Friday, August 12, 2011

Bullet Review: Batgirl #24

I don't know if I had felt the more funereal aspects of the DCnU relaunch until I read Batgirl #24 this week.

You see while I have bemoaned much of this relaunch, my favorite characters have sort of survived. There is still a Supergirl, and one starring in her own book. There is still a Superman. And I have lived through prior relaunches of these characters before. Yes, I will miss the current Supergirl ... the one that has triumphed over adversity in the works of Gates, Igle, Peaty, Chang, DeConnick and Cross. And I can only hope that the new Supergirl will be portrayed the right way and star in great stories.

But this version of Batgirl is going away. There will be no Steph Brown flinging goop-a-rangs, laughing her way through adventures, battling feelings of inferiority and anger and embarassment. I discovered this title only through a chance crossover issue with Supergirl back in Batgirl #14. But there was such fun and joy in that issue that I went out and bought the back issues, added the title to my pull list, and have devoured this book each month, loving it for the excellent book it is.

And it was that joy that really grabbed me. Even when there was typical Gotham gloom around, Steph just seemed to be having fun adventuring, striving to do the right thing, working to be worthy of the name Batgirl, and trying to juggle all the other 'real life' nonsense that tried to drag her down. The best moment that showed that (and I wish I knew the issue # and had a scan) was one where Steph is swinging around buildings, trying to stop the villains, but waves and says hi to the cop she has a crush on as she dives by. It was wonderful.

But that joy was even more evident in the rest issues between big arcs. Teaming up with Supergirl to fight hard light Draculas (and Steph and Kara were such easy friends, I'll miss that World's Finest), hanging out with Klarion, playing with Damien, talking with Squire. There was a happiness as a hero there.

And now this title, this character is going to be gone. I credit writer Bryan Q. Miller for writing this magic. I have relatively little interest in the Bat-family. I didn't know Steph/Spoiler at all and doubted I would care. But Miller grabbed me. Knowing this issue was the last of the title, of Steph as Batgirl, Miller really made this issue a goodbye card, a love note to the fans, a fitting coda for a book I consistently told my friends was a 'sneaky good book'. And Pere Perez really shines on this book full of splash pages.

Facing her father, the villain Cluemaster, Steph takes a face full of Black Mercy powder, succumbing to the flower's hallucinogenic powers of showing someone their fondest wish.

And Miller shows us those dreams in silent splash pages. Here Steph and the other young women heroes are trapped in a fairy tale land, battling the Queen of Fables and her army of Dwarfs. I love Kara in a Snow White like gown. But add to that Miss Martian as a fairy! Stargirl as a wizard. Steph as a princess. Just a great shot.

But we also see other dreams. This one also struck me for some reason. All the Batgirls joining the Blackhawks in WWII? Steph's smile as she stands next to Babs just jumps off the page. Was this a story that Miller had in mind? Who knows?

And the other splash pages are just as memorable. Steph as a Blue Lantern of hope, Damien as a Red Lantern. Steph as a mother. Steph as a modern looking Nightwing. All just wonderful.

And then we get the ending. Having fought off the Mercy's powers, Steph emerges, happy for her life ... her real life. After all that she has been through, she's happy!

She should be. She was Batgirl for me. She is shown to have earned the respect of Damien and Babs. We know Bruce respects her. She has earned that name.

And with a wink (yeah it might be a closed eye to help aim ... but it's a wink to us readers), she tells us that it is only the end if we want it to be.

There are more Steph stories out there, I'm sure.

But for know this book is done. And despite this metatextual optimistic ending, I am sad. Because I want to read more of this book. And I won't be able to.

Thanks again Bryan Q. Miller for reminding this old time comic reader why I still read these books.

And goodbye to the Steph Brown Batgirl. You were a 'beautiful bruise' on the grim and gritty world of modern comics.

Overall grade: A+


Heath Edwards said...

thanks, anj :). this is the book i will miss come september.

Ravenwynd said...

This is a sad day. Steph/BAtgirl, Babs/Oracle, and the current SG are the stories and comics I looked forward to each month. I am not looking forward to the DCnU at all. I fear these issues/back issues are the last of these stories/characters for me. We'll see, but I'm just not looking forward to it. Its a sad goodbye, though it was a great last hurrah!

Gene said...

"It's only the end if you want it to be."

My God that's beautiful.
It just takes the edge off slightly of the disappoinment that this Batgirl is ending. I would have loved to have read those fairy tale and WWII stories.

Damn you DC...


Anonymous said...

Here's a link to a director's cut, for the splash pages. Helps with some of the references and even offers some hints of what could have been, (making me even more dissapointed that this book is ending).

Anonymous said...

Man, it's a sad day. I'm going to miss this team but I'm sure Gail will do great work with Babs. -ealperin

Anonymous said...

Yeah Steph I"m gonna miss. I Think it's grimly hilarious that DC Is dialing back to Barbara Gordon as Batgirl, what next, Charlie the Parrot and the Utility Purse??
Of course, this is tempered by the fact that Gail Simone is writing she has uncommon talent. I expect this will be the bat-book to read come next month, Gail writes the best cliff hangers in comics with Sterling Gates a close second.
Still its a litter ironic, the Batfranchise seems to have so much room to maneuver creatively due to it's sales and popularity.
DC seems to endlessly wanna reinvent and reconfigure Superman hoping to somehow power lift his mythos back up into the stratosphere. Which is why Batgirl can become Barbara Gordon again but GHod Forbid Linda Lee Danvers from Midvale USA should come back and start strolling around the campus of Stanhope University looking for wrongs to right.
WIth Superman I"ve come to believe the good is the enemy of the perfect, and Supergirl in turn gets caught in that crossfire.

John Feer