The first story arc for Batgirls has had its ups and downs. The two new villains in Tutor and Spellbinder have brought a lot of new intrigue in the post-Magistrate Regime Gotham City. How they’ve challenged the Batgirls has been what’s kept this series one I keep coming back to. The only thing that has been holding Batgirls back is certain narrative choices with how dialogue is overwritten at times. Hopefully that is something fixed with this final issue in the first Batgirls story arc. Let’s find out with Batgirls #6.
Writers: Becky Cloonan and Michael W. Conrad
Artist: Jorge Corona
Colorist: Sarah Stern
While tied to a chair Barbara Gordon gets Spellbinder to talk about how he is using Scarecrow’s Fear Gas to spread his “Truths” to Gotham City. This buys Barbara enough time to break free from her confinement and easily starts taking Spellbinder on in a fight. Spellbinder counters by filling the room with Fear Gas to stop Barbara.
In the ruins of Arkham Asylum, Batgirl (Stephanie Brown) faces off against Tutor, who shows his real face and how loyal he is to Spellbinder. Batgirl doesn’t fall for any of Tutor’s taunting as she readily admits to being “broken” and being okay with it as she likes herself.
Outside, Batgirl (Cassandra Cain) deals with the horde of people Spellbinder is controlling, including Gotham City news broadcaster Grace O’Halloran. Batgirl saves Grace when she falls from the roof of a building.
Cassandra then joins Stephanie inside so the two Batgirls can quickly defeat Tutor and tie up the horde of people that are currently memorized.
Back at Spellbinder’s place, Barbara reveals she has long overcome her fears so the Fear Gas doesn’t impact her. Barbara shows this by quickly knocking Spellbinder out.
Barbara then quickly becomes Oracle to reveal to Gotham City all of the evil acts Spellbinder has done.
Back at Arkham Asylum, Tutor tries to turn himself into a suicide bomber. The Batgirls quickly remove his bomb vest. Stephanie then takes the bomb vest and drives off with it as far as she can with their car Bondo before it explodes in the river.
The next day the news reports how the Batgirls saved the day while Stephanie and Cassandra mourn the loss of Bondo. Barbara, Stephanie, and Cassandra talk about how they all have wounds that don’t heal. Cassandra turns the atmosphere around by having them do a group hug.
Seer suddenly bursts into the Batgirls apartment asking for their help. End of issue.
The ride was certainly bumpy to get to the ending we got in Batgirls #6. But it is the imperfections of the first story arc for this series that this final chapter of “One Way Or Another” shines the brightest.
What I really appreciate about Becky Cloonan and Michael Conrad development of Barbara Gordon, Stephanie Brown, and Cassandra Cain is that they aren’t afraid of writing outwardly flawed characters. Batgirls #6 has examples of that across the issue, most seen in the final pages. Its in those flaws where we see Barbara, Stephanie, and Cassandra all stepping up to accept themselves. Even if they still have to deal with things from their individual pasts those aren’t the only things that define them.
This is most seen with the fight between Stephanie’s Batgirl and Tutor. This entire experience fighting Tutor has been a real test for Stephanie, both mentally and physically. Here we finally see Stephanie no longer running away from the fears she has with her faults and actually accepts them. Seeing how Tutor feared Stephanie overcoming the “broken” parts of her character made this moment even bigger. It showed progress for Stephanie as she continues to evolve as part of the Batgirls.
On her own personal battle, we see how no matter the surprises Spellbinder tried to throw at her that Barbara was more than ready. Even when Spellbinder was seemingly had everything in hand Barbara showed it was she who was in control of the situation. Whether it was feeding into Spellbinder’s need to do his villain rant or overconfidence when using Fear Gas, Barbara was able to overcome everything. That is highlighted with how Barbara is able to push through the Fear Gas effects to knock out Spellbinder. It’s a testament to how far Barbara has come in and out of her superhero adventures.
Cassandra Cain as the constant for both Stephanie and Barbara was handled well. Cassandra doesn’t hide the fact that she has her own baggage she is dealing with. At the same time, she is not letting them get to her or those around her. She is the ultimate friend, whether its backing up Stephanie to take down Tutor as Batgirls or giving a hug to both Stephanie and Barbara when the mood in their apartment was going sour.
With the arcs the Batgirls went on it did speak to how well done Spellbinder and Tutor were as villains. They weren’t big physical challenges but the mental games they played were enough to push the Batgirls to each go through strong character arcs. They also served their roles of helping the rest of Gotham City see the Batgirls as protectors in the post-Magistrate world. I’ll be very interested to see if we see Gotham City’s attitudes towards their heroes continue on as a sub-plot in this series.
Once again, Jorge Corona and Sarah Stern delivers on the artwork side of things. The unique style they are providing Batgirls makes the series standout amongst not only the Batman Family comics but DC Comics entire publishing line. There is a kinetic energy that helps the issue keep moving forward. With Batgirls #6 featuring more action than in previous issues Corona and Stern’s art really carries a lot of major character moments. Its to the point that I do hope Cloonan and Conrad learn that they don’t need dialogue in every single panel as Corona and Stern’s artwork can carry the story when needed.
Becky Cloonan, Michael Conrad, Jorge Corona, and Sarah Stern saved the best for last as Batgirls #6 is by far the strongest issues of this first story arc for the series. The payoff to the character arcs for Barbara Gordon, Stephanie Brown, and Cassandra Cain is all handled well. We even get a hook ending that transitions well into the next story arc featuring Seer that keeps the reader invested in finding out what happens next.
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