Even though I liked most of the last series of Batgirl that starred Cassandra Cain I have not liked the direction DC has taken with the character since the end of that series. And even though DC has wanted to make it look like it is a big mystery who is going to be the Batgirl for this series there really isn’t much of a mystery of who the new Batgirl. So coming into this series I have very low expectations of what I am going to get from it. Let’s see if DC can surprise me with Batgirl #1.
Writer: Bryan Q. Miller
Artist: Lee Garbett
Inker: Trevor Scott
Colorist: Guy Major
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: The issues begins in Foundry Row where there is a drag race between two cars that is about to begin. We see that Batgirl had dived down and tied the back of the cars together making the back tires of both cars fly off. The guys who were going to race get out of their cars and attack Batgirl. Batgirl makes quick work of both of them. She swings away before the cops come and arrest the two drivers.
On the roof of a nearby building we see that Batman and Robin were watching everything that happened. Robin comments how he can’t believe it is the same Batgirl that led The League of Assassins. Batman tells Robin he is right. Batman says that this Batgirl isn’t as good as the other Batgirl. (Which one: Barbara or Cassie or both?)
On another rooftop, we see Batgirl takes of her mask to reveal that the new Batgirl is Tim Drake’s former flame Stephanie Brown. (Why is she taking her mask out in the open? That is a careless way to reveal who the new Batgirl is.)
The next morning Stephanie wakes up to a plate of waffles in front of her face that her mom made. Stephanie’s mom tells her how relieved she is that Stephanie is giving being a normal girl a shot.
Her mom walks up to Stephanie’s closet asking what Stephanie is going to wear on her first day of college. Stephanie notices the Batgirl costume is in her closet and rushes over to close it before her mom sees it. Her mom tells her to have a good day and that she can be anyone she wants to be now.
We cut to a basketball court at The Thompkins Clinic where some paraplegics are playing basketball using their wheelchairs. Among the group is former Teen Titan member and daughter of the Calculator Wendy Harris.
While everyone is playing basketball, Barbara Gordon and Dr. Leslie Thompkins are watching them play. Leslie asks Barbara to help Wendy out in order for her to better adjust to her new situation. Barbara says that she is in no position to help anyone out right now. Barbara’ comment earns her the stink eye from Leslie. Barbara then leaves the court as Leslie goes to help Wendy back onto her chair and watches Barbara leaving.
Later, we see Barbara on a subway thinking about what Leslie said and how she does not know what to she needs. Three guys stand next to Barbara and try to mug her. The screen turns black as the subway passes through a tunnel. We then see the subway stop. Barbara makes her exit leaving the three men unconscious on the subway Barbara thinks how it felt good to kick butt again.
We cut to Gotham University were Stephanie is sitting through her Philosophy 480 class. (An upper division class is a pretty bold choice for Stephanie in first semester as a college student). Every student except Stephanie is using a labtop. (Have had classes like that. Don’t know if that is sad or not?) She sits through the class bored out of her mind (I know the feeling), thinking how going to school is the one promise she kept that she and her mom agreed. We see Stephanie drawing different Batsymbols in her notebook. (That’s one way to take notes during class. I recommend Stephanie at least write down some of the stuff the professor says to get an A in the class. Just a suggestion.)
We flashback to three weeks ago at a Gotham City harbor where Batgirl (Cassandra Cain) and Spoiler are fighting a gang. Batgirl says she thought Stephanie gave up being Spoiler. Stephanie answers that this is her last time.
After defeating the gang and leaving them all unconscious, Cassie takes off the Batgirl costume saying that the others don’t want to believe the symbol on their chest is dead. Cassie says that the only reason she wore the symbol was because of Bruce. Cassie says that now that Bruce is dead that she isn’t going to wear the symbol anymore. Cassie leaves the Batgirl costume for Stephanie and disappears.
The scene shifts to Caroline Diner were Barbara and Commissioner Gordon are having diner. Gordon tells his daughter it is nice to see her smile and tries to set her up with one his detectives. Barbara tells her father she isn’t interested. Her dad talks about how it seems that Barbara just doesn’t want to be happy. Barbara then gets a phone call from Dick.
Changing scenes again, we see Stephanie in her bedroom thinking about how much power she feels she gets from wearing the Batsymbol. She hears a report on her police scanner of a riot breaking out and then sees the Batsignal in the sky.
We cut to the riot in The Western Quadrant Border. Commissioner Gordon and police are having a hard time getting control of the riots. Gordon tries to get in contact with one of the officers that went into the riot named Nick, but it is no use as Nick has been captured by some gang members.
As one of the gang members looks out of a window he gets punch in the face by Batgirl who is able to make quick work of all of them. As Batgirl stands in the middle of the room one of the gang members tries to shot her with a rocket launcher. However, the gang member is slammed against a wall by Nick before he could take a shot. The rocket launcher hits the ground which causes the whole room to explode.
Batgirl and Nick are able to make it out of the building safely. Nick asks Batgirl which one of the Bats is she. Batgirl can’t believe Nick even asked that question and leaves the scene.
The next morning, Stephanie gets out of the shower saying that she would have been better off doing her homework last night. She thinks about that being the last time that she is going to spend the night crime fighting. Stephanie then takes a look at the Batgirl costume and changes her mind.
Stephanie then gets dressed and goes into the kitchen. Stephanie sees Barbara sitting at the dining room table. Barbara says that they need to talk. End of issue.
The Good: Batgirl #1 was a much better read than I thought it would be. Miller actually convince me to get this series at least through the first arc which was something I wasn’t expecting to happen.
Similar to the strength to Bryan Q. Miller’s current story arc in Teen Titans the strength of this issue is his strong characterization of the characters involved in the story. From the start of the issue Miller does a solid job showing the reader who Stephanie, Cassandra, Barbara, and Commissioner Gordon are.
Even though we saw Stephanie deal with some of the local gangs in Gotham we don’t see her get involved in the current gang war storyline going on in Batman and in Streets of Gotham. I was glad that Miller didn’t involve her in the current gang war in this first issue as it allowed him to better establish who Stephanie and who her supporting cast is. This was a good move by Miller as it also allowed this issue to be new reader friendly while also allowing long time followers of these characters an opportunity to see were all of these characters are at in their lives post-Battle for the Cowl.
Miller shows he has a good understanding of who Stephanie is as he uses the whole issue to establish the life of the star of this series. For Stephanie this is an important thing for her character as she only returned a year ago. Since her return Stephanie hasn’t been shown to have played a big role in the Batfamily and most of the character’s appearances have centered on Tim and what was going on with him and not her. DC has not really shown why Stephanie is a character that deserves to star in her own series over other much more deserving, and popular, DC characters.
It is good to see that at least one member of the Batfamily is trying to have a personal life as Stephanie goes to college, even though she might not want to. So far Dick, Tim, and Damian haven’t shown to have much of a personal life outside of their current roles as Batman, Red Robin, and Robin, respectively. And just by going out and trying to have a personal life we may finally see Stephanie move on from being reliant on Tim to make connections and finally see her make her own friends outside the Batfamily which is something we haven’t seen from her.
Miller showed in this issue that unlike how Dick and Tim currently view their new positions as Batman and Red Robin, respectively, as being forced upon them Stephanie actually views her taking up the mantle of Batgirl with much more excitement. This helps differentiate Stephanie from Dick, Tim and Damian who are trying to take a more dark approach to their roles in the Batfamily while Stephanie is going with a lighter approach.
Also I liked Miller’s characterization of Cassandra Cain in this issue through the use of a flashback showing why she gave up the mantle of Batgirl and sort of handed it to Stephanie. From the beginning it was established that the reason Cassandra became Batgirl was to honor Bruce and help him in his crusade. For Cassandra the batsymbol on her chest was not important. What was important was Bruce and his choice to wear the symbol as she saw Bruce as a father she could look up to and be proud of. And with Bruce gone it is completely in character for her to give up being Batgirl as the only reason she put on the suit in the first place was because of Bruce.
And I liked that Miller used Dick and Damian to point out to the reader at the beginning of the issue that the Batgirl we were watching, before the reveal, wasn’t the same as the one as before. Even before Bruce died there was already an established animosity between Dick and Cassandra which lead the characters to fight one another a few times. And in the few fights they got into it was show that Dick and Cassandra were evenly matched as they were each able to read the other’s moves. So out of all the Batcharacters, outside of Bruce, Dick is the one most familiar with Cassandra’s fighting style and would be one of the first to notice if she wasn’t under the cowl anymore.
What will be interesting to see now is if Dick and Barbara accept Stephanie as the new Batgirl. With everything going on in Gotham City I wouldn’t be surprised to see if they see her as a nuisance at first especially with what happened to Stephanie the last time she wore a Batman related costume.
Lee Garnett’s artwork was passable. His artwork was nothing terrible but at the same time it wasn’t anything to write, or draw, home about. He did enough to not let the artwork of this issue get in the way of Miller’s writing and keep a consistent look to the issue.
The Bad: Even though I enjoyed Batgirl #1 more than I thought I would there were still some big problems I had with the issue. The first problem I have with this issue doesn’t really have to do with this issue, specifically, but the marketing plan DC had for this whole series. DC marketed this whole series as “Who is Batgirl?” as if it was some big mystery to who would be Batgirl. The problem is that there wasn’t much of a mystery of who would be Batgirl as DC never tried to deter from Stephanie being the new Batgirl.
Throughout the end of the Robin series and even in the new Red Robin series DC keep giving hints that Stephanie would become Batgirl as Tim keep telling Stephanie that he did not want to see her wear the costume of Spoiler anymore. We were never given hints that Cassandra, Barbara, or Bette Kane would be Batgirl. Before this issue none of the candidates for the Batgirl mantle made many appearances in any of the Battitles to try to make me think any of the four characters could be Batgirl. Even in the Oracle: The Cure mini-series failed to convince us Barbara or the other two would be Batgirl as it was just story about a rematch between Barbara and the Calculator from their previous battle in Birds of Prey.
It is just plain bad marketing to base a whole series around one tagline to hook new readers. DC could have tried more especially since this issue had three more months than the rest of the Battitles to get some marketing done before the first issue. DC could have done something like posting polls on their DCU “The Source” blog asking readers who they want to see as Batgirl or dropping hints in Batman or in the Battle for the Cowl tie-ins to give some hesitation of who would be Batgirl. Even having Miller or Batman editor Mike Martz talking about Barbara, Cassandra, Stephanie, and Bette and would help to better market the whole “Who is Batgirl” tagline for this series. DC needs to start doing a better job with their marketing research before basing a whole series around a tagline that fails to convince fans there is a mystery going into the series.
This also leads into the problem with this issue and how Miller choose to reveal Stephanie as the new Batgirl. The reveal with Stephanie removing the Batgirl cowl on a roof after fighting some street racers was a cheap attempt to be smart and do some fourth wall breaking. Even though I’m glad Miller didn’t try and stretch out the mystery of who Batgirl I expect Miller to do a better job with the reveal.
I also became annoyed by Stephanie continuing to change her mind saying that each time she put on the costume, Spoiler or Batgirl, that it would be her last time. With how Robin keep telling her to give up being Spoiler in his two series and Stephanie saying she gave up being Spoiler before this series it became annoying that she continued to say that in this issue.
Also I did not like how Miller wrote Barbara in this issue. Barbara came off as somewhat unlikable character that is very self-absorbed. And it is not in line with where the character was left off in Oracle: The Cure were she said she would help Wendy but here we see her as unwilling to help out Wendy in her current situation. And whether it was intentional or not Garbett drew Barbara as constantly having an angry look in her eyes that made her more unlikable.
Overall: Batgirl #1 was a good start to the new Batgirl series. Though it was nothing special Miller does a nice job establishing who the new Batgirl is and her supporting cast. Miller did enough to make me at least stick through the first arc in this series. If you have any interest in this series I would recommend getting this issue as it is new reader friendly.