Batgirl Annual #1
Writers: Hope Larson (“World’s Finest”), Vita Ayala (“Rain Check”)
Artists: Inaki Miranda (“World’s Finest”), Eleonora Carlini (“Rain Check”)
Colorists: Eva de la Cruz (“World’s Finest”), Mat Lopes (“Rain Check”)
Letterer: Deron Bennett
Publisher: DC Comics
A review by Nico Sprezzatura.
For those who don’t already know, annuals are essentially bonus issues of an ongoing comic, usually telling a standalone story or setting up another one elsewhere. Though usually set contemporaneously with their parent series, it’s not a requirement, so anybody can theoretically pick up a title’s annual issue without requiring much context to understand it.
Batgirl Annual #1 falls into both of the categories mentioned above. It features two stories: “World’s Finest”, written by current Batgirl helmer Hope Larson, and “Rain Check”, written by DC’s Writers Workshop alum Vita Ayala.
As you could probably surmise from its title, “World’s Finest” marks the first official meeting of Barbara Gordon and Kara Zor-El in the post-Flashpoint DC Universe. When Kara picks up a distress signal from (whom she believes to be) an imprisoned Kryptonian in Gotham, she turns to Barbara for assistance — the building is armed with Wayne Tech, meaning she could help in pulling off a stealthy rescue before Kara’s DEO handler catches on.
Since they tend to live in the shadows of their namesakes in popular culture, a team-up between Babs and Kara seems rather obvious, yet they never actually met during the New 52 era. DC seems to be making up for lost time in that regard; “World’s Finest” is to be continued in next month’s Supergirl #10, so fans of their team-up won’t be disappointed by its brevity.
Larson’s Batgirl run has been lots of fun, and “World’s Finest” keeps consistent with that tone. Babs and Kara’s jovial banter in particular makes you wonder why it’s taken this long for them to meet, teasing the start of a beautiful new friendship between the two. As well, Inaki Miranda and Eva de la Cruz provide great visuals; while not as cartoony as Batgirl’s recent comics have been, their art is dark and inky but colorful and dynamic regardless, giving Larson’s script an edge not present in her ongoing series.
“Rain Check”, on the other hand, is a one-and-done story that reflects on Barbara’s friendship with former roommate Alysia Yeoh. Written by Vita Ayala (a graduate of DC’s Writers Workshop, who wrote a Wonder Woman story in the New Talent Showcase last year), “Rain Check” perfectly nails the spirit of Burnside-era Batgirl.
While her mentor Bruce Wayne is a standoffish loner at heart, Babs is extroverted and friendly, and the best Batgirl stories with her at their center lean on those qualities. As you could expect, being a superhero can steal attention that would otherwise be spent with loved ones, and “Rain Check” explores such a dynamic. Barbara and Alysia are super close, but the strain of the former’s vigilante moonlighting and the latter’s recent marriage have affected their relationship.
While it could be easy to just let them drift apart (as relationships often do in boring real life), they make a point of seeing one another — even if their time spent together is cut short by an unexpected supervillain wreaking havoc nearby.
Alysia’s been a fan favorite supporting character in Batgirl stories since Gail Simone introduced her in 2011, and with good reason: she’s one of very few openly transgender figures in mainstream superhero comics who are portrayed as perfectly normal people. While many elements of the New 52 are met with disdain by fans of the DC Universe, Alysia isn’t one of them; she helps keep Barbara grounded, as all great superhero best friends do.
I’m not very familiar with the work of anybody on the “Rain Check” creative team, but they all provide top-notch work here. Ayala is an exciting new voice in comics, and her ability to match the tone of Larson’s current run on Batgirl is a good sign for potential future gigs, writing within an established universe like the DCU.
Eleonora Carlini and Mat Lopes, as well, illustrate Ayala’s script with the cartoony feel of Barbara’s latest adventures missing from “World’s Finest”, which I very much enjoy. I don’t know what’s next for either of them (or Ayala, for that matter), but I hope we don’t have wait too long to see what else they’re capable of.
Also, special mention to letterer Deron Bennett, who pulls double duty on both of this annual’s stories. There’s some quality lettering here! Larson’s and Ayala’s scripts aren’t exactly light on words, but Bennett conveys them all clearly and appealingly.
If you’re a fan of both Batgirl and Supergirl, Batgirl Annual #1 is an easy recommendation for buy it. Both stories featured within are quality and stand on their own, boasting exciting talent on each. If you’re a fan of Larson’s Batgirl especially, then you can’t go wrong here. Since it’s an annual with premium pricing, however, it’s by no means required reading — but if you can afford to spend a little extra on your comics this week, by all means check it out!