Barbara Gordon's mind has been hacked. Can computer expert pal Frankie rescue Batgirl by going into her head and enlisting a hopefully neutered evil AI as her guide?
Yeah, it's comics goes Tron again. But wait... this is rather good. Writers Cameron Stewart and Brenden Fletcher use the conceit to give us a closer look at Frankie's heroic chops, making her the protagonist rather than the supporting character. As Babs has lately seemed alternately spiky or dense, I'm happy to see someone else take centrestage even as the recent moods are explained. And given Frankie is likely to take up the Oracle spot in the upcoming Batgirl and the Birds of Prey book, it makes sense to build her up.
Suffice to say, the always likeable Frankie's every bit the hero figure here, formulating and carrying out a desperate plan to rescue Babs from her mindscape, into which she's been locked by the villain known as Fugue. Back in the regular world, Black Canary stands by to protect Frankie, while Spoiler and Bluebird search the Gotham sewers for Fugue.
The script is smart and satisfying, with echoes of a recent big Batman Family storyline not getting in the way of the enjoyment.
Stewart and Fletcher delight in the comic book nonsense of it all, while recurring images of characters plunging lend a sense of disorientation. And the art is a feast of gorgeousness, from the delightful work of regular artist Babs Tarr to the creepily surreal lines and colours of James Harvey.
Also drawing are Ming Doyle, Horacio Domingues and Roger Robinson, while Serge Lapointe colours and Steve Wands letters, and there isn't a bad page in the book. Some, like this one by the aforementioned Harvey, are outstanding.
(And a shout-out to Chris Conroy and Dave Wielgosz for being the first DC editors in ages to make clear which artists in a jam book are doing what - reviewers everywhere thank you.)
Multi-artist stories aren't always the best, but when you're in Tron territory, anything goes and Batgirl #49 mines the deadline-beating move for maximum emotional and visual appeal, while setting up for a fun 50th issue - that's classy.