Review by Will Morgan
Continuing the high standard set by the inaugural ‘New 52’ volume, The Darkest Reflection, this opens with a flashback of Batgirl’s revised origin in the new continuity, then continues to add memorably to her Rogue’s Gallery with the chilling Grotesque.
There’s a brief but not too obtrusive aside to the interminable Batman crossover City of Owls, in which Barbara meets a female Talon (The Owls’ agents and assassins), before the meat of the collection, which is the advent of Knightfall, a vigilante who, together with her super-powered cadre, is perusing Gotham’s evildoers with an even grimmer agenda than the Dark Knight himself. For any crime from petty theft to mass murder, fatal solutions are the order of the day for Knightfall’s Pals and Gals, and anybody who escapes with losing only a limb is lucky.
On a personal level for our heroine, writer Gail Simone establishes that Batgirl has a friend, confidant and occasional sparring partner in the Black Canary, reassuring those who still insist on remembering the old days that some version of the Birds of Prey past ‘happened’ post-reboot. Barbara also gains an unexpected admirer who, for a change, isn’t a crazed psychopathic arch-villain. Well, at least not yet; there’s several volumes to go, the next being Death of the Family.
Detective Melody McKenna, introduced in the previous volume, steps to the fore and acts as the catalyst for a confrontation between Batgirl and Batwoman, and the tensions continue to rise between Barbara Gordon and her estranged family members.
Simone does a slick and creditable job of interweaving our still self-doubting protagonist’s heroic antics with the more human drama, creating a high-octane thriller which even the unwanted intrusion of a ‘Batman Event Crossover’ can’t derail.
Ardian Syaf remains the primary penciller, but is tag-teamed with Vicente Cifuentes, Alitha Martinez and Ed Benes, variously, in what may have been a deadline-crunching team-up. It works well, keeping the style uniformly fast-paced and moody.
Bonuses are pencil layouts and cover concepts by Syaf, cover roughs by Benes, and a Talon design sketch from Greg Capullo.