In one way or another, politics have always had a place in the world of superhero comics. Whether through larger-than-life allegories or more overtly political storylines, the nature of who governs us and how superheroes fit into that has been covered time and time again. While Batgirl #30 might fall under the latter category, it weaves a unique narrative that only Barbara Gordon could be at the center of.
The first installment of "Old Enemies" sees Barbara still in Gotham, and quickly proves that several things have changed in the month since the events of the last issue. Barbara's had an essentially-perfect track record with her impaired implant, while Jim Gordon and the GCPD is facing accusations of corruption after the events of the great "Art of the Crime" arc. When thrown against the backdrop of a congressional election, that creates a conflict that's a lot more than meets the eye.
To some, the fact that Barbara and Jim are put at odds might feel a little contrived, especially as their relationship seemed to be in great standing by the end of the last arc. But there's also something about their conflict, and where each pair stands in it, that feels undeniably human and true to their characters. Barbara even acknowledges the fact that she's willing to support a candidate she doesn't entirely agree with, who turns the GCPD and the Batfamily into a sort of scapegoat, as long as it means that Gotham will be safer and better in the long run. The issue also utilizes the Barbara and Batgirl dichotomy in interesting ways, both with how Barbara stays true to and acts on her values, and how Jim spars with both sides of his daughter's persona.
To an extent, this issue suffers from many of the same shortcomings that usually plague the first part of an arc -- namely, there are way more questions raised than answers given. From the familiar face who can be seen throughout the issue, to Barbara's almost-deliberately vague new colleague, to the masked villain who appears in the final panel, it's unclear exactly where all of these players are going to go next. But Mairghread Scott does the best with all of that, crafting a narrative that largely keeps the reader's attention, and doesn't make the issue feel as jumbled as it could in another writer's hands.
The art from Paul Pelletier is mostly a good fit, striking the right blend between almost-photorealistic and comic book-y. There are a small handful of pages that feel a little flat, either with a face that looks off or a pose that feels like an outtake from the Hawkeye Initiative. But even then, those are few and far between and don't distract too much from the larger visual space. Pelletier does a particularly good job with bringing Barbara's new suit to life, which is sure to continue to grow on readers. Norm Rampund's inking and Jordie Bellaire's colors help accent all of that in a way that simultaneously feels modern and like something out of the New 52, but not in a bad way. And Deron Bennet's lettering gives things the right blend of nuanced and playful.
Is this the flashiest, most essential Batgirl issue? No, but it doesn't need to be. In a backdrop of corruption and double-crossing, it brings an authentic take on both Barbara and Jim's values, one that could mean very interesting things as the arc goes along. When combined with fitting art and some major returns, it proves to be an issue that's much more than what's on the surface.
Published by DC Comics
On January 2, 2019
Written by Mairghread Scott
Art by Paul Pelletier and Norm Rapmund0comments
Colors by Jordie Bellaire
Letters by Deron Bennet