02 May 2005

REVIEW: Batgirl #63

Post-"War Games", writer Andersen Gabrych is slowly but surely turning Batgirl into the most satisfying Bat-book not named Gotham Central. Freed from the angst-ridden constraints of patrolling the streets of Gotham City in Batman's shadow -- and to a lesser degree, Oracle's -- Batgirl is on her own, relocating to the mean streets of Blüdhaven and carving her own niche out of one of the darker alleys of the DC Universe.

After ruining the also-relocated Penguin's arms deal by taking down the Brotherhood of Evil last issue, this time around he raises the stakes, bringing in Deathstroke to take her out in one of the better-orchestrated, and thankfully low-key, Infinite Crisis tie-ins yet. The latter half of the issue features an awkwardly choreographed fight scene that nevertheless does a good job of depicting how formidable a fighter Batgirl is, her ability to read body language and react accordingly serving her well against a similarly skilled opponent who very recently took down the JLA's B-team single-handedly. While artist Alé Garza has a couple of Liefeld moments with Deathstroke, for the most part he comes through with another solid effort here as his ability to capture Batgirl's essence, a lethal assassin with an inferiority complex, makes the extended fight scene work.

The beauty of Gabrych's nascent run on Batgirl, though, is on display in the first half of the story as he continues to develop the Cassandra Cain side of the character, exploring her new surroundings as well as her efforts to overcome her illiteracy and break out of her defensive shell. He's introduced a new supporting cast on the civilian side and uses them to effectively do what Marvel is so desperately attempting with Ara ña, offering readers a strong but flawed, young female lead who is capable of standing on her own two feet. There's a scene shortly before Deathstroke arrives, where Cassie witnesses her first mosh pit and is immediately drawn to it, jumping in and letting loose in a way Garza makes clear is completely liberating for her. It's a nice moment and a sign of Gabrych getting that there's so much more to the character than just another Bat-sidekick in tight black spandex.

There's a bit of a cliffhanger at the end that Gabrych sets up an emotional parallel for in the opening scene where Cassie goes through her morning routine, noting there's only one difference between the past and the present: "I'm not my father's daughter." It's a declaration of independence from her childhood father, the assassin David Cain, as much as it is from her current father figure, Batman. Though he's still a significant presence in the background, Batgirl is quickly becoming her own woman, and as a result, Batgirl stands on its own merits as one of the best comics DC is publishing right now.

Batgirl #63, (DC, April 2005; $2.50); Written by Andersen Gabrych, Art by Alé Garza, Jesse Delperdang and Andrew Pepoy.

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