Review: Batgirls #3
[Editor’s Note: This review may contain spoilers]
Writers: Becky Cloonan and Michael W. Conrad
Art: Jorge Corona
Colors: Sarah Stern and Ivan Plascencia
Letters: Becca Carey
Reviewed by: Matthew B. Lloyd
The Batgirls investigate the art and the artist- Tutor. Steph gets in a little over her head and they regroup as Barbara meets a friend from the past with an art connection.
I don’t want it to sound like Babs, Steph and Cass could just sit around their apartment talking, but the interactions between these characters is the big draw for this title. In particular, Batgirls #3 does a couple things really well: distinctive voices for the characters and a genuine sense that these three are friends that care about one another. Additionally, there’s a lot of story here that not only comes across as value, but also fulfilment- this isn’t a book that is just a race to the end with a modicum of content, there’s a lot of stuff in the issue. It’s a great retro-approach to when comics were something you actually did READ.
Cloonan and Conrad are successfully differentiating Cass and Steph in their dialogue. Steph is a more impulsive and exuberant while Cass is reserved and measured. However, when she has something to say, she says it in a big way. Not all writers are able to make characters recognizable from their dialogue, but you could hear their dialogue and be able to distinguish who is saying what. It’s an excellent way of depicting characterization. Most importantly, it feel real.
Related to this is the way the characters respond to each other that shows they care. Cass is worried about Steph’s feelings of inadequacy and she steps up to reassure her friend- these two are on the same team, it’s not a competition between them. Barbara is constantly reinforcing their feelings as they perform in the field. She is building them up to help them both grow their confidence, it’s the polar opposite of the disgusting treatment of Robin by Batman in Frank Miller and Jim Lee’s All-Star Batman and Robin. It doesn’t stop there. When Barbara meets an old friend, boyfriend (?) Steph and Cass sense Barbara’s uneasiness and they pounce in a good-natured way. This is a scene that is very real. This is how friends act. They want the lowdown, but they also want to give Barbara a little friendly ribbing- especially since her current relationship with Dick Grayson is an integral part of this series.
That leads to the way this series goes beyond the pages. In Batgirls #3, we get another reminder that this comic is inextricably linked with Nightwing- a title that has won almost every DC category in the inaugural DC Comics News Awards. While it’s not necessary to read one title to understand the other, they are books that share Barbara Gordon as one of the main characters and they both approach the material in the same way – character first. There’s a similar energy in the titles that in turn creates a connection BETWEEN the two books. Plus, these books are not about making you question the morality or motivations of these characters, they both lean in hard to remind you why you LOVE these characters, and if you don’t already love them it won’t take but 2 or 3 issues to see the light.
Additionally, in Batgirls #3, we finally see how this series is a riff on the glory days of the Birds of Prey. Barbara was confined to a wheelchair then and Black Canary and Huntress were her operatives. They were experienced whereas Steph and Cass are still learning. Barbara’s approach has to be different with them than with Black Canary and Huntress. In this issue, we see Barbara wanting to stay at the computer and run the mission from there instead of going into action despite Steph’s encouragement to the contrary.
There’s also a great change of tone at the end of this issue that leads to a cliffhanger that injects a different kind of intensity. It’s got just the right amount of plot development so that it doesn’t sacrifice character or speed things up too fast to really enjoy what’s going on.
Jorge Corona captures the differences between Cass, Steph, and Barbara, perfectly echoing what’s in the script. Steph’s exuberance comes through in her motions and Cass’s posture keeps that reserved nature. And, when given the chance to show Barbara’s uneasiness and maybe embarrassment over running into her old (boy?)friend, Corona gets that right as well.
If there’s a negative in Batgirls #3, there is a sense that maybe too much is going on. There are numerous plot threads in play and while character comes first, it would be a shame if one of these threads got short-changed.
Batgirls #3 is another fine issue that is of a certain type of comic we don’t get nearly enough of. Between quality and quantity of content focused on character, it’s one of those comics that you really enjoy reading and makes you feel good as you share the lives of Barbara Gordan, Stephanie Brown, and Cassandra Cain.