices that he is already unconscious.
Batgirl senses that someone is around the corner. Dick does his best o stay quiet as Batgirl gets closer to discovering him. Before Batgirl can discover Dick is with them Helena calls her over so they can continue up the tower.
Helena and Batgirl go up the tower through the elevator but are soon attacked by more Gladius troops. They are able to take them all out and make it near the top level. Dick calls Helena to tell her that he ran into some trouble. Helena heads over to help out Dick while ordering Batgirl to go to the main office.
As Helena helps out Dick from his predicament Batgirl finds the office housing he other missing scientist. Batgirl catches the person holding the scientist in the Hivemind but has to let her go in order to defuse the bomb. As she is trying to defuse the bomb Helena and “Christian Kroger” (Dick Grayson using Hypnos tech to disguise his face) arrive to help Batgirl out. They are unable to defuse the bomb so the three grab the scientist and escape the tower just as it blows up.
A Spyral helicopter arrives to pick up Helena, “Christian” and the diplomats. Batgirl question Helena on the Hivemind. After talking about what the device they have to find is Helena thanks Batgirl for the help and takes off with “Christian.” As “Christian” gets on the helicopter Batgirl seems to recognize him by his familiar butt.
While going back to their headquarters Dick tells Helena that it was hard for him to lie to Batgirl. Helena tells Dick to get his head back in the game.
Back on the ground Batgirl wonders if “Christian” could’ve been Dick but quickly gets her mind on what she has to do next.
Sometime later Batgirl is running on the rooftops of Gotham City, trying to track down the Gladius leader. As she is running someone clotheslines her out of nowhere. Spoiler comes out of the shadows and celebrates the fact she was able to surprise Batgirl. Batgirl knocks Spoiler to the ground and asks what Spoiler was doing. Spoiler says she is training and proceeds to attack Batgirl, who easily blocks all the attacks.
Batgirl quickly grows tired of Spoiler attacking her and grabs her in a sleeper hold. Batgirl’s tracker suddenly goes off and she spots the Gladius leader she was tracking at a diner. After learning about Batgirl’s real mission Spoiler decides to help by quickly sneaking into the diner and bringing the Gladius leader to where Batgirl is.
The woman reveals that she is not Gladius leader, she just works for them. The woman then says that with the Hivemind information all Gladius needs now is the Negahedron to destroy Gotham City. Batgirl leaves the Gladius member for Spoiler to turn into the police while she takes off to find the group’s leader.
At a Gotham City bar Batwoman is wrecking shop on everyone there while trying to get answers on Tina Nair’s location. Batgirl arrives and tells Batwoman that she may know where Tina is.
As they ride to Tina’s location Batgirl reveals to Batwoman that through her research she found out Tina, a Colonel in the military, has a connection to the Negahedron.
They soon arrive at crop field where they find Colonel Nair being held captive by the Gladius leader. Batwoman is able to free Colonel Nair, who is an Kate Kane’s former superior, while Batgirl fights the Gladius leader. Batwoman then helps Batgirl defeat the Gladius leader.
Batgirl and Batwoman then talk to Colonel Nair to learn that the Negahedron is a military developed weapon whose information was split between the scientists that Batgirl rescued earlier. As Colonel Nair talks about everything else she knows the Gladius leader escapes.
Later that night Batgirl searches through Gotham Academy’s library for the missing Negahedron blueprints. She figures out that the device is located in the missing head of a statue. Batgirl finds the secret room where Gotham Academy students, Maps and Olive, are hiding in.
With the kids help Batgirl is able to find a secret room where they find the statue’s missing head. Gladius leader comes out of nowhere and steals the statues missing head.
Batgirl chases the Gladius leader to the school’s rooftop. Just as they are about to fight Maps throws a batarang at the Gladius leader, which distracts her long enough for Batgirl to knock the statue head out of her hands. Batgirl ties up the Gladius leader and retrieves a film reel that was inside the statue head.
Inside the school’s library Batgirl, Maps and Olive take a look at the blueprints inside the film. After downloading the blueprints the film suddenly goes up in flames. Batgirl puts out the fire and escapes just as the school librarian enters the room to tell Maps and Olive to go back to their rooms.
When Maps gets back to her room she starts thinking about her own superhero costume. Batgirl watches from outside as Maps draws the costume. End of issue.
The Good: Batgirl Annual #3 does exactly what all annuals should do and that is tell a full story that begins and ends in one issue. By doing this Brandon Fletcher and Cameron Stewart were able to show off what has made their current run on Batgirl special. It also gave both writers a chance to have Batgirl interact with other members of the Batman Family.
What surprised me the most about Batgirl Annual #3 was how well Stewart and Fletcher were able to integrate all the guest-stars into the story. While this wasn’t the end-all-be-all of guest appearances Stewart and Fletcher made sure that the characters that did appear made sense to the story. There was never a point where it felt like they were forcing in characters just to sell the comic.
By far my favorite of the guest appearance was Dick Grayson and Helena Bartilleni. This segment had a great cat and mouse feel to it with Dick Grayson having to evade being caught by Batgirl. It forced Dick into a position where he had to be much more efficient, in almost a Batman way, with how he handled the situation Shrike Towers.
This situation that Dick found himself in also helped the road to his big return to the spotlight that DC is currently building, leading into the Batman Eternal sequel. As has been the case with the last two issues of Grayson, we are seeing the pull to return to Gotham City and his friends is getting to Dick. Having to interact with Batgirl by disguising himself with Hypnos showed how hard Dick’s secret death has been on him.
The situation with Gladius also provided us the first New 52/DCYou team-up of Batgirl and Helena. With Helena being such a different character in this new DCU it was fun to see how their relationship is different. Seeing Helena taking the lead in the mission was a good way to show how different the dynamic is compared to the old DCU where Barbara was the leader of Birds of Prey. The dynamic between Batgirl and Helena left me hoping to see the two interact more in the future.
As someone who enjoyed the Batgirl series before the New 52 relaunch I was happy to see Batgirl and Spoiler running into one another. Seeing how Stephanie was a bit in awe of Barbara’s actions as Batgirl was a nice tease for how they may interact during future team-ups. I also liked that even though Stephanie is clearly not at her previous skill level that she was still able to find a way to impress Barbara with how she retrieve the Gladius scientist.
The segments with Spoiler and at Gotham Academy were also a good way to show the aura Barbara carries as Batgirl. Like Batman and Robin, Batgirl is one of those characters in the DCU that holds an aura where she can inspire others. Seeing how she was able to leave a big impression on Spoiler, Map and Olive showed this about her.
The way the Gladius storyline lead us to a team-up with Batwoman was also nicely handled as Stewart and Cameron quickly established Batwoman’s connection to the plot. Batgirl was also able to show how much more confident she has become with how she interacted with Batwoman. At the same time, the fight with the Gladius leader also showed the difference in experience level as Batwoman needed help Batgirl in the fight.
While I am not a big fan of art by committee Batgirl Annual #3 did a great job picking the right group of artists to work together. Outside of the last segment featuring the Gotham Academy all of the artists working on this book were able to maintain a consistent look throughout the story. Bengal, David Lafuente and Mike Doyle do a particular good job at keeping the fun, colorful look that Babs Tarr has injected into the franchise.
The Bad: The only problem that Batgirl Annual #3 runs into is with the villains of the story. While the plot was interesting Fletcher and Stewart don’t spend the right amount of time to make Gladius a real threat. They are more of a means towards getting Batgirl to team-up with various Gotham characters than being standalone characters. It’s a shame because Cameron and Stewart tease that Gladius will be a threat that returns in the future but I just don’t care about ever seeing them again.
Overall: Batgirl Annual #3 is a great example of how annuals should work. Even as the villains were a bit disappointing Fletcher and Stewart more than make up for with how entertaining the team-ups were. The opening segment involving Dick Grayson and Helena Bartilleni in particular stood out with strong action and comedy scenes. The artwork was also able to keep the pace of the story moving in an entertaining fashion. By the end of this annual Fletcher and Stewart left me hoping to see Batgirl interacted with Dick Grayson, Helena Bartilleni, Batwoman, Spoiler and the Gotham Academy students again in the near future.