Batgirl Vol. 4: Strange Loop (Rebirth) by Hope Larson & Scott Godlweski
This is the fourth volume in Hope Larson’s Batgirl run, one which has focused not only on crime-fighting, but also community spirit — what I’ve liked most about Larson’s stories is that Barbara Gordon gives just as much to the suburb of Burnside as her civilian self than she does as a vigilante. In this, she’s assisted by a group of friends who also contribute to society in meaningful ways, as well as enriching Barbara’s day-to-day life. I didn’t realize that members of the Batfamily could be this emotionally stable!
Strange Loop isn’t my favourite collection, simply because it’s made up of seven shorter stories, which inevitably don’t have the same level of depth and detail that longer plots can manage. Still, there’s some fun stuff here…
“White Elephant” involves a Christmas attack by Harley Quinn who targets a spoiled business-owner (basically a Scrooge stand-in), leading to a race for Batgirl and her friends to figure out her “true meaning of Christmas” riddle before party guests succumb to her toxins.
“Cold Snap” involves a strange shift in the weather that leads to Burnside being covered in unseasonal snow. Batgirl is suspicious, especially when the Penguin offers his services in clearing the roads, and sees the return of a villain introduced earlier in the series (volume two to be exact).
“Father Knows Best” sees Batgirl team up with her father (not that he knows it) to solve a mystery involving disappearing women and sentient face-cream, while “Strange Loop” has her stop a domestic incidence, only to find herself meeting friends and acquaintances from her trip to Asia. She’s happy to see them, but she can’t shake the feeling that something is off. Without giving anything away, the twist is based on a fun premise (one that’s incredibly prevalent in Batfamily stories) though one that’s played out better in the past.
“Choices” is a bittersweet look at Batgirl trying to talk a victimized young man out of making a vengeful mistake, while “The Reason” has her mourning for a man whose life she saved months ago, only for him to eventually die at the Joker’s hands.
Finally, “March Madness” sees Batgirl go up against one of the Mad Hatter’s cohorts, March Harriet, who has her own sad backstory to share.
Although I prefer a longer, more complex level of plotting, these stories are amusing enough on their own, with great art and colour. It’s nice to get a bit of retrospection from Barbara, as there’s a lot of time given over to her redefining her life and goals, and she doesn’t always get things right. As someone who doesn’t read a lot of comics, these provided some distraction on a rainy day.