Batgirl Vol. 2: Son of Penguin (Rebirth) by Hope Larson & Christian Wildgoose
At the end of Volume One of Hope Larson’s take on Batgirl, a new face had arrived in Burnside, Gotham, who answered to the name “Cobblepot” at the airport.
Turns out he’s Ethan Cobblepot, son of the Penguin, though has never had any kind of close relationship with his father. He’s handsome and clever, and wants to improve the world through technology, launching a variety of apps to ensure public safety. Barbara is charmed, and agrees to go on a date with him — though given the spate of tech-related crime happening in the area, she does have an ulterior motive in spending time with him.
The interesting thing about this series is that it doesn’t just deal with big, bombastic, supervillain crimes, but issues such as homelessness, gentrification and data collection, all of which are exploited for nefarious purposes. This eventually gives way to a typically over-the-top scheme concocted by a not-very-interesting villain, but I liked how the story plugged into contemporary cultural problems.
There are also some mundane complications in Barbara’s life, from increased rent to her library studies, her eidetic memory to her array of friends. I’m quite new to comics, so it was a little difficult at times to keep track of who everyone was (characters appear in Batgirl Vol. 2: Son of Penguin (Rebirth) that I was clearly supposed to recognize from earlier issues) but I liked the fact that Barbara has a rich, full life outside of her crime-fighting escapades.
Outside of the Ethan Cobblepot story, there’s also one about Batgirl and Supergirl teaming up to break into Cadmus and rescue a girl that’s been communicating telepathically with Supergirl, and Barbara having to hide her hunt for a criminal during a long-delayed girl’s night out with her best friend.
There are some really cool set-pieces here, like an aquatically-themed club in which guests swims in a giant fishbowl, and the art is striking and vivid, with great colours and energy.
Most of all, I appreciated that the stories are brimming with female characters, both good and bad, all of whom have an interesting dynamic with Barbara.