Sunday, December 15, 2013

Batgirl: The Lesson

 One of the biggest losses of "The New 52" was Stephanie Brown, A.K.A. Spoiler, Robin, and ultimately, the final Batgirl. She was a fresh, likeable character whose adventures were a joy to read, a bright spot amongst all of the clenched-teeth, severed limbs, and decapitated heads of the Geoff Johns/Dan DiDio-era of DC Comics.

 Stephanie's final adventures are collected in BATGIRL: THE LESSON, one of DC's heftier-than-expected trades that hastily collected the remainder of canceled series as "The New 52" got underway. This final volume collects BATGIRL issues 15-24, and while writer Bryan Q. Miller's plots didn't always click with me, his portrayal of Batgirl felt just about perfect.

 THE LESSON, for the most part (With a few digressions along the way...) revolves around a murder on campus that sets Stephanie against a group of College kids that have formed a Skull and Bones type secret society. They're gathering tech as part of a byzantine bank robbery plot that never really caught my interest, but that's OK, since it's basically window-dressing, as Miller seems to be mostly concerned with charting Stephanie's growth as Batgirl, a friend, and a daughter. Her relationship with Barbara "Oracle" Gordon and Wendy Harris (One half of DC's new spin on the classically horrible Wendy/Marvin/Wonder Dog trio from the old SUPER FRIENDS cartoon...) are complex and interesting enough to carry a series even without all of the super-heroic trappings. Miller's digressions from the main plot are great fun, though, especially Batgirl's team-ups with Squire (Of Knight & Squire fame from Morrison's BATMAN, INCORPORATED) and Damian Wayne, the latest Robin, who just happens to be one of my all-time favorite characters. Miller does a great job of capturing Damian's voice and spirit, and I dare you not to smile at the last page of his appearance in this book.

 The story ends rather abruptly, thanks to DC's top-secret transition to their "New 52" universe, but Miller brings things to a satisfying close, nonetheless. the final pages brought a smile to my face, but it was tempered by the knowledge that we'd never see Stephanie again. At least not THIS Stephanie....I'm sure DC will bring her back in some form or other, but I doubt it'd be in a way that would please her small but incredibly loyal fan base.

 DC seems to be letting these BATGIRL collections fall out of print, and that's a shame, because these stories would be perfect to lure in the mythical young female reader. I'll be stashing these three collected editions and giving them to my daughter, if she ever shows any interest in her Dad's crazy hobby.

 BATGIRL: THE LESSON collects BATGIRL issues 15-24, complete with covers.

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