It's been a LONG time since I started collecting books related to the Batman franchise outside of the main guy himself, but since Batman: Reborn kicked into high gear, I've been picking up three titles under its banner on a monthly basis. This marks the fourth book I've added to the list, and with it comes the debut of a new caped heroine to take up the mantle of Gotham's "Girl Wonder".
Written By: Bryan Q. Miller
Illustrated By: Lee Garbett
With the apparent demise of Bruce Wayne, the entire Bat-family has undergone major changes to their internal roster. Dick Grayson and Damian Wayne have become the new Dynamic Duo to protect Gotham, while Tim Drake travels around the world to find his mentor under the guise of Red Robin. As the male proteges of Batman grow accustomed to their new roles in life, the same can be said for the new Batgirl, who has more than her fair share of problems to explore. After a random night of crimefighting with the previous Batgirl, Cassandra Cain three weeks ago, Stephanie Brown/ The Spoiler is surprised to see her friend take off abruptly, leaving her costume behind in the process. She secretly takes it home and begins adventuring as the new Girl Wonder, hiding the fact from her mother and allies who know her secret. Her "dirty little secret", however, soon comes to the attention of the Bat-family, and when Batman and Oracle realize who's behind the mask, they aren't pleased with the news... not one bit.
Finally, I picked up the issue I spoiled you guys over with because of the reveal yesterday - Batgirl #1. What can I say... it's looking like a pretty solid book. As one of the expanded titles of the Batman universe, I'm surprised to find myself collecting it, and maybe it's because of the new girl under the cape and cowl; a young and feisty girl named Stephanie Brown. Originally known as The Spoiler and the fourth person to wear the Robin costume, Steph has built up quite a reputation for herself, with an immense fanbase built from her years as a favorite supporting character to Robin/ Tim Drake. Her new role as Batgirl isn't much of a shocker or a surprise, but it's a great way to promote her character's growth considering the way everyone in the Bat-family is moving on and stepping up to take somebody's place in the grand scheme of things. Writer Bryan Q. Miller is evidently no stranger to writing stories about teen heroes, starting out as a writer for the TV series Smallville and moving on to comics by taking over some issues of Teen Titans. His work with Steph in this book is remarkable, showing how ambivalent and reckless she can be on the field as well as with her private life. He also seems to have a clear understanding of how the Bat Universe works nowadays with the changes incorporated by Reborn, and it will be interesting to see how the new Dynamic Duo interact with the new Girl Wonder in the coming issues ahead.
While Steph comes to her own as the new heroine of Gotham City, the book also shares the spotlight with another Batgirl veteran - Barbara Gordon. For much of the character's history, I've always associated the Batgirl name with her, and to this day I still find that costume sexy, (rawr). The one and only redhead daughter of Commissioner Gordon was beautiful as she was gifted when she was still active as the Girl Wonder, and even if she is confined to a wheelchair nowadays, her reputation has grown exponentially thanks to her new role as the legendary informant Oracle. Miller is evidently aware how Babs works inside and out, and fans will be pleased to know that she'll be a recurring character in this book for quite some time. As she did with Cassandra and many others who have tried to fill her shoes in the past, she'll be mentoring the new Batgirl, and it looks like it won't be a walk in the part session for Stephanie either. Babs is clearly pissed about something, and probably it'll be a subplot that will be further explored as the book moves on in the months to come.
Lee Garbett is just a wonderful artist to be tied to this book, and I hope he stays around for at least a year or so. He draws Stephanie and the other female characters so well that they're all so vibrant and colorful to look at. Heck, his Batman and Robin aren't bad either, and that's because he last worked on "Last Rites", a story arc that follows Batman R.I.P and leads up to Batman's ultimate fate in Final Crisis. Clearly, the guy knows his Batman so well that at one point of the book, he manages to draw every symbol associated with the character over the years, from the silver age yellow ellipse to the one used in the Nolan films.
With a great writer and fantastic artist at your disposal, it's hard to call Batgirl a hit or miss title. Fans of the character may or may not be thrilled with the new girl at the helm, but face it, it is Batman: Reborn after all, and it's time for a change. For $3.00, it's not a bad relaunch, and it's quite accessible enough to read, even without knowledge of who Steph, Babs, or any of the characters are. The story will guide you along the way, and as inexperienced as the new character is, it's a good way to see how "Batgirl Begins"... again.^^
Score - 9/10