By Bryan Q. Miller (writer), Tim Levins & Lee Garbett (pencillers), Dan Davis, Aaron Sowd & Trevor Scott (inkers), Harvey Richards (assistant editor), Michael Siglain (editor)
The Story: As always, Miller makes his themes (in this case, the title “Field Test”) do double duty. Stephanie Brown is field testing her new high-tech Batgirl costume. Barbara Gordon is helping monitor the suit while giving advice, but when she has to deal with something, Batgirl herself is field tested against someone well out of her league.
What’s Good: If there’s one issue that can vouch for Miller’s writing, it’s Batgirl #4. The plotting and thematic ideas are always tight, but my hat remains off on his character work. His characters are just fun to follow. The back and forth between Barbara and Stephanie is solid, as Miller packs his dialogue with personality. Stephanie’s running self-deprecation could get tiresome in another character, but when put together with her natural exuberance and fun, it works, with lines like “And this Batgirl doesn’t sing – not in front of people anyway” and “I’m almost fifty percent sure nothing could go wrong.” I’m also waiting to see where this romantic tension between Batgirl and the young detective is going to go.
Art team has changed a bit. Tim Levins has replaced Scott and Hope in the driver seat with Lee Garbett. The art is clear, the expressions tell the story and the poses are more natural. The layouts also seem to be evolving positively. The final battle page between Batgirl and the villain is a funny and well-told stack of panels.
What’s Not So Good: The superhero skeleton of the story is nothing original. Batgirl’s encounter with this super-villainess is pretty forgettable, but I’m wondering if the search for something truly field-expanding is what Batgirl readers are looking for when they buy this book. Would something truly original to the field (think the teen angst of Lee/Ditko Spiderman, the gritty noir of Miller’s Daredevil or the soap opera of Claremont’s X-Men) fit within a book whose focus is the fun of watching a flighty, occasionally quixotic teenager turn herself into a real superhero? But if ground-breaking work is not in Batgirl’s future, will the series survive? Sales estimates for issue #3 from Diamond are around 37,000, which is pretty respectable for a new book, so Michael Siglain has some flex before making any serious decisions, but Miller has got some work ahead of him to convince readers that Stephanie Brown matters, without losing the fun of what makes her great.
Conclusion: Batgirl is an entertaining book and very accessible to the new reader. This is what mainstream comics do well. But I hope that Batgirl does not get lost behind a lot of other books that are also delivering mainstream stories.