Or – “When Is Beryl Getting Her Own Book?”
Of all the concepts Grant Morrison has unleashed on the DCU, the new Knight and Squire are probably my favorite, Slowly building their story here and there for over a dozen years, Grant has organically created characters that have insinuated themselves into the DCU a little at a time, making it seem like they’ve always been around. (Of course, since the concepts date back to the 1950’s, I suppose the kinda have been…) Over the last few weeks, it seems that Stephanie Brown has become a hero with an expiration date, but that doesn’t mean the journey to relaunch can’t be fun, right?
Previously, on Batgirl: Sometime ago, a young woman named Barbara Gordon decided that she wanted to take up the crime-fighting game in Gotham City. Dubbing herself Batgirl, she leapt forward into action, and was treated in a terribly sexist way by Batman and Robin. Over the years, she earned their trust, but when she left the role due to injury, other women have picked up where she left off. (I suppose, technically, Betty Kane may still exist in this continuity as the ORIGINAL original Batgirl, but that’s just annoyingly complicated and gets in the way of people declaring the One True Batgirl to be Babs.) Lately, Stephanie Brown, the daughter of the criminal Cluemaster, has taken up the role of Batgirl and has done interesting things with her tenure. Now a paid employee of Batman, Incorporated, Stephanie/Batgirl discovers what Dick Grayson could have told her for free: Being a teenager AND a superhero is murder on your sleep patterns.
Feels Like A Jumping-On Point
I like being able to pick up a title and just read the thing without dozens of yellow boxes or “See Siegetastic Fearpoint Crisitself #4 for the full story!” Even though this book is ostensibly spinning out of events in ‘Batman, Inc,’, the learning curve is particularly shallow. Stephanie Brown comes home after an exhausting night of fighting things (“possibly including blimps,” says the narrative… Heh…) to find that she has a mission to undertake for the Batman. Before you can say “Toodle Pip, Styke an’ Kidney Poy” and annoy Dan Hunter with your Dick Van Dyke voice, Stephanie is at Heathrow Airport being picked up by The Squire. Steph has a rendezvous with Bruce Wayne just a few minutes later, but ends up getting the scenic route from Squire, who explains that you have to live life while you can. Their trip across town leads to multicultural misunderstandings, and ends up being interrupted by an alarm at The Ministry of Magic and Proper Accord. Seems that a villain called The Orphan (who always wants more, you see) is trying to steal the Greenwich Mean! Stephanie is confused, but the reveal is nicely handled and worth a chuckle or two, as we find that the Mean is indeed a tangible item, a sword that shuts down time and threatens to spread across the whole world.
It’s A Bat, Bat, Bat, Bat, Bat, Mad World?
With no help a’comin’, and Batman and The Knight frozen by the “antitime,” Batgirl and Squire are forced to save the world before their own exposure to the Mean wears off and causes them to freeze into temporal stasis as well. The Orphan tries to assassinate The Knight, but the young heroines engage him in battle, and use their wits (and a couple of well-placed taunts) to put him off guard, allowing Batgirl to save the day with her mean pick-pocketing skills. Innocents are saved, the world is put right, and the two heroic young women get a bit of bonding time in, to boot. Stephanie finds herself a bit jealous of the close working relationship of Knight and Squire, while Beryl is a bit envious of Batgirl’s “not a sidekick” status. The issue ends with an exhausted Batgirl again flopping into bed (this time in her London hotel) only to have Batman skulk out of the shadows to ask why she’s late for her assignment. I don’t know about you, but Bruce might want to be careful about being alone in hotel rooms with teenagers, regardless of the importance of his mission. We end with a note that the story will pick up in Batman, Inc #9…
The Verdict: Fun, Even Though Change Is Afoot…
There has been much discussion about whether or not the DC Relaunch for September is going to be successful, but I have to say I’m pleasantly surprised at how many people are asking what will happen to Miss Brown after things shift about. Reading this issue, it’s easy to see why, as writer Bryan Q. Miller (not to be confused with Arthur Q. Bryant, the original voice of Elmer Fudd) balances Stephanie very well on the precipice between novice and trusted member of the Bat-family. She’s clearly learning her craft, making mistakes and ad libbing, but she doesn’t suffer from the stupiditis that always seems to claim teen heroes in an attempt to be more “realistic.” Stephanie shows wisdom, wit, and even patience in this issue, all the while feeling authentic as a contemporary young woman. The art, by Pere Perez, is quite good as well, balancing a Phil Jiminez quality (a high compliment from me) with a lean-ness that makes both Squire and Batgirl look their supposed ages and heroic at the same time. I’m not normally a Batman consumer (mostly because it’s hard to maintain a healthy ‘portion size’ with fifteen to twenty monthly books intertwining as they do) but Batgirl #22 hits the spot, entertaining and pleasing me to the tune of 4 out of 5 stars overall. I’ve no idea what’s going on with the big Batman mission, and I’m okay with that, while those who need to know the big picture are clearly given their next step. It’s good stuff (with a really lovely cover.)
Faithful Spoilerite Question Of The Day: Is there still a place for Stephanie Brown once Barbara steps out of her Oracle role?