Family Trees So Twisted: Reviewing ‘Batgirls 2022 Annual’ #1

by Scott Redmond

Overview

‘Batgirls’ meets ‘Freaky Friday’ in the first annual for one of DC Comics’ most colorful and fun books on the stands. Far more pages give us more time with the Batgirls as their world continues to grow and solidify, continuing to be a dynamic colorful, and very energetic place to visit full of so much character depth.

Overall
9/10
9/10

Within the realm of superhero comic books, the general saying about walking a mile in another person’s shoes is something that can become quite literal. Body swaps are one of the many wacky occurrences that heroes might have to endure at some point in their careers, and the time has come for the Batgirls to deal with such an ordeal. 

There are many things that make Cassandra Cain and Stephanie Brown the perfect duo as friends, namely their vast differences that complement one another which allows them to be a great team. Working with someone who is so different than yourself is not that hard, having to suddenly be them in many ways is not an easy task. In all the issues so far what Becky Cloonan and Michael Conrad have done is dig deep into the core of the three main characters and let them fully be themselves and allow that personality to shine through. Sure there is great action and superhero stuff, but the character moments and development are one of the major hooks to this fun series. 

Both the Batgirls have complicated parental relationships (parents who are villains) and throwing that into the mix now as the body switch happens is fantastic. Annual issues mean more real estate generally for creators to stretch out elements of their books and with this series it means we get far more of the Batgirls interacting and doing fun things all while letting the mystery they are following (leading to their parents) take its time and actually breathe. In many cases the body swapping and parents showing up not happening till the end of such an extended issue would make a story feel like it’s dragging, but not this book. 

Any prolonged time we get to spend with these characters as their world builds up is welcome. I love how Cloonan and Conrad used this issue to surge things forward and kick some new developments into gear that will resonate in the series overall, from Alysia’s new cafe and presence in their lives again to Babs moving back to the Clock Tower to go get her full Oracle on again. 

Balancing the fun and serious content while hitting the same sort of vibes as the previous artwork is something that Robbi Rodriguez meets here. His style is a bit exaggerated while still being detailed and deep, and here it takes on a whole different life befitting of this series. Some of the depictions of the people and backgrounds are almost picturesque in quality while maintaining an air of unreality to them with comic book vibes. Some really fun panel styles pop up here from the spread-out wheel spoke-like title page to a polaroid-like montage page, and then all of the action pages that just move around so freely and energetically. I liked the way that some of the more brutal pages near the end are dark and hit hard without needing to be detailed in a graphic manner. 

Rico Renzi is still on colors here and brings in all the same bright powerful colors and dark heavy shadows as previously while ramping them up even more in some cases to match the artwork and story tone. Many of the pages are full of bright colors alongside more normal realistic backdrop tones, followed by other pages where bright reds or greens, or other colors dominate and set the tone. Every single place that the characters travel to has its own distinct energy and feeling because the colors shift, and vary wildly in the best way possible. 

Dave Sharpe slides in to cover the lettering side of things for this issue and carries on the energy and power that letters have had for the whole series. All the great purple fourth wall breaking narrator boxes, big powerful in-your-face colorful SFX, and dialogue that allows one to hear and feel personality dripping out of it fully. Shifting some of that dialogue around in size or shape lets the volume or tone of words appear clearly so that we know how things are being said. Also gotta love it when a word is said so loudly that it bursts beyond the confines of the speech bubble and makes the bubble expand with it. Comics are great. 

Batgirls 2022 Annual #1 is now available from DC Comics. 

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