Writer: Jon Lewis
Artists: Pete Woods (p), Andrew Pepoy (i)
After dealing with the rampaging Yak in the Batcave, and accidentally destroying the very machine that he had hoped would provide some answers about the mystery box from the future, we see Robin decides the only opinion now open to him is to take a closer look at Batman allies to uncover which one will turn against them in the future. To this end he decides the first person of interest is the ever evasive Batgirl.
On one hand I have to give Jon Lewis credit for coming up with a mystery that I find compelling enough that I find myself rather anxious to see solved. However, a large degree of this anxiety stems from the simple fact that Jon Lewis' writing style has to be some of the slowest paced material on the stands. I'll concede a writer is entitled to choose their own pace, and often times taking the time to develop an idea makes for a more rewarding final product. Then there are issues like this one that are extremely frustrating as basically we spend the issue going over material that has already been established, and there's precious little forward movement, or any real new information offered up for our consideration. In fact the only real plot advancement that we do receive in this issue isn't even tied to the main plot, as we see Tim helps Stephanie smooth over her rather troublesome relationship with her mother. Now the cover to this issue, as well as last month's preview copy for this issue seemed to suggest that Tim would be dealing with Batgirl, but other than watching her take down a couple thugs, and attempt to follow her for a page and a bit, her presence comes across as little better than a sales gimmick, as we're given no reason to suspect her more than any of the other members of the Bat-family. In the end this issue feels like it's spinning it's wheels and getting nowhere, and with the final chapter arriving next month this is a bit worrisome.
As for the art, I'm a little disappointed to learn Pete Woods looks to be leaving the book when Bill Willingham arrives, as I feel he's one of the best fits artistically that this book could've hoped for. However, other than keeping an eye out for his next project, there's little one can do but enjoy the remaining issues, and I fully intend to do so. This issue isn't exactly an action packed affair but the opening battle that Robin has with the enraged Yak is nicely handled, and Batgirl gets a pretty good showing during her nightly rounds. The art is also extremely good when it comes to it's facial expressions, as the issue offers up numerous scenes where Robin is perplexed by a bit of information, or simply frustrated by the lack of information and the art does a very solid job of conveying these emotions.
The issue is basically an exercise in futility, as Robin is given a mystery to solve, and this issue essentially shows us that he has precious little information in which he can draw upon in his bid to arrive at an answer. So much like Robin himself the reader spends the issue frustrated by Tim pursuing avenues that fail to offer up any new insight, and basically this issue ends with Tim having even less hope of solving the mystery, as during the battle he manages to conveniently destroy the one machine that might've provided an answer. Now longtime fans are rewarded with a fairly solid look at Tim and Stephanie's relationship, as he discovers she has spent the past few weeks living out of a seedy little motel room, and he's able to patch things up so she can return home. However, even this subplot lacks any real impact as we're left out of the conversation, and are essentially cheated out of what would've been a rather engaging conversation. As for the Batgirl guest-appearance, it's little more than an attempt to cash in on her fan base, as her impact on the story is minuscule.
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