Since the New 52 started, she had a lot on her plate from the get-go. The Joker had paralyzed her when he attacked her in her own home, and then he came back years later to kill her. Her brother James Jr. is a psychopath who sold her out to the Joker and had tormented her every chance he got. One of the few men she trusted, Bruce Wayne, withheld certain truths from her and her fellow masked fighters which then fractured their relationship and loyalty to him. And then Damian Wayne died and when she tried to be there for Bruce, he just pushed her away even more. But it didn't stop there. Dick Grayson, a brother-in-arms (and someone she had always connected with the most of all the Robins) had just died. And now her father stands accused and condemned by the very city he loved and protected for decades.
If you contextualized all of these events then Batgirl's volatile state of mind at this point is understandable. Smart, collected and logical as she may be, having to face such deadly encounters with evil men and loved ones who betrayed her would weigh down anyone. Fortunately, this is still Barbara we're talking about and she's still finding productive ways to cope with her anger and grief. Her story arc for Eternal hasn't always been stellar to read but the previous issue and now this one were more than enough to make up for the slow build-up especially since we get a confrontation between her and Jason Todd that was worth waiting for. It will surprise us readers to realize that this issue was more about Red Hood than Batgirl and I was actually pretty happy about it because I'm one of those fans who had a conflicted relationship with Jason most especially in light of the way writers and readers alike keep comparing him to Dick Grayson--and how much he falls short of the original Boy Wonder. Jason's death was quite significant too and his comeback even electrified his highly unpredictable character even more. I can't say I will continue to like Jason after this but I will say that I do find him strangely endearing--and this story has helped me understand why that is.
Before we get back to these two crazy kids, let's talk about the other stuff that happened in this issue. This is a continuation of the three events that happened in the last one with Batgirl, Red Hood and Batwoman in Brazil, Batman, Bard and Killer Croc in the sewers and Gordon in Blackgate. What I love about all these scenes is that the characters are all making action-oriented decisions. In Brazil, Batgirl and Red Hood are locked down in a fight where Batgirl was hypnotized to believe he is the Joker whilst Batwoman busied herself in catching Falsario, a villain who fancies himself as a puppeteer. In the sewers, Bats, Bard and Croc work together unravelling the mysterious abductions of the people Croc has been sheltering (the vagrants and the homeless who considered Croc as their only ally and friend against a city that wishes to be rid of them), and their scenes were enjoyable because of how they actually take time to explain things among themselves and therefore to the readers about what dangers they are facing exactly and what's the bes line of defense. Meanwhile, a prison riot breaks out in Blackgate where two factions of the Falcone and Penguin followers attack each other, and now they seem determined to free their bosses from solitary confinement. True to form, Gordon springs to action and tries to delay them from their goal. So this issue was such a gem to read because everyone is doing something that serves the plot and keeps it moving forward. These three stories were all allowed with an equal amount of pages to evolve which is saying something because that's been one of Eternal's primary failings. I applaud Snyder and Tynion (with Tim Seely writing this one's script) for not making that mistake again. I can only hope they can continue telling stories with such deftness and great sense of direction while zeroing in with character developments along the way.
The cover artist since the last issue was the wonderful Alex Garner. His illustrations should be turned into posters and I would definitely buy them and hang them on my walls. Emanuel Simeoni is the artist for the story itself and I liked the effect of blood spatter in the panels where we see Batgirl hallucinating since they serve to contrast what is real and what is not for the readers. His attention to detail is remarkable as well particularly his choices of panel layout which turn the action sequences (such as the Batgirl-Red Hood fights) into something vibrant and engrossing.
Now let's go back to Batgirl and Red Hood. I just LOVED the fact that Jason showed some kind of vulnerability here which then touched Batgirl and made her finally stop raging like a bull to acknowledge that someone still cares about her. The page below was particularly touching (and I'm not ashamed to say that I started shipping them in that moment). His petname "BEE GEE" for her should spread like wildfire, by the way! It's sooo cute! It's impressive that Jason's fondest memory of Barbara also includes a demeaning exchange where Barbara actually made a cruel comment about Jason never being able to replace Dick Grayson (a rather timely memory to unearth in that precise moment too during their fight; it makes one think of what Dick would have done if he was still alive and it was up to him to stop Barbara from being eaten away by her rage). And perhaps it doesn't matter what Dick would have done because Jason was the one who saved Barbara from herself and NO ONE SHOULD BELITTLE THAT OR TAKE THAT AWAY FROM JASON TODD. That's why I enjoyed that tiny family moment they had below:
Overall another marvelous issue, especially since it ended with Batman, Croc and Bard about to confront the evil forces hiding in the city's underground sewers. Let's go ahead and shift gears, Eternal, and let's make it rock!