It’s impossible to have any kind of intelligent discussion about this book without revealing the identity of the main character. So consider yourself warned. Turn back now if you don’t want to know who’s weaing the mask.
The new Batgril is… Stephanie Brown. Robin fans may know her better as Spoiler. It’s a reveal that is only slightly more shocking than Dick Grayson becoming the new Batman. Which is to say that most of us already guessed Steph would be Batgirl.
Before I address the quality of the book itself, let’s address the elephant in the room. The question of who should be Batgirl has been hotly contested for years. It’s not quite as divise as the great Hal/Kyle debate, but it’s up there. As a fan of Barbara Gordon, I did NOT want to see her return to the role. Oracle is a much more interesting and unique character than just another vigilante in a Batsuit.
Once you rule out Babs, just about any established girl of Gotham works just fine for me. I’ve always liked Stephanie Brown, so I am glad to see DC is gatting some use out of her. I do feel bad for Cassandra Cain’s fans. DC has treated that character badly over the years and she gets the brush-off here.
The issue itself is pretty bland. If you’ve ever seen any of the early episodes of Buffy the Vampire Slayer or read any of Chuck Dixon’s early Robin issues, you’ve seen this all before. Steph is trying to be a “normal girl” but her crime fighting duties keep getting in the way. She even has to keep her secret from her single mom. If the premise sounds less than original, the execution is equally mediocre. There’s nothing terrible here. But there’s nothing to get really excited about either.
Both former Batgirls also make appearances in the book. Although poor Cassandra Cain’s time in the spotlight is brief. Her scene is two pages long. Page 1: Spoiler and Batgirl fight thugs. Page 2: Cassandra strips off the Batgirl costume and gives it to Steph with something that barely qualifies as an explanation of her actions. Basically, she’s there to make sure everyone knows her time as Batgirl is done.
(Say “hi” to Ryan Choi when you get to comic book limbo, Cassandra!)
Barbara Gordon may not be Batgirl, but she has a pretty meaty role in the book. It seems likely that she will stick around as Steph’s mentor; kind of Giles to Steph’s Buffy. However, Bryan Q. Miller’s portroyal of Babs jest felt off to me. Check out this narration:
“That anger is really all I know anymore. Every day. And it isn’t a comfort like a blanket. It’s a film that I can’t scrub off my skin. Every day is a constant reminder that things will never change.”
It’s always hard to review the first issue of a new series because the nature of the beast is that they require a lot of set-up. But unless Miller shakes up his premise soon, it feels very tired already. And since the execution leaves something to be desired, I can’t must up much enthusiasm for this book in spite of the fact that I am pleased with the identity of the new Batgirl.