Review: Batgirl Vol. 3: Summer of Lies (Rebirth) trade paperback (DC Comics)

Hope Larson's Rebirth Batgirl Vol. 3: Summer of Lies is a tick upward for this series, delving into some of the previously unexplored "lost" post-Flashpoint history of these characters. Artist Chris Wildgoose is a superstar in his depictions especially of a young Batgirl Barbara Gordon and Robin Dick Grayson. There are two issues of fluff before the main "Summer of Lies" story that are among the roughest this run has offered, and might suggest, ultimately, what's bringing this run to a close. But again, Larson contributes something important and compelling to the lapsed history of the latest DC Universe continuity, and that's very much worth a read.

[Review contains spoilers]

In the "Summer of Lies" story, Batgirl and Nightwing are being stalked by someone related to one of their first cases together, and so Larson tells simultaneous present and past-set stories. In the post-Crisis on Infinite Earths continuity, Robin and Batgirl's pre-Crisis team-ups more or less remained as their shared history, but from the New 52 forward, that hasn't been the case -- or at least, they sported new modern costumes and etc. "Summer of Lies" is among the first extended looks at the "long pants" Robin Dick Grayson and "no cowl" Batgirl Barbara Gordon in an adventure together.

Larson does well with the "meet cute" and assorted high school adventures of the two characters (a series on its own that I think everyone would read). The party scene is funny, but even better is when Batgirl and Robin try to play tough with a group of in-over-their-heads hackers (perfectly, Larson has one emote, "Stay back! I know karate!"). The dialogue between Dick and Barbara is sharp, to the extent one really feels it when Dick says at the end, "I think you're my best friend." Wildgoose draws the high-school-age Barbara and Dick to actually look like high schoolers, often posed awkwardly and with disheveled hair, and he manages to take two of the most troubled New 52 costume re-designs and make them look convincingly like something high schoolers would put together, especially Batgirl's "year one" costume.

Notably there's zero "Burnside" material in this story, no Frankie or Alysia. Summer of Lies is the flip side of Batgirl Vol. 2: Son of Penguin; Penguin was heavy with the supporting cast while Lies uses them not at all. While I like the Burnside crew, they overwhelmed Penguin without real purpose in the plot, and the fact that Lies is better without them further underscores that the balance in Penguin was probably off.

Considering the extent to which Summer of Lies goes wrong in its first two chapters, the turnaround for the four-part "Summer of Lies" itself is auspicious and astounding. Lies starts out with Batgirl operating in public trying to solve a perceived haunting at a public pool; Batgirl solves the case when she finds a detailed drawing the villain made of his intent to blink the victim out of existence, a ludicrous object only there to move the plot along. That the "ghost" uses a camera lens to see makes little sense.

Additionally, in the second story, Larson posits that Catwoman tries to use cats' sense of smell to find her missing cat Isis (I'm not even sure this is a thing) and that Catwoman's cat is an Instagram star and that Catwoman has an endorsement deal for her cat to sell "Purrberry pet perfumes." Clearly this is meant to be silly, but the humor is stymied by how little sense it makes for the Catwoman character. With no connection to any kind of ongoing narrative, the lightness of these two stories demonstrates the same lack of seriousness as hurt Son of Penguin. I'm not sure these stories are what readers want from the Batgirl title, and if not for the trade they would have offered the kind of jumping-off point this title can't afford (especially unfortunate just before the good "Summer of Lies").

Support Collected Editions -- Purchase Batgirl Vol. 3: Summer of Lies

There's just one more volume of Hope Larson's Batgirl after Batgirl Vol. 3: Summer of Lies before the next team takes over and seemingly gets into some darker material. That can swing too far -- I think the New 52 era just before the "Burnside" era perhaps swung too dark -- but again some seriousness (or at least less coincidence) is what this title needs. At the same time Larson's got one of the best takes on the Barbara Gordon/Dick Grayson relationship in a while, and I hope this serves as a guidepost for other writers going forward

[Includes original and variant covers]

Review Date
Reviewed Item
Batgirl Vol. 3: Summer of Lies
Author Rating
4 (scale of 1 to 5)


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