It’s a difficult thing to be able to convey tone and atmosphere in a limited amount of pages. Often a comic run takes a few issues to truly get a sense of the intended feeling. Very rarely can you define this from a single comic, with at least an arc necessary to truly appreciate what the writing and story is trying to tell you. But for a few talented writers, these pages are not a restriction at all. Indeed, Batgirl #33 plays out like a ticking time bomb, with every page laced with a desperate energy, a need to very quickly end the threat of Barbara’s brother.
Batgirl #33 forgoes the ongoing election subplot for something even more personal. Whilst this arc is still present, and indeed adds to the commotion of the book, it subtly increases the pressure on Batgirl as her duties for the campaign come to a head on election day. The focus is not so much on how the election is going, however, but on where her familial relationships now stand. This is full circle as we started this electoral arc with a split between the commissioner and his daughter, one that is playing out now. As Batgirl herself says, there is also no coincide that Jason has been released just before the election, showing how these elements are still relevant to the narrative.
What is most striking about the character work in this book though is that Barbara immediately reverts to a darker version of herself, hellbent on revenging her brother’s actions, before he has even acted. The dynamic of trust between her and her father is already shifting again, as he kept his son’s release a secret from her. As the issue unfolds and she continues to ask all the questions she feels necessary, in the most urgent of manners, it becomes apparent that perhaps there is more at play here and that she is not acting in the right way.
Once Jason finally appears, we can see that stark changes have been made to his personality. Creating perhaps a far more complex character than the villains of these pages sometimes produce, Jason has been trapped in a cycle of violence and pain for a while now. He can no longer act in the ways he once did, with his own emotions finally showing him some kind of moral boundaries. These are changes that Batgirl cannot comprehend, nor does she want to, striking her brother in a powerful moment that perhaps does a disservice to her own morals. Much like the Joker to Batman, it’s fascinating to see which characters push Barbara to her limit and results in her questioning her own character.
These wrinkles are continuously adding to what has been a stellar arc so far and Batgirl #33 has been the best tonally in quite some time.
I would also be re-missed if I did not mention the quality of the art, which also seems to bear a kinetic and frantic quality that only elevates the fantastic writing. This is a masterclass on tone and character work.
A masterclass in tone and character work, Batgirl #33 is the best issue of the arc, with fantastic artwork to support the stellar writing.