By: Bryan Q. Miller (writer), Lee Garbett and Pere Perez (artists), Walden Wong and Pere Perez (inkers), Guy Major (colorist), Harvey Richards (assistant editor), Michael Siglain (editor)

The Story: Calculator has Oracle and is plugging directly into her mind. Oracle’s hidden lair has Wendy. Technozombies Catwoman, Manbat and Huntress (not to mention 40% of Gotham) have Batgirl. Then things get grim.

What’s Good: As always, Miller excels at the snappy banter and monologue that accident-prone Stephanie Brown excels at: Spiderman-esque in style, but a lot less self-confident. Only Steph is able to deliver lines like “Sorry I called your dad a jackass” and, in response to the growls of Technozombie Man-Bat, “You’re right, I can’t afford a DVR.” Stephanie is always manic fun. On Oracle’s side, I loved the mental world she was stuff in, facing off against Calculator, and his growing frustrations with her. Visually, the art was dynamic, the settings grim and rainy, and some of the layouts interesting. Artgerm’s cover art is absolutely fantastic (just like last issue). Stan Lau should be doing the insides too.

What’s Not So Good: The art, while doing the job, didn’t look very compelling this issue. Gotham looks grittiest and scariest (despite Stephanie being a light-hearted Gothamite, she is being chased by thousands of zombies) when the fine lines of detail leap out of the panels and drown the reader’s eyes in an overload of bricks and mortar, dirty, blowing garbage, hair-line cracks in windows and scuffed armor. Faces carry more emotion when the lips and eyes and hair move fluidly. The art here just lacked the kind of detail that would have held my attention. This was just standard.

Story-wise, there were a few flaws. I’m not trying to nerd out, but first, I was shocked that Wendy was able to turn on, much less use, Oracle’s computer. I’m not a longtime Barbara Gordon follower, but over this series, she’s been the super-careful, ultra-cautious mastermind with a plan. She has put telepathic blocks in her head! But she didn’t password protect her computer?

Secondly, remember the Simpsons 2-parter “Who Killed Mr. Burns”? In it, Smithers says of Burns: “And when he tried to steal our sunlight, he crossed that line between everyday villainy and cartoonish super-villainy.” The Calculator, in this issue of Batgirl and the last, is cartoonish super-villainy. Fantasy and sci-fi (of which, superhero comic books are a subset) work best when not only is something changed, but the implications of that change are shown and become part of the story. Now, I don’t mind the Calculator doing a number on some heroes or on a small group of regular folk, but when you turn 40% of Gotham (Gotham has 30 million people – do the math) into zombies, this is the sort of thing that will quickly pull in the national guard, the Justice League, the Titans, and any other hero worth his/her salt. I mean, these capes come out to stop muggers! What would their reaction be to 12,000,000 American citizens turned into zombies? Wouldn’t this trigger DC’s version of the Superhero Registration Act (maybe call it the Meta Registration Act)? Wouldn’t a *bunch* of US citizens start insisting that metahuman criminal activity be a capital offense? Wouldn’t the stock markets crash? All of these things are the logical implications of a disaster of this magnitude, even if the effect is temporary. When they become part of the story, the story becomes richer and assumes a larger stature. A good sci-fi/fantasy story would follow these leads. A less energetic writer would find excuses for these implications not to materialize. Most writers scale things down so that the implications become optional. Unfortunately, the editorial team (Siglain and Richards) let Miller ignore the whole problem, which (a) tells us that we can’t take this seriously (by that, I mean no amount of suspension of disbelief will allow a reader to escape into the adventure) and (b) makes it feel like a lot of creative opportunities were lost.

Conclusion: Story and art problems this issue dropped one of my favorite books into ‘average’ territory. I hope the series isn’t losing its charm. Buy it if you want. Or skip it and the next issue, and tune in for the start of a new arc in issue #13.

Grade: C

-DS Arsenault