Stephanie Brown has fought all kinds of foes in her two year career as Batgirl, but none of those villains have been as personal as the man she faces now–her father, the Cluemaster!
Previously on Batgirl: Stephanie Brown has successfully run the gauntlet. She’s defeated the Order of the Scythe, and all other foes, and the clues have led her to none other than the Cluemaster, believed to have been killed in action while on mission for the Suicide Squad.
THE END OF AN ERA
There are plenty of things I’m skeptical of with the DC Relaunch, and there at least as many things that I am optimistic about, since we don’t really have a ton of information yet, but one thing that I do know for sure that I enjoy is the sense of closure we are getting on some of the current titles. I know many people who were in tears at the end of Secret Six last week. I didn’t tear up at that, though I have been known to shed a tear or two over comic books (Ted Kord’s death being one that can get me over and over again), but Secret Six had an incredibly fitting ending with a marvelous sense of closure to it. Batgirl #24 has that exact same feeling to it, though with some minor problems.
Stephanie finally confronts her father, though the confrontation itself is a bit disappointing. It lasts an entire seven panels, most of which is talking with a minor amount of fighting. The battle climaxes when Cluemaster (whose death had been greatly exaggerated by Amanda Waller following his stint with the Suicide Squad) reveals he has been growing Black Mercy, and has weaponized some of it. He blows it into Stephanie’s face, but as she falls under the Mercy’s spell, she manages to stick his arm to a wall with a gooperang. Stephanie (as Batgirl) wakes up in the hospital, with none other than her mother the nurse (who is supposed to be unaware of her double life as Batgirl) attending her. This is where things start to feel a bit rushed, as it is clear Bryan Q. Miller had plans for this sequence to go longer, but wanted to give fans more of a sense of closure to the series. This comes from many angles–from Damian saluting Stephanie through the window, to her mother telling her that she’s proud of her for being Batgirl and saving people, to Oracle complimenting her, and a serious of flashbacks to the hallucinations she got while under the effect of the Mercy.
My experience with the Mercy stems entirely from the J.M. DeMatteis-penned episode of Justice League Unlimited that was based on Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons’ story “For the Man Who Has Everything.” For those who haven’t encountered it, essentially it shows the victim their heart’s desire, trapping them in an escapist world of fantasy. This sequence is where the issue shines. While I criticized Batman: Knight of Vengeance #3 for telling an art driven story with what I feel to be poor art, Pere Perez’s art in Batgirl is absolutely fantastic. I admittedly didn’t think that anyone would be able to fill in Dustin Nguyen’s shoes on the title, but Perez does a great job. I sat and stared at each page of the flashback for at least thirty seconds, some of them for more than a minute, just taking in all the detail and appreciating the artwork. Upon rereading this issue for the review, I am doing the same.
The recurring motif of the Black Mercy flowers in each scene is perfect, and the way the fantasy includes all the important characters in Stephanie’s life in various roles is brilliant. The Lantern scene has Damian as a Red Lantern, Steph as Blue, and Oracle as a Green Lantern in a mech suit, which is absolutely perfect. The old photograph has Stephanie, Barbara and Cassandra Cain all in Batgirl costumes with the Black Hawks, and Skeets is seen flying over their heads. Two of the men are down in football stances, and one of them I believe is supposed to be Booster Gold in a Black Hawk jacket. I am really hoping that Gail Simone brings this into continuity in the relaunch, as a multi-Batgirl team-up would be one of the greatest things ever. We also get a look at Stephanie’s “future,” when she has a child. The kid looks a bit like Damian, which is the pairing that I’ve been shipping for a while now (yes, I know there’s about an 8 year age difference. That never stopped Anakin!… Okay, bad justification). In this future we also see Stephanie in a Nightwing-esque costume that is wonderful, and a black Batgirl who could be the child of Tim Drake and Tam Fox, which is a great reference as well. The issue ends on a bittersweet high note, with Stephanie reminding Oracle (and the audience) that “It’s only the end if you want it to be,” followed by swinging off into the sunrise and saying “Here we go.”
BOTTOM LINE: A MUST-OWN FOR BATGIRL FANS
This issue stands out to me as one of the best issues of the run, ranking up there with issue 18 (the Klarion team-up) for my top two. The art is incredible, and it gives the perfect sense of closure. Anyone who has been reading Batgirl HAS to buy this issue, though people who haven’t been reading the series probably wouldn’t get much out of it. This issue resonated with me with practically every page, and even the rushed nature of the Cluemaster sequence wasn’t Miller’s fault, since he had to end things with this issue. I give Batgirl 24 a full five out of five stars, with the hope that Mr. Miller gets put on at least one title in the relaunch (a Brave and the Bold revival, anyone?)