By Brian Q. Miller (writer), Lee Garbett & Trevor Scott with Sandra Hope (artists), Guy Major (colorist)
The Story: Young Stephanie Nolan is breaking promises again, putting herself in over her head as she follows the trail of drug dealers in Devil’s Square and at Gotham U. Barbara Gordon has forced herself into Stephanie’s life at home and in costume, but doesn’t have much more luck than Stephanie’s mother at talking some sense into the girl.
What’s Good: Barbara Gordon is a strong adult figure who still kicks butt through her intelligence network into the underworld, her access to big-time resources like the Bat Cave, or by throwing the occasional battarang. Barbara is the perfect hero to tell Stephanie that this isn’t a game and point out that people will be out to kill her just for bragging rights. The art team does a great job at the mood of Gotham, the action scenes and the expressions; everything you need to tell a great Bat family story.
What’s Not So Good: This is less a flaw than perhaps a deliberate choice on the part of the writer, but the story is a bit jumpy. I found myself working to follow the plot threads as we went from one scene to the next.
In terms of character work, Stephanie’s trouble fitting in and her naiveté felt a bit tinny at times, and even hard to believe. For example, why would any teenage freshman be surprised to find a farm-themed party at a University, or that someone would spike the punch? It’s hard to reconcile that contrived innocence with the fact that as Batgirl, before that as Spoiler, and also just as somebody who grew up in Gotham, Stephanie has already seen the seediness that seems to be surprising her now.
Some of the surrounding characters also came off feeling a bit unoriginal too, especially Jordanna, who seems to be just another bully without motivation. Maybe Stephanie really is a socially awkward dork (it’s hard to tell from just two issues), but you can’t treat the nerd Stephanie Nolan in the same way as you would treat the nerd Peter Parker. There is a double standard in life. The reality is that most guys would be falling all over themselves to be with someone who looks like Stephanie, no matter her oddball worldview or her quirky, awkward conversation. So the whole bully set up falls a bit flat.
Conculsion: Despite some growing pains in finding the character, the addition of Barbara Gordon makes for a strong story with powerful resonances.