I have not been a fan of the work Becky Cloonan and Michael Conrad have been doing with their recent issues of Batgirls. The writing for Barbara Gordon, Cassandra Cain, and Stephanie Brown and the antagonists in this series has been passable at best. The biggest problem facing Batgirls is Cloonan and Conrad themselves as they have inserted themselves as the narrators of the series. That has been a failure of a creative decision that I hope is fixed asap. Let’s see how things go with Batgirls #10.
Writers: Becky Cloonan and Michael W. Conrad
Artist: Neil Googe
Colorist: Rico Renzi
While working on his plan the Riddler tells Killer Moth to make the “game” they are playing with the Batgirls more interesting.
Meanwhile, working on figuring out the cipher they found Stephanie Brown strikes up a conversation with Gotham Academy’s Kyle Mizoguchi. As they build a quick attraction to each other Stephanie and Cassandra spot Killer Moth nearby and have to leave Kyle behind.
Stephanie and Cass quickly change into their Batgirls costume and chase after Killer Moth. The chase is unsuccessful as Killer Moth is able to trap the Batgirls in some webs that cause them to get stuck at the fish market.
Elsewhere, Barbara Gordon as Batgirl meets up with Commissioner Renee Montoya in hopes of establishing a bond Batman and her dad once shared. This doesn’t work out as Commissioner Montoya can’t trust Batgirl as she knows Batgirl already hacks into the GCPD servers no matter their security.
To cool her head Barbara heads to Bludhaven to spend time with Dick Grayson.
The next day, Cass tries to get Stephanie to give Kyle a call.
Alysia Yeoh shows up to hang out with Barbara. When Barbara hears that Grace O’Halloran is a regular at Alysia’s bar she requests Alysia to pass along an anonymous message to Grace.
Stephanie and Cass then finally crack the cipher as matching an Edgar Allen Poe story. Barbara realizes the cipher is actually a riddle.
Elsewhere, someone named Mr. Fun is making his own plans to destroy Gotham City. End of issue.
No matter whether you love the characters or world it is always best to come to terms with whether the comic book you are reading is for you or not. That is the point where I found myself when reading Batgirls #10. I wondered if I was just forcing myself to read and try to enjoy this series because Barbara Gordon, Cassandra Cain, and Stephanie Brown are some of my favorite DC Comics characters and I find Gotham City one of the DCU’s most fascinating places. The sad truth I found myself finding is that Batgirls really is not a series for me.
With the writing style they are implementing for Becky Cloonan and Michael W. Conrad is clearly going for the Young Adult novel crowd. That is something I have no problem with as we’ve seen other comic book writers implement a Young Adult-style and make it work for the characters and world. It is just not working for Batgirls. And the fault really comes with Cloonan and Conrad themselves.
Their unnecessary need to insert themselves into the story as the narrators of this series is baffling. They are adding nothing to the story. All they are really doing is distracting from what the characters are talking about or their respective character development. Every time the narrator box pops up it just comes across as Cloonan and Conrad trying to remind the reader that they are narrating the story rather than letting the story and characters progress naturally.
In forcing themselves into the narrative of the story Cloonan and Conrad show a lack of confidence in their writing for Barbara Gordon, Cassandra Cain, and Stephanie Brown as well as Neil Googe as the artist for this issue. Because there are genuinely some interesting things that actually happen between characters. The meeting between Barbara Gordon as Batgirl and Commissioner Renee Montoya was a development that shows it could have a lot of potential. It dives into how Gotham City is moving forward with its future as the next generation is rising up in leadership positions.
The attempt at building more personal relationships also has a good foundation. We continue to see how outside their Batgirls bubble Barbara has her supportive relationships with Dick Grayson and Alysia Yeoh. Now we finally get Stephanie Brown meeting others outside her own bubble with the quick chemistry she and Gotham Academy’s Kyle Mizoguchi build. This is something that Batgirls has desperately needed as the supporting cast for the series has been seriously lacking.
But while all of that is a step forward I continue to be baffled by how Cloonan and Conrad have decided to portray our series leads as less competent than they were before this series. Things aren’t as bad for Barbara’s portrayal as Oracle. What has continued to be a concern is how Stephanie and Cassandra are constantly shown as if they just started their superhero careers as Batgirls. The experience they each have is not shown whatsoever. The fight with Killer Moth is a perfect example of that. Cloonan and Conrad treat Stephanie and Cassandra as nothing more than Looney Tune-esque heroes with their terrible approach to stopping Killer Moth.
This is all a reminder that Cloonan and Conrad are treating Stephanie and Cassandra as more blank slate characters. This is particularly bad with the writing for Cassandra who really is not portrayed whatsoever in the way fans know her to be. She is nothing more than a sidekick to Barbara and Stephanie. There is a lack of agency in the way Cassandra is being portrayed which is extremely disappointing.
The villains of this story the Riddler, Killer Moth, and the newly introduced Mr. Fun don’t fare any better. Having three villains as the antagonist for this story comes across as not being 100% invested in one or two of these villains being able to have a six-issue story arc built around. I would’ve been okay with Cloonan and Conrad just focusing on Riddler and Killer Moth for a tight three to four-issue arc then moving on to a story focusing on Mr. Fun. As it is presented there likely won’t be enough room to properly develop Riddler, Killer Moth, and Mr. Fun as intriguing antagonists.
Batgirls #10 is the point in this series that I just must tap out. While I’m a big fan of Barbara Gordon, Cassandra Cain, and Stephanie Brown I’ve come to terms that this series is just not for me. For those enjoying this series, I am happy for you and I’m okay with Batgirls #10 being the final issue I read of Cloonan and Conrad’s run.
Story Rating: 3 Night Girls out of 10
Art Rating: 5 Night Girls out of 10
Overall Rating: 4 Night Girls out of 10