Batgirl: Death Wish
by Kelley Puckett, Scott
Dixon, Damion Scott
(DC Comics, 2003)

In Death Wish, Cassandra Cain is still a fresh addition to the Bat Team, a long-overdue replacement for Barbara Gordon's Batgirl. But Cassandra, trained as an assassin from a very young age, is riddled with guilt over her one and only murder, committed before she was probably old enough to take the training wheels off her bicycle.

Trained solely in offensive and defensive arts, 17-year-old Cassandra has only recently learned how to communicate verbally, and she has yet to learn to read. Having bought training from the world's deadliest martial artist, Lady Shiva, for the price of a death match in one year's time, Cassandra finds herself failing under increasing feelings of guilt and a creeping suspicion that she deserves to die.

Their battle concludes Death Wish, but there's plenty going on before. For instance, Batgirl finds herself fighting for the first time at the side of Tim "Robin" Drake, and the two are far from easy in each others' company. In another sequence, Batgirl vows that no one would die in Gotham that night -- but the warden of the prison where an execution is scheduled has other ideas. An outing with Spoiler is a more light-hearted episode -- although it, too, is not without its grim underpinnings.

The climax of this book, of course, is Lady Shiva, and while it would be unfair to reveal the surprise conclusion (remember, this fight is to the death), be ready for some awesome, up-close-and-personal views of the battle.

Cassandra Cain has had a tough road convincing some Batgirl fans that she's a suitable successor to Barbara Gordon. The caliber of writing and art combined in Death Wish should go some way in that direction.

by Tom Knapp
11 February 2006

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