You know, once I actually thought about it for about five seconds, it became apparent that the “mystery” over the identity of the new Batgirl wasn’t really a mystery at all. Unless it was going to be an entirely new character, and if it wasn’t going to be Cassandra, then obviously it was going to be Steph; and although it’s strange to suddenly see the character getting her own solo title, it’s a good choice. It’s easy to forget that she’s been around for a while, and after being so hard-done-by over the last decade (I suddenly find myself wondering what the folks at girl-wonder make of her appointment) it’s a pleasing development.
Bryan Q. Miller is a name entirely new to me, so I don’t know if he’s just a hired hand brought in to carry out editorial edict, or if the setup of the book can be put down to his own “vision” – but the series seems to be hooking itself onto quite a neat idea, in focusing not just on the current incumbent of the costume, but also making the book about the first Batgirl, Barbara Gordon. Any book that features Babs prominently is of course worth checking out, and if we’re going to end up with a “mentor” kind of situation, then I’m all for that – and it gives new meaning to the series’ title if it’s going to be about the various characters (Cass included) that have held the name.
The first issue’s not a bad read, either – it’s fairly light and breezy, and does the “first day on the job” idea nicely (classic trick of opening with an action sequence before stepping back and showing the reader how we got here). If the motivations given for Cass handing over the costume don’t hugely convince, then things are at least on firmer ground as we follow Steph’s internal battle over whether or not to carry on doing it – not an “angsty” internal battle, but simply one where she knows it’s a bit wrong, but kind of wants to anyway. It suits the character well – in fact, it’s almost a retread of the way she was waaaay back when first introduced in Robin – and goes along well with the foundations laid here for her background life. Crucially, there’s no real reliance on knowing who she is or was as Spoiler – her setup as a college-aged hero is a pretty universal one, so long as you go by the assumption that she already has some kind of connection to the Bat-family (and that her mum already knows that she used to be a vigilante).
Having been generally unimpressed with his work on his two-parter for Grant Morrison’s Batman, I’m surprised by Lee Garbett here – an energetic style with slightly cartoony facial expression, reminiscent of Todd Nauck and the like, suits the tone of the book well. Steph is appropriately youthful out of costume, and fairly dynamic in it; and in the cameo appearance from Dick and Damian (in Da Bungalow) he nails those characters pretty well, too. There’s nothing spectacular or experimental, it’s just decent and solid.
Which just about sums up the book, really. There are a lot of comics like this out there, doing an acceptable job even if only appealing to people with a bit of affection for the characters in question – but that’s not to say there’s not room for them, as it’s not as if everything can be Captain Britain or Batman & Robin. I may not have enjoyed this if I didn’t already like Steph as a character, but there’s nothing about it that stops me enjoying it considering that I do.