Batgirls has been a very up and down series. There’s been a lack of consistency with the quality from issue to issue. The second arc of Batgirls that we are coming out of suffers the most from all the problems that the first arc suffered from. The focus on the second arc of the series being on Oracle and Nightwing also did not help with further establishing Stephanie Brown and Cassandra Cain as the characters fans should be invested in. Hopefully, this new story arc for Batgirls fixes all the problems that the last two issues of the series suffered from. Let’s find out with Batgirls #9.
Writers: Becky Cloonan and Michael W. Conrad
Artist: Neil Googe
Colorist: Rico Renzi
Grace O’Halloran has broken away to start her own podcast to report on the good that the Batgirls have done.
Meanwhile, Barbara Gordon spends time catching up with Alysia Yeoh while Cassandra Cain spends time looking for new books to read at a bookstore.
Back home, while relaxing in an inflatable pool Stephanie Brown continues to spy on Walter Arnold Greene to find out what he is hiding.
Barbara contacts Stephanie and Cassandra to get ready as she got an alert for getting the person they’ve been targeting tonight.
At night, the Batgirls act like they are on patrol in order to draw out KGBeast, who has taken on a contract to take them both out. The Batgirls expected this as the contract KGBeast accepted was a trap created by Oracle to get revenge for him almost killing Dick Grayson. The Batgirls are able to defeat him with their cohesive teamwork.
As they capture KGBeast something flies nearby Stephanie and causes her to fall into a trash can. When getting out of the trash she discovers that is filled with mannequin parts.
While looking through it they come across the dead body of Mr. Greene. The Batgirls quickly get evidence, including Mr. Greene’s fake eye, before the GCPD shows up so Oracle can figure out what happened.
Later, Barbara checks on Stephanie, who doesn’t feel great after thinking Mr. Greene was some sort of killer. Barbara tells Stephanie that it was not her fault and they will find out who did this.
While analyzing the fake eye Barbara discovers a note with some sort of cipher written on it.
As they continue their investigation Killer Moth is shown spying on Barbara, Stephanie, and Cassandra from a rooftop across the street from their loft. End of issue.
More than any other comic book in the short lifetime of Batgirls this latest issue perfectly summarizes the results of this series. That is really for better or worse when it comes to this series as we get a showcase of how Becky Cloonan and Michael W. Conrad have decided to develop the stories in this series.
The biggest standout of Batgirls #9 is how Cloonan and Conrad continue to get in their own way as the writers of this series. When they simply focus on the characters interacting with each other the writing is solid. Its when they try to insert their personality by narrating what is going on that they completely derail what they are trying to accomplish with the story and character work. Things like mentioning that eight issues have passed add no value to the story. It is like they are trying to write themselves as Deadpool with the way they break the fourth wall in such an eye-rolling way.
Every single time we get a narration box it feels like they don’t trust their character writing, Neil Googe as the artist, or the reader to get what is going on in the story. It’s that lack of trust that just ruins any sort of momentum that Batgirls #9 is trying to create. It makes me feel bad for Googe as the artist of this issue because the artwork, in general, does the job of telling the story Cloonan and Conrad are trying to tell. Googe’s artwork fits with the style that has been established in this series thus far. But unfortunately, the writing overshadows the storytelling in the artwork when we get the narration boxes popping up.
It is all to bad because when Cloonan and Conrad simply focus on writing the characters they largely work well with how they are portraying Barbara Gordon and Stephanie Brown. Simple things such as Barbara Gordon catching up with Alysia Yeoh adds so much to the world. It gets Barbara out of the crime bubble to show that she has a normal life outside being Oracle when she allows herself to get that time. This makes the later moment when she talks with Stephanie to help her out how emotional she was as they were connecting as regular people.
While not my favorite sub-plot of this series where the whole thing with Stephanie being suspicious of their neighbor, Mr. Greene, did lead to an even more interesting story. There was consistency with how Stephanie was investigating their neighbor that helped make how this whole story with Killer Moth being involved take on a greater personal stake. Killer Moth isn’t simply Barbara’s villain now as there is a connection point to both Stephanie and Cassandra.
Speaking of Killer Moth, I did appreciate that Googe updated the design of the character. Killer Moth is normally a joke character but with adjustments to his costume he does come across as a menace. Adding in how he seems to have upgraded the tech in his costume also is a small touch that goes a long way in planting the seeds of how Killer Moth won’t be easy for the Batgirls to take on.
For as well Barbara and Stephanie are written when they are simply allowed to interact as people the same can’t be said about Cassandra’s portrayal. I’m just simply not connecting with the way Cloonan and Conrad have decided to write Cassandra to be more of a blank slate character. A lot of her character writing doesn’t reflect how far we’ve seen her character come at this point. The only solid character work we get for Cassandra is that she is continued to be shown to be the most skilled fighter of the two Batgirls. But that is more a credit to Googe’s artwork in putting that over than the writing. There just doesn’t seem to be the same care to Cassandra’s history compared to Barbara and Stephanie.
The development of Grace O’Halloran starting her own podcast was also another part of Batgirls #9 that just did not work as intended. I know she is the one consistent supporting character we’ve had in Batgirls up to this point. But her character just comes across as a one-dimensional journalist that will change her opinions at a drop of a hat. I would much rather prefer it if Alysia Yeoh or Commissioner Renee Montoya were given this panel time to be part of the core supporting cast of Batgirls.
Batgirls #9 is such a frustrating comic book to read. There are hints of a fun comic book throughout this issue. Unfortunately, Becky Cloonan and Michael W. Conrad consistently get in their own way with how they insert themselves into the story. There is absolutely no need for their constant narration as a key narrative direction for the story. That narrative decision impacts everything from character development to the enjoyment of the artwork. At this point, I’m strongly considering dropping this series altogether even though Barbara Gordon, Stephanie Brown, and Cassandra Cain are among my favorite DC Comics characters.
Story Rating: 4 Night Girls out of 10
Art Rating: 5 Night Girls out of 10
Overall Rating: 4.5 Night Girls out of 10