Stephanie Brown and Cassandra Cain journey to becoming Batgirls again has been a long one. But finally after all the build Stephanie and Cassandra are finally getting their own Batgirls title together. To help them further grow as Batgirls Barbara Gordon is stepping up even more to act as a mentor for Stephanie and Cassandra. This is a new role for Barbara as she normally works with her equals like with the Birds of Prey or other Batman Family members. Now with Barbara taking an active role in helping both Stephanie and Cassandra it’ll be interesting to see how the three interact moving forward. Let’s find out how it all begins with Batgirls #1.
Writers: Becky Cloonan and Michael W. Conrad
Artist: Jorge Corona
Colorist: Sarah Stern
Story Rating: 7 Night Girls out of 10
Art Rating: 6 Night Girls out of 10
Overall Rating: 6.5 Night Girls out of 10
Synopsis: Somewhere unknown Seer is shown monitoring Barbara Gordon, Stephanie Brown, and Cassandra Cain from her room filled with computer screens.
Over in The Hill district of Gotham City, Barbara Gordon brings Stephanie Brown and Cassandra Cain to the new loft that they will all be living in together. After an awkward meeting with one of their neighbors and Cassandra not breaking her cover when a gang try to steal from her the three get settled into their new living arrangement.
The next morning, Barbara gives Stephanie and Cassandra a pair of walkie-talkies and burner phones since they still have to do things low-tech while Seer is still around. Barbara then gives Stephanie and Cassandra new rides: two Batgirl branded mopeds.
After Barbara leaves them, Cassandra reveals to Stephanie that she swiped the car keys from the gang that tried to mug her earlier.
The Batgirls then ride through the city in a lowrider before jumping from rooftop to rooftop for their night on patrol. They eventually run across a gang threatening some construction workers. The Batgirls quickly defeat the gang.
The construction workers eyes glow red and appear hypnotize. The Batgirls watch the bizarre act the construction workers are putting on. Eventually the construction workers go back to normal and call the cops to report the gang attack.
Stephanie and Cassandra go back home to find a worried Barbara waiting for them. Stephanie tries to tell Barbara what happened but she tells the two to go to bed and they can talk when the three of them are rested. As Stephanie and Cassandra go to their rooms Barbara thinks to herself how she has to do better.
In their room, Stephanie talks about the strange way the construction workers were acting and the connection to the recent killings. Cassandra notices outside their window their strange neighbor throwing what appears to be a heavy human-sized bag into the garbage. Barbara settles them down and tells them to get some rest.
A few minutes later, Stephanie and Cassandra sneak out to go see what their neighbor threw in the garbage. A green gas suddenly fills the alley they are in. The Batgirls are then confronted by The Saints (Assisi, Tarsus, Valentine, and Fido-5), a group that are followers of the Magistrate and wearing Peacekeeper-inspired armor. End of issue.
The Good: When it comes to showcasing the tone that the series is going to be striving to hit Batgirls #1 is a good start. Becky Cloonan and Michael W. Conrad quickly establish the dynamic that is shared between Cassandra Cain, Stephanie Brown, and Barbara Gordon. The thing that keeps this issue from being a home run is some of the smaller character decisions that stand out head scratching dialogue choices.
When Batgirls #1 is at its best its about seeing how Stephanie Brown and Cassandra Cain are shown working off each other. Both shine best when we see how their different personalities bring out the best in each other. They are a great compliment for each other. And most importantly, Cloonan and Conrad are quick to work on how they are both equals. The friendship between Stephanie and Cassandra helps them be stronger together as Batgirls.
This also leads to a lot of fun scenes in Batgirls #1 as Stephanie and Cassandra are now being mentored by Barbara Gordon. While Stephanie and Cassandra are excited to be living with and mentored by Barbara there is going to be growing pains to this new status quo. You see that with how Stephanie and Cassandra still act similar to how they were before moving in with Barbara. But at the same time there is awareness by both of them that they aren’t on their own.
Showing how this is a new role for Barbara to take on full time was a smart choice. Because while Barbara has been there for Stephanie, Cassandra, and others in the past to help provide guidance this is the first time she is taking on the role of being a mentor. How to balance being a mentor while giving Stephanie and Cassandra the freedom they need is one thing I’ll be interested to see develop over the course of this series.
Bringing Seer to still be in play also works to establish why Barbara is doesn’t have her full Oracle set-up when it comes to the tech that she is providing Stephanie and Cassandra. Until the Seer problem is dealt with they will have to be more low-tech in their approach. Which works to build up Seer as a major overarching villain that will continue to be a threat until Barbara, Stephanie, and Cassandra can find and deal with.
In the meantime, we do see how Fear State’s impact goes beyond its conclusion. Just because the Batman Family were able to put an end to the Magistrate it does not mean their influence will go away with a snap of the finger. This is a smart way to emphasize how big of an event Fear State was and that the Magistrate did wield a major influence in Gotham City during their time in power. Having a group known as The Saints be inspired by the Peacekeepers immediately adds to the rogues gallery for the series in a big way. How the Batgirls deal with this development should be very interesting as it could impact other things going on in Gotham City post-Fear State.
Jorge Corona art style will not be for everyone. What I will give Corona is that the art style given to Batgirls does hit the high energy, animated tone that the dialogue is going for. The different ways Corona draws Barbara, Stephanie, and Cassandra really helps their respective personalities shine when reacting to each-others dialogue. The designs for The Saints also works well to establish how they are visually intimidating with all their Peacekeeper-like armor.
The Bad: There are things in Batgirls #1 that do not get much explanation. There is a lot of assumptions of having read the Batman and Nightwing Fear State issues going into this series. If you aren’t aware of that event then the specifics of why Seer is such a big threat that caused Barbara as Oracle to go more a low-tech route that will not hit.
It was also odd that Barbara wouldn’t hear out what Stephanie and Cassandra ran into while out on patrol. Even though there was the thing of them being late it came across as out of character that Barbara didn’t treat Stephanie and Cassandra’s concern with urgency. This instead appeared more like a forced conflict between mentor and proteges that didn’t fit the dynamic of the three of them.
As mentioned before, Corona’s artwork won’t be for everyone. While I did enjoy the style the art does become cluttered when there is a lot of dialogue or inner monologue going on. The opening page with Seer is a good example of that. The entire page felt overwhelmingly cluttered. Corona’s art is at its best in pages like the big splash page of the Batgirls in action than the dialogue and inner monologue heavy panels.
Overall: Batgirls #1 is a solid, energetic debut for this series starring Barbara Gordon, Stephanie Brown, and Cassandra Cain. Becky Cloonan, Michael W. Conrad, and Jorge Corona took the developments from recent Batman events to create a foundation to build on for this series. As long as you have some general knowledge of what happened during Fear State then Batgirls #1 is a good starting point.
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