So, Batgirl v3 #1 came out yesterday. And this post contains spoilers, specifically on who
is under the cowl now. If you don't want to know, skip on.
I loved the issue, all of it. I'm going to start by explaining the FedEx arrow
I saw, and why it bothered me, but it didn't detract from the story for many reasons. However, it's still there.
Stephanie Brown was Robin. Now she is Batgirl. Aside from future flashfowards, Elseworlds, and Tim and Jason playing dress up in BftC, this makes her only the second person to ever officially, in continuity, with the right channels of approval, don both the R and the Bat. Dick resigned from Robin as he got too old, and took on the Batman cowl out of loyalty to his father. Steph was sacked as Robin for a stupid reason (although to be fair, her reasons for taking on that mantle to start with were stupid and out of character for everyone involved), and she's taken on the Bat cowl because her ex-boyfriend told her not to be something else (Spoiler).
As a child, did you ever ride an invisible horse up to your friends and announce that you're Porthos, only to be told that you can't
be Porthos, you have to be Juliet, and be quiet because you've beeen kidnapped? Or sit down and reach for Ironhide and have it snatched away, only to be told you have to be Arcee
, who doesn't have a toy, so you have to pretend or go away (and also, haha, her name means "a bit like an arse"). Or tuck your arms into your coat, do up only the uppermost button, then swoop in and announce that you're Batman, only to be told that you can't
be Batman. But you can be Batgirl, if you have to play.
If not, then that's OK, and I'm not surprised you didn't see any arrows in the idea of with Stephanie now being Batgirl.
If you did, and I did, then maybe you're used to the suffix -girl being used as an insult, because -girl is not as good as -man.
And it didn't matter, really, how great Batgirl was, or Arcee. Batgirl wasn't part of the 'club' in the TV Show (she was independent, and that's great, but she was also Other.) Arcee didn't even have a toy. And Juliet - Juliet was so crap I invented my own Mary Sue when the boys were playing Dogtanian.
Stephanie was Robin, and she was sacked from that for saving Batman's life. She was her own hero - Spoiler - and Batman and Robin both repeatedly told her she couldn't be that either. As a younger girl, she cheerfully ignored them, but now she's a young woman, she's been told "you can't
!" so much she's finally hung up the eggplant.
It's OK, though, because she's allowed
to be Batgirl.
Alright, that done; I really liked it, and I'm excited that Steph finally has her own series, and she's been promoted from 'Robin's girlfriend who is a vigilante' to 'the title character of Batgirl'. I'm glad Barbara will be helping out; while I'm sad there's no Birds of Prey, Barbara needs a #1 operative and she's been a good mentor to young girls before. I'm expecting a little tension between her and Steph in the next issue, but I hope she realises that she no longer owns
the title of Batgirl. Cassandra passed the cowl on, and she chose Stephanie. I hope that - after a few Babs related control issues, Oracle will respect that.
This is an important thing about Batgirls - they choose their own successors. This is why Helena, who's technically the second Batgirl (excluding Bette Kane, who has been retconned as never having been), doesn't fully count; she took on the mantle without Barbara's knowledge and never lasted long. Barbara only received Batman approval retroactively after she'd already invented the persona. Cass, the 'true' second Batgirl, was found by Barbara and mentored primarily by her; Bruce had a very heavy hand in it, but really, it was Barbara's blessing that counted in that decision. And now, Cass has chosen Steph, without even consulting Dick. And Dick, aside from remarking that she's not as good as Cass, can't step in, because Batgirl is only peripherally in the 'club', and Batman only gets to tell her what to do when she's Cassandra, who just happens to idol-worship him. Barbara and Steph (and Bette and Helena and we might as well mention Kate) do the Batgirl(woman) thing whether the men approve or not.
Steph's voice was spot on from start to finish. The art was also spot on: that's what Steph and Babs and Cass all look like, and Dick and Damien are recognisable. Garbett is a great artist - whether he's deliberately taking the lead from other artists on how to draw characters, I don't know, but I saw Quitely's Damien, St Aubin's Babs, and - I don't want to look up artists now - the Steph from the tail end of Robin
and Cass from the first ongoing run of Batgirl. They were instantly recognisable and as in character as Miller's writing.
Miller's faced with a problem with this title: the three main characters in Batgirl have all suffered recently by bad writing and bad editorial decisions. Steph has been in limbo since Dixon left DC: no one but Dixon (and Weaves) has ever written Steph well, so to see someone get her spot on, warts and all from the first issue is encouraging. Babs' personality has deteriorated since Simone left Birds of Prey
(which, IC at least, I blame on the break up with Dinah), and her own Oracle
Miniseries, and now Miller's has to pick her up with a chairangst ship on her shoulder the size of the Aerie One
. She's been painted into an 'angry' corner and he's decided not to ignore that.
As for Cass - well.
Cassandra Cain has not been written in character or well since the end of her own series. She's been changed and messed with and gone through a personality 180 so sharp that I'm surprised anyone even recognises her. I really don't think there's any feasible way someone could write an in character or good Cass-Batgirl right now without throwing out the past five years of 'development'. Miller did a very good job, though. There's even a delightful 'Take That' against her recent treatment by Steph telling her: "you're not very chatty". Cassandra, remember, has body language as her first language, not English. She spent her own series speaking rarely and efficiently, and suddenly in her last mini she was transformed into some monologuing murderer.
Miller's picked Cass up, remembered that she's not supposed
to be chatty, remembered she's Steph's best friend, and handled the transition with as much class as possible. Hopefully Cass can slip into the background for a while and come back when we're ready for an IC Cass again.
Maybe she'll go on a retreat with Connor Hawke and Cissie King, and they'll come back all fixed. We can only hope.Miller's interview with Newarama
gives me hope he'll do good things with this comic, so it's definitely promoted to #3 on my DC must-read list, because I love my girls.