By Ginger De Los Rios
Batgirl #9 heats things up with a fascinating back story from WWII Japan and rollicking action in the heart of present day Gotham. November, 1944, Nagasaki – Three months after the U.S dropped the bomb on the city. Little Ayumi is in a strict school for girls and the deft fingered students have the honor of making the Fusen Bakudan or ‘Fire Balloons’ to fight the Emperor’s enemies in the West. They are considered the divine fingers of Japan.
In 1946, Gotham City, a young black girl named Mary is the best aerialist in the circus, but her face scares the audience so her head is kept bandaged and she does grunt work. Mary and her family were victims of a Fire bomb in Oregon and she was left on her own with a missing tongue. A representative for the Court of Owls comes to the circus to take her into their fold.
In the present, dozens of Balloon bombs float down and explode all over Gotham City. Commissioner Gordon is threatened by the Court of Owls not to act upon the deaths of very prominent Gotham Citizens, nor light up the Bat Signal, otherwise Barbara will pay the price just as she did with the Joker.
Little does Gordon know that Barbara has her hands full as Batgirl on the rooftops in “Little Jakarta,” home to Gotham’s long-standing Indonesian community. Batgirl matches blows with a female ‘Talon,’ whose fighting skills rival hers. Most of Batgirl’s ‘panel’ time revolves around the fight, until she later returns home as Barbara. Alysia is nowhere to be found. But we know from the last issue that Alysia shared a late night coffee with the psychopathic James Gordon Jr.
In a series of attractive extreme close up panels, Barbara studies a paper she retrieved from the assailant. And we learn that she knows “Kanji.” She also puts all the pieces together about the Japanese firebombs. Thus showing us more of her high intellect for totally random facts.
Alfred pops up in a guest panel when he sends an urgent message to all the Bat Allies to move with extreme caution. The Talons are dangerous killers with regenerative abilities. Batgirl fights the Talon again and beats her this time. In a confusing bunch of panels, the Talon lives after a fall off the roof – smack into a fire balloon. There’s a great image of Batgirl shielding herself from the blast. A mask that looks eerily like Ayumi lies beside Talon, but we never see her real face. Could it be her? Or is it Mary? Regenerative powers could also mean immortality. Batgirl asks Talon why she didn’t kill her when she had the chance, and the Talon’s cryptic message is:
“I have mask 2 Understand.”
It would be nice if readers could understand too!
By the end, Commissioner Gordon defies his orders and lights up the bat signal, only to see a giant owl against a blazing red sky and a wounded Batgirl thinks that Gotham is lost.
The story continues on in Batman #9 and in the subsequent Batgirl issue #10: Knightfall.
This current plot is riveting and the back story intense as Gotham City is turned into war zone. Hopefully Batman, along with his bat-friends, will find the source of these deadly bombs and put a stop to it.
Overall Grade: 10/10