Newly returned home from her journeys across Asia, Barbara Gordon finds that Burnside, the Gotham City borough she calls home, has become gentrified in her time away. Her favorite coffee shop has closed down, turned into a pet supermarket specializing in organic pet food. Her rent has doubled, just as her roommate decided to move out. All in all, it’s a lot to throw at someone who is getting ready to start graduate school in the Information Sciences department of Gotham University.

The one bright side to all of this, as Barbara tries to navigate a neighborhood newly flooded with would-be tech-magnates and annoying hipsters, is Ethan—a fellow entrepreneur, computer nerd and genius. He shares Barbara’s passion for social justice and, unlike most of the men she meets at pool parties, seems far more interested in what she has to say than how she fills out a bikini. He’s smart, kind and—bonus—cute!

There’s just one problem. Ethan’s full name is Ethan Cobblepot. As in Oswald Chesterfield Cobblepot—the club-owner and crime-boss known as The Penguin! The result of a tryst between The Penguin and one of his wait-staff years earlier, Ethan insists that his infamous father is ashamed of him and wanted nothing to do with him after writing a sizable check to keep Ethan away.

Barbara wants to believe Ethan, but she can’t shake the feeling that there’s something sketchy about him. That feeling comes before she finds out that some of the apps run by Ethan’s company are being used by super-villains to aid their enterprises. A “report someone homeless in need of help” app, for instance, summons a mad scientist in need of test subjects! One thing is for certain, Batgirl is going to get to the bottom of who Ethan Cobblepot really is, one way or the other.

Batgirl: Son of Penguin builds upon the arc of Batgirl: Beyond Burnside beautifully, establishing Barbara Gordon’s home turf for those readers who never read the Batgirl of Burnside series. Hope Larson does a better job of making Burnside a presence, however, crafting a neighborhood with its own personality, akin to Opal City in the 1990s Starman series or St. Roch from the 2000s Hawkman book. For the first time ever, Burnside feels like it is as much a character as Barbara Gordon.

Larson also does a fantastic job of capturing what librarian training is like—a minor point that speaks to the detail that goes into every aspect of her writing. We see one of Barbara’s classes and hear her answer as to why she wants to be a librarian. It’s all about ensuring access to information and not just “liking books”. Links are also included to real library programming in the scenes where Barbara volunteers teaching a beginners programming class at her local library branch.

Don’t worry, non-librarians. There’s plenty of action to go with the educational content! And all of it—from the scenes of people talking to the scenes of people being punched—is wonderfully illustrated by Chris Wildgoose who shows an amazing capacity for fight choreography that will please action fans.

This volume is rated 12+ and I consider that rating a fair one. There’s the usual amount of superheroic violence but no blood being shed. There’s a bit of romance between Ethan and Barbara, but nothing beyond kissing and a bit of innuendo in the dialogue. There’s nothing here most people would find inappropriate for a teen audience.

Batgirl, vol. 2: Son Of Penguin
by Hope Larson
Art by Chris Wildgoose
ISBN: 9781401274245
DC Comics, 2017
Publisher Age Rating: 12+

  • Matt

    | He/Him Librarian

    Reviewer

    A librarian with over 10 years experience in public and academic settings, Matthew Morrison has been blogging about comic books for nearly as long as they’ve had a word for it.  Over the past two decades, he has written regular columns, commentary, parodies and reviews for such websites and blogs as Fanzing, 411 Mania, Screen Rant and Comics Nexus.  He has served as an Expert in Residence for a seminar on Graphic Novels and Comics for Youth and Adults at the University of North Texas and has given several lectures on the history of comics, manga and cosplay culture at libraries and comic conventions around the country. In addition to his work for No Flying No Tights, he is the Contributing Editor of Kabooooom.com and maintains a personal blog at MyGeekyGeekyWays.com.

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