By Cat Wyatt
In Batgirl #19 we last saw Burnside suffering from a sudden and unexpected snow storm (courtesy of a hacked weather app). If that wasn’t odd enough, that fact combined with Penguin being…kind and helpful was certainly enough to get Batgirl’s attention. Issue #20 concludes the story that’s already begun.
One would think it’d be pretty hard to trick somebody with an eidetic memory, but it turns out that thanks to an overreliance on apps (such as GPS), it actually doesn’t take all that much. Which is why Batgirl ends up at a bat guano facility (why is this a thing?) instead of at Qadir’s work responding to his distress call. That being said, I envy her ability to get around issues without getting lost. She may rely on GPS when she doesn’t need to, but the fact remains that she isn’t dependent on it (unlike myself – as the saying goes, I couldn’t find my way out of a wet paper bag).
It seems odd that somebody would have chosen to attack Qadir’s place of work during an awful storm like this. That is until it’s revealed what his team has been working on. It’s a giant “trust” ray, which makes people appear more trustworthy if they’re the one the device is targeting (thank goodness something like that doesn’t actually exist). I appreciate that Qadir sincerely believes this device could be used for good (stopping riots, saving hostages, etc.), but I also have to agree with Barbara on this one. The possibility for abuse is just too high with something like this. As evidenced by the fact that it was stolen. I think we can all safely assume a villain stole it (because Burnside is quickly attracting scores of them).
There are two good things about the situation. The first is that the range of the ray is relatively short, so all Barbara has to do is locate the people being affected and she should theoretically find the ray (assuming she can avoid being caught in its effects that is). The other bit of good news? Qadir got a voice recording of the burglar, and Barbara’s eidetic memory should be able to help her figure out who it is (if she’s ever heard the voice before that is).
Because everything is connected inside a comic’s universe, it’s pretty much a given that Barbara has heard the guy’s voice. It belongs to none other than to Ethan Cobblepot (aka Blacksun), a villain she recently faced who has some serious daddy issues. Considering how odd the elder Cobblepot has been acting lately, it’s safe to assume they’re working on this together. I’ll admit I don’t like the idea of Cobblepot having his hands on a trust ray…though there are worse villains to have it too (can you imagine that thing in Joker’s hands? Ugh).
It may seem odd that Blacksun was suddenly working with his father when he had so clearly hated him previously. As it turns out all he ever wanted was a little attention from his old man, something he started to receive once his face got messed up. It’s a messed up relationship to be sure, but I guess for Ethan it’s better than nothing?
Like predicted, the ray is being used in proximity to Cobblepot (and Batgirl totally got too close, thankfully it seems to wear off when one walks away), which at least gives her an idea of where to look for the device. If it’s targeting Cobblepot (again, the elder), it’s a safe bet that Blacksun is somewhere around operating the device for daddy dearest.
Cobblepot helping the city (from a storm he helped to disguise) and him gaining access to the trust ray both end up being part of his master plan; he’s hoping to run for Congress. Even if he were to get himself the votes of the area, there’s no way this plan would actually work, right? The range on that ray is pretty limited, and as we saw with Barbara, it wears off when out of range. Perhaps that’s why he was combining it with kind actions; in hopes of making it stick. Still, I think it’s a flawed plan at best. And that’s before taking his opposition into account (I don’t see Dent allowing that to happen…).
I’ll be honest; this wasn’t the strongest Batgirl plot. I was happy with the ending, where Barbara was self-analyzing what she’s done and gone through, but that was the highlight for me. Everything else felt a little silly and hollow. I’m sure this is just a downswing plot, so hopefully, the next one will pick up again.
The artwork was pretty great on this issue. I love how the storm and ice are portrayed, as well as Barbara’s memories serving as her own personal GPS (little blue ghosts all over the city). It was a clever way of showing her memory in action. I also love how Ethan’s features were slowly filled in as she listened to his voice.