Batgirl Rising
by Bryan Q. Miller, Lee Garbett (DC Comics, 2010)

Just as Dick Grayson will always, at some level, be Robin, the one true Batgirl will forever be the police commissioner's daughter, Barbara Gordon.

Sure, Barbara was crippled for life (probably) in Alan Moore's dramatic storyline, The Killing Joke, and has since moved on to become the superhero's 411, Oracle, just as Dick became Nightwing and, in recent months, Batman himself, leaving others (Jason Todd, Tim Drake, Stephanie Brown and ohmygodpleasemakeitstop Damian Wayne) to be Robin after him.

But Barbara set the tone, and her absence left a void in the DC Universe. Cassandra Cain, the trained psychopathic assassin who served a few years in the Batgirl boots, just didn't do it for me. She was an interesting character, yeah, but not Batgirl.

Now, there's a new Bat in town, and it probably won't surprise many long-time readers that it's Stephanie Brown -- formerly the Spoiler, briefly Robin, Tim Drake's once (and future, I'm betting) love interest and, for a while, deceased.

Batgirl Rising introduces Stephanie to her new role, and it's a good, solid tale. After some initial awkwardness -- writers didn't have a good reason for Cassandra to give up the cowl, apparently, so they just had her quit, abruptly, and thrust the suit into Stephanie's hands -- Stephanie starts to enjoy herself. Of course, it doesn't take long for Barbara to notice her new successor, and she's pissed. So, too, are Batman (Dick) and Robin (Damian), neither of whom think Stephanie is up to the challenge.

Frankly, she's not. She's not driven by a revenge motive, like Batman, and her term as Spoiler was completely untrained and undisciplined. Her short outing as Robin gave her the benefit of the Batman's tutelage, but it was a short-term deal.

Then again, that sounds a lot like Barbara, too.

Impulsive, unpredictable behavior may just be the hallmark of the new Batgirl, and her growing relationship with Barbara -- as well as her tentative relationship with Dick and downright animosity with Damian -- is grist for many tales to come.

My only disappointment? The back cover shows Steph slipping into the classic Batgirl outfit, which is so refreshing after Cassandra's all-black ninja suit. Alas, that never actually happens in the story; Steph gets a new suit, which incorporates some classic elements but also adds a strange purple lizard stripe down the sides. C'mon, DC, where are the yellow boots?

review by
Tom Knapp

4 December 2010

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