Batgirls is one of the titles that you see its potential but know it hasn’t fully tapped into it. It is a title that definitely has everything that could make it one of my favorite ongoings at the moment. The thing holding Batgirls back is certain narrative choices by Becky Cloonan and Michael W. Conrad. Though those narrative choices haven’t impacted how engaging Barbara Gordon, Stephanie Brown, and Cassandra Cain are as lead characters. Cloonan and Conrad have done well to get over the strong chemistry they share. Now with the big bad of this first story arc in Spellbinder being revealed let’s see how things go next for the trio with Batgirls #5.
Writers: Becky Cloonan and Michael W. Conrad
Artist: Jorge Corona
Colorist: Sarah Stern
With the Saints chasing the Batgirls (Stephanie Brown and Cassandra Cain) through Gotham City Barbara Gordon deploys as Batgirl to back them up. The three Batgirls work together to defeat each member of The Saints. Barbara then reveals to the tied up Saints that they were manipulated by Seer to believe they were working for the Magistrage and Simon Saint. Barbara then hacks The Saints’ Fido mech to make it hers.
Suddenly, Tutor starts airing a livestream throughout Gotham City. Barbara is able to quickly figure out where Tutor is at. Barbara has Fido lead Stephanie and Cassandra to that location while she goes to find Charles Dante.
Stephanie and Cassandra end up at abandoned Arkham Asylum. As they investigate the site Stephanie and Cassandra come across an Arkham Asylum file for Dante. They immediately try to get in contact with Barbara.
Elsewhere, Barbara looks for Dante and is warned by Stephanie about Dante’s connection to Tutor. This comes to late as Dante dressed as Spellbinder appears behind Barbara.
Back at Arkham Asylum Cassandra goes to check on a noise she hears outside. When she goes outside Cassandra is shocked to see Grace O’Halloran and a horde of people under Tutor’s influence. Cassandra decides to take on Tutor’s horde alone.
Inside Arkham Asylum Tutor confronts Stephanie, calling her a “bad guy.” Stephanie tells Tutor he is about to find out what being a “bad guy” means.
At the same time, Spellbinder knocks out Barbara to prepare her to be used as the next subject for his work. End of issue.
Nearing the end of the first arc for this series Batgirls #5 is the best issue we’ve gotten thus far. Right away you see how all the investigations the Batgirls have done is leading us to the big ending of this story. It is a payoff that feels worth all the build up we got in the previous four issues for The Saints, Tutor, and Spellbinder.
Starting Batgirls #5 out with the Batgirls taking down The Saints was a major statement. Becky Cloonan and Michael Conrad did an excellent job showing how well the three Batgirls work together. The presence of Barbara Gordon alongside Cassandra Cain and Stephanie Brown was a great move to show how the threat of The Saints has escalated. Seeing that her proteges continued to be outnumbered and -powered Barbara joining the fight was what needed to happen.
This also worked to put an end to this plot point with what Seer was trying to do to destroy the Batgirls. While Seer is still out there as a major threat the Batgirls were able to at least stop what she was doing by making The Saints were working for the Magistrate. Barbara dialogue also worked to put an end to any of the loose ends with the Magistrate’s presence in Gotham City as she made it clear that Simon Saints creation was no more.
Going from there to dealing with Tutor’s latest attempt to takeover Gotham City was well handled. The flow from one set of villains to the other further emphasized how the Batgirls weren’t wasting time. This was the time for action and you see that with how quickly Barbara was able to use all the information she gathered to help Cassandra and Stephanie track down Tutor. Cloonan and Conrad also made it work as to why the Batgirls split up to investigate Tutor from two ends as Barbara went to look for Charles Dante.
This split up was able to put a spotlight on the urgency there is to stop Spellbinder and Tutor. These two villains have shown that the longer they are operating the more easily they are able to manipulate people to turn them into mindless zombies. Jorge Corona’s artwork in particular stood out when showcasing these two villains. The designs for both characters were unique, especially as they were both shown here. The differences in design made them both come across as threats.
Along with their designs we see how Spellbinder and Tutor have personal rivalries with each of the Batgirls. Like most good villains, both Spellbinder and Tutor see themselves as the heroes of the story rather than the villains they are. You see that specifically with Tutor who sees Stephanie and Cassandra’s Batgirls as standing in his way. With how he has taken control of her in the past it’ll be interesting how Stephanie takes him down as Tutor isn’t the typical physical threat.
As for Spellbinder it is not surprising that Barbara’s old college friend turned out to be a villain. The way the character was introduced it was immediately apparent that Charles Dante wasn’t a good guy. So I do appreciate that Cloonan and Conrad don’t hide the fact Charles Dante is Spellbinder. This allowed the focus of Spellbinder’s story to be on how unease he makes you as the reader.
Batgirls #5 is easily the best issue of this series to date. Becky Cloonan, Michael Conrad, and Jorge Corona work well to showcase how effective of a team the Batgirls are. Going from dealing with The Saints to Spellbinder and Tutor flowed well with the story that has been unfolding. With how things turned out by the end we are left in a spot wondering how the Batgirls will defeat Spellbinder and Tutor. That is a good spot for the final issue of this story arc to pick up at.
Story Rating: 8 Night Girls out of 10
Art Rating: 7 Night Girls out of 10
Overall Rating: 7.5 Night Girls out of 10