Steph Brown as Batgirl and Cass Cain as Black Bat are back in Convergence : Batgirl #1 written by Alisa Kwitney, art by Rick Leonardi, inks by Mark Pennington, colors by Steve Buccellato.
The dome had descended onto Gotham. Stephanie Brown has hung up the Batgirl mantle for one year whilst living underneath the new hazardous Gotham alongside Cassandra Cain who continued on as Black Bat alongside Tim Drake’s Red Robin. Things change when Cass “reenlists” her and she is chosen as a representative of Gotham to partake in some sort of multiversal battle royale on a strange desert plain.
Cassandra Cain of course. Stephanie Brown as Batgirl. A world where previous canon is left in-tact (and I’ll consider this a splinter relativity from that because this is not the world I’d want all of those versions of the characters to end up in.) and Steph continued to be Batgirl. Steph was truly shafted by the reboot in that respect considering a lot of her in-issues shortly before she was tossed out as Batgirl was meta-textually dealing with the hoops and tricks Bruce and by extension editorial put her through and how she was truly Batgirl now and wanted to be Batgirl. Her “last” mission, taking down the girl’s assassin school in London for INC was supposed to be her first team-up with Batman as Batgirl and more or less solidify her position. Due to the reboot that INC issue was shafted to the Leviathan Strikes! oneshot which ended up being a handful of both in-canon and canon dealings. Cass had just been brought back as Black Bat by Grant Morrison and was used in Snyder’s Gates of Gotham. There was a lot you could have done with these girls but they were both tossed out in favor of Babs (while all the Bat boys remained). DC had Cass Cain appear in their “bad” future of Future’s End as part of a team of Batgirls with Steph which suggests she does exist or will exist in their current canon as Tiffany Fox from that oneshot has also been introduced but we’ve yet to have Cass return in current present-time canon.
This sort of splinter narrative for these preboot characters does feature some moderately researched nods to Steph’s past, especially as a teen mother, something not even her Batgirl run touched on. Being a good match for Tim while she was Spoiler was pretty nostalgic including the art. Steph asking Cass if she wanted a reading lesson seemed rather in character too as it touched on Cass’ illiteracy relating her lack of language skills.
Catman assaulting Steph while she was trying to pee was pretty skeevy and gross, you really didn’t have to do that. Steph handled it well and in character but it was still a case of “Why?”. A lot of this issue has this permeating question and that stems from the writing.
Alisa from interviews seems rather green on all of these characters and unfortunately has a very uneven feel for all of them. She’s really spotty, with some good moments quickly giving way to poor characterization. Her Cassandra is pretty bad, with some shining moments that seem in character (it not occurring her to wash Steph’s Batgirl suit) but otherwise a lot of her lines are rather clunky if not cringe-worthy. Her wanting to eat the guinea pigs was not in character. Cass would probably go vegan before she had to kill something else. Remember, Cass had a death wish; shes the person that would go without food the longest in order to make sure others would have it before her. She’s selfless.
Also; while Steph working as a midwife or nurse is in character given old canon’s profession for Crystal Brown in the end and going by her time working with Leslie Thompkins, a lot her choices in this just don’t make sense. Stephanie Brown would never quit being Batgirl. She wouldn’t quit being Spoiler no matter how much vitriol Bruce and Tim threw her way. She’s a gila monster in the most affectionate sense. She never gives up and that’s the core of the character. She admittedly was softened or “Buffyfied” under Bryan Q Miller, losing an edge which at times could be compared to Huntress but her entire journey as Batgirl was about finally reaching that next level of acceptance and knowing her role and place. She had found it. “That’s why you stay. You stay for a second chance.” To read that she lost all of what she had learned and had to learn how to be a good Stephanie Brown again is really…backwards. Why should she compare herself to Cass? She knows Cass is better than everyone it’s not personal? Why Babs? Her whole run was about how the two weren’t so different after all. Yeah she might question why she was chosen over Cassandra for this battle thing but we’ll most likely see why.
In general the art is also really awful. Closeups are nice but pretty bad coloring and sketchy pretty shapeless and bulky art make it all look pretty cheap and sloppy. Tim looked horrible, with entirely the wrong build though that Red Robin cowl never fared well under anyone other than Marcus To. To learn that Rick Leonardi did work on Cass’ run I’m rather shocked as his skills have clearly deteriorated.
Overall I’m shocked that they didn’t seek out one of the artists who did Steph’s run for art or Bryan Q. Miller or any of Cassandra’s writers to tackle the writing. It’s great that they’ve enlisted a female creator for this but the story she’s been given to write is not a particularly good one and she’s not terribly well familiar with the characters either. The dome confinement and multiverse battle is all rather cliche, we’ve had similar Hunger Games knock-offs coming from Marvel with the much maligned Avengers Arena
and similar series Terror Titans, etc. I’m hoping this may mean good things at the end but we’ll have to see, and I’m hopefully optimistic if successful this could mean Cass Cain returning to DC sooner, rather than later. Here’s to hope.