Review: Batgirls #1
[Editor’s Note: This review may contain spoilers]
Writers: Becky Cloonan and Michael W. Conrad
Art: Jorge Corona
Colors: Sarah Stern
Letters: Becca Carey
Reviewed by: Matthew B. Lloyd
Babs, Cass, and Steph set up their new digs! Despite Barbara warning Cass and Steph to keep a low profile, you can’t keep a good Batgirl down, let alone two…!
Back in the late ’90’s DC Comics launched a new concept- the Birds of Prey. It was certainly successful, even spawning a short-lived TV show on the erstwhile WB Network which had found success with Smallville. The television show nailed Barbara Gordon’s character with perfect casting in Dina Meyer as Babs/Oracle and even Batgirl in flashback. While it didn’t get everything right, what it got right was the core concept- the relationships between Babs, Dinah, and Helena- and the spirit of the Birds of Prey comic. (Don’t ask me about that theatrical film, it was Birds of Prey in name only!) Batgirls #1 contains that same spirit. Birds of Prey might be an antecedent of this new title, but Cass and Steph are certainly not Dinah (Black Canary) or Helena (Huntress).
Some readers may not recall Stephanie Brown’s first turn as Batgirl before The New 52. However, she had a series where we saw her learning the ropes and being mentored by Barbara that ran for 24 issues from 2009 to 2011 up to the launch of The New 52. There’s a bit of this series in Batgirls as well with Barbara overseeing both Cass and Steph. Since The New 52, DC’s continuity has taken a beating and there are so many holes and questions that it looks like Swiss Cheese. However, the core concept of Batgirls gets things right with Barbara’s role as mentor. It nearly puts Steph back where she was pre-New 52 and Cass is also now part of the Bat-family proper.
While Barbara Gordon may be the iconic Batgirl, the iconic Barbara Gordon is Oracle. The development of Barbara Gordon into Oracle is one of the most important character growth storylines in comics. Pushing her back to being Batgirl is the equivalent of putting Dick Grayson back in green trunks and pixie boots. It’s OK to let characters grow up and develop. While there will always be some controversy over her treatment in The Killing Joke which led to her path as Oracle, John Ostrander and Kim Yale gave Barbara a real story of triumph that exemplifies the human spirit. Talk about a true hero- it’s not her nocturnal caped activities, but her ability to overcome the type of adversity that people face in real life through tragedies that make Barbara Gordon such an important character and role model. Barbara is perfectly cast in the role of mentor- she’s been where Cass and Steph have been and she’s smart and resourceful enough to teach them while keeping them safe.
Cloonan and Conrad give the reader lots of warm fuzzies in Batgirls #1 as the focus on the relationships between the characters. It’s something they talked about as the focus of the series when they spoke with DC Comics News a few months ago. It’s not all wine and roses, though. Cass and Steph are characters who aren’t alike and have different outlooks on life. But, they are friends and comrades. This lovable tension allows Cass to get them mixed up in some things Barbara’s trying to keep them from, for now. It makes for wonderful character interaction that not only drives the plot but reveals these characters to the reader. It’s the best kind of fiction! These real interactions bring these characters to life in a special way, they become characters you’d like to meet under the appropriate circumstances (ie..not get trashed in an alley by Cass).
More Positives (Yup!)
Jorge Corona is a perfect choice for the series. In Batgirls #1 we get to see not only a lot of dynamic action, but plenty of facial expressions, sometimes exaggerated that help to tell the story of these characters’ inner selves through emotions and reactions. This isn’t a stoic Batman in the shadows cold and isolated. These are two young girls full of feeling that they aren’t going to hold back, be it joy, surprise, or indignation. Additionally, Corona’s style doesn’t allow the characters to become oversexualized in their appearance. It helps the book have a more all-ages feel while not making it seem like a younger reader’s title.
We’ve already seen a preview for this issue in the DC Comics from 2 weeks ago so we know that this issue isn’t just endearing, it’s fun! “Bondo!” The car is named “Bondo!” Hilarious, laugh-out-loud hilarious. Cass and Steph are having fun, And, you know, Barbara, while she has to be the teacher and “taskmaster,” she’s having fun, too. She loves these girls. It’s as heartwarming as it is exciting. It’s wonderful to see a comic embrace the fun and humor. We need more of that, just as we need more examples of people from different backgrounds finding common ground on which to base a friendship.
Any negatives are not really negatives, more like unintended consequences. This issue reminds me of comics from the past I’ve loved that are no longer published. It also exposes other titles on the shelves that should be better…but, aren’t.
Batgirls #1 comes out of the gate at the top. It hits in places that many comics don’t. Not enough comics focus on characters and their relationships with one another. Tom Taylor and Bruno Redondo are doing this over in Nightwing and it’s beautiful. And, that’s what Batgirls #1 is- simply beautiful. This issue’s filled with lots of positivity, and it stays with you. People are what are important in life and that message comes through loud and clear. This is the kind of comic that deserves to be a top seller and is of the quality to make good on it.