By Cat Wyatt
Batgirl issue 22 is the start of a whole new plot, this one titled ‘Strange Loop.’ Between that and the cover, I’m pretty curious about what is going on. The cover shows Batgirl trapped in a maze, but with a twist! The maze appears to be inside her own mind. Or at least that’s what the cover is implying. We’ll have to read on to see how accurate that is.
This issue starts with Batgirl witnessing and interrupting a disturbing domestic scene. A woman (Cleo) is trying to protect her children from their father (Lou). While he’s sitting on the couch as opposed to her standing, it’s very clear that he’s the threat in this situation…and that’s before he pulls out his gun.
Well, it’s sort of a gun? It looks futuristic, not something I’ve seen in the Batgirl comics yet. It almost looks like a classic sci-fi laser gun, though I doubt that’s the case. I’ll admit that while the gun looks out of place, so does the guy. His clothing and accessories all look like they popped right out of the Batman Beyond comics, and I’m not sure if that was an intentional reference or not. Perhaps this guy just has access to weird guns and clothing and nothing more?
Anyway, before I spend the next ten paragraphs theorizing about his clothing, I’m just going to move on. Lou is pulling out all the tricks from the abusers guidebook; blaming his wife for the children hating him (no way could it be his violent personality that scares them or anything), determination to have what is ‘his’ even if that means taking the children by force (and being totally fine with having to pay for therapy for the children’s emotional scarring…classy dude).
Naturally, Batgirl steps in…her lunges in the way…before Cleo gets hurt by the weird zappy gun. I’m sure any fan of Batgirl (or really Batman, knowing his tech and all) fully expected her suit and cloak to block and/or reduce the hit for her here…and for the most part, it did, however, Batgirl doesn’t seem to be able to move – a futuristic Taser of some sort?
Not that the paralysis (or whatever we’re going to call it) last long enough to stop Batgirl from kicking Lou’s butt. A fact I found highly satisfying – considering how much a jerk he is. The police arrive in short order, sending Batgirl off on her way (so that she doesn’t get in trouble of course). The whole thing feels sort of…easy. Maybe it’s just my paranoia speaking, but if the conclusion was going to be that easy and simple, then why bother showing it to us? More likely something else is going on here.
The next day gives us an exhausted but otherwise fine Barbara Gorden. She and Frankie (I really wish we’d see more of her – she’s pretty funny when they give her a chance) are out to a farmers market. Which sounds appalling normal for somebody with an alter ego, but we’ve all got to wind down I suppose (plus Frankie is totally crushing on the cheese stand girl…never thought I’d have to say that sentence).
The blissfully uneventful day wasn’t bound to last, as I’m sure any fan could have guessed. So of course Babs runs into a face from her past. None other than Kai. You remember Kai, don’t you? He’s the guy that roped Barbara into following him along, knowing that Batgirl was probably following and thus protecting her (in essence using Barbara for her connection to Batgirl…but never really putting two and two together there).
Apparently Kai has given up his criminal ways in favor of…hand crafting chairs? Okay, we’ve definitely entered a surreal world here. Something is not right! My alarm bells are going off like crazy here. Unfortunately Barbara’s are not. Womp womp.
As if this whole scene wasn’t cringe inducing enough, Barbara goes on a not-date with him. I’m all for giving exes another chance…but…maybe don’t have a private dinner with a guy that’s previously used you? Not that those fears of mine were really founded here, but you never know what could happen. Barbara spends the whole dinner talking about her fear of spinning her wheels – like she’s constantly working but never really getting anywhere (man is that a feeling I sympathize with).
There is a bright side to seeing Kai! I promise. Seeing him made her remember some of the things she’s loved but hasn’t been making time for. While she really wants to try another go with Kai (ugh), she won’t allow herself to do that right now (yay!). But she can get back into another passion of hers: MMA fighting. She had picked it up while out of country, but hadn’t kept it up while home (gee, it’s not like she’s busy or anything, Ph. D work, actual work, vigilante work, and a semblance of a social life…that all adds up).
When tracking down a new dojo Barbara runs into another old friend…seen around the same time as Kai. May Hao apparently moved into town, despite loving the dojo she had been running (cue a long story about what happened there). Things of course are not as they seem, forcing Barbara/Batgirl to take on the case…sort of.
I’m sorry, but this is way too many coincidences in one day for me. First the domestic dispute the night before got cleaned up way too quickly. Then running into Kai (while having a totally normal and average day, mind you). Then running into May? It’s worth noting that both of those people were in the same plot arcs for a while, and have other characters in common. So I was done with being surprised when a third character popped out of the wood work.
Unlike the other two, Fruit Bat isn’t here to catch up. She’s here to deliver a warning to Barbara. There’s a reason everything has felt off the last day, why Barbara feels like she’s going in circles. Based on the cover, you can probably guess the cause.
This was an interesting issue. At first I thought they were being a little heavy handed with the ‘blasts from the past’ they kept pulling up, but once I realized there were all connected (both in the issues they appear in and in Barbara’s mind) it all started making a bit more sense. I’m hoping we get more answers in the next issue – like what that gun was, or who that guy is, for that matter. I’d also like to know if Fruit Bat is another figment of Barbara’s imagination, or if something bigger is going on there.