By: Bryan Q. Miller (writer), Ramon Bachs (artist), Guy Major (colorist)

The Story: Batgirl’s got a brand new bag—I mean, base.  She’s gonna need it to take down this surprisingly un-greedy, speedster thief on her case.

The Review: Wisecracking teenage heroes are nothing new—just look at the original Teen Titans.  But ever since Buffy the Vampire Slayer enjoyed widespread television acclaim, it feels like the gags have gotten snappier, smarter, more sophisticated.  This very referential kind of humor has become its own school of comedy, one making for very easy, almost formulaic joke-writing—so easy, it can fall into the trap of trying to generate humor pointlessly.

Miller’s obviously Buffy­-esque humor has worked well so far, but this issue shows how quickly he can fall into that trap.  In-battle repartee is an affectation no comic is free from, but the sheer amount of wit-laden chatter can get ridiculous, like Batgirl’s, “Strictly for rapport purposes—what is a plucky heroine in need of banter supposed to call you?”  It’s a moment where you feel Miller should probably tone it down a notch, and there are several moments like it this issue.

That said, he’s wise enough to inject some self-awareness to Steph’s jokey nature, and her humor definitely works best when bouncing off some nonplussed straight men, the best of which has to be Oracle.  I really enjoyed the scene where Steph is listing her strong points: “…my can-do, devil-may-care, Pollyanna…un…sinkable…”  Oracle: “You got a little lost in there?”  “You shoot from the hip, you don’t always hit the mark.”  My thoughts exactly.

Seeing how others react to her make-light-of-everything attitude also works really well to deliver some character development.  It’s a pretty clever way to reveal how these characters think and feel about certain things, and it lets Steph to put her deductive skills in play.  Detective Gage’s sudden turn from joining in the fun to bristling at her jests hints at some history with the Reapers, and she picks up on this right away, though she has the grace to let it go.

Gage’s gruffness also ties in with his personal stake in the larger mystery Miller has in mind for this series.  A good thing, as even though the chemistry between him and Batgirl is undeniably good, their age difference still makes the idea of him as primarily a romantic foil for her a little squeamish.  But with an underachieving classmate and obsessive stalker as other possible romances, Steph doesn’t exactly have a lot of choices on her plate.

The fact there’s a bigger storyline running beneath these issue-by-issue cases also bodes well for the title’s long-term success.  As fun as it is to just watch Batgirl ad-lib her way through each new set of obstacles, she needs a serious challenge to earn that bat silhouette on her chest.  It feels like Miller is moving a little too slowly in revealing her presumably important role in the Batman Inc. grand strategy.

Bachs’ art is solid and youthful, which is a good fit for this series, and his facial expressions really help to sell a lot of the jokes.  But there’s a disappointing lack of detail in his style, and his lines sometimes feel a bit sloppy and inconsistent.  Overall, the art is fine, but unremarkable.

Conclusion: In the grand scheme of fiction, you need your gripping storylines and your just-plain fun stuff, and Batgirl fits the latter bill very well.  Still, a little more attention to the crime-fighting aspect would help for you to take this title more seriously.

Grade: B

– Minhquan Nguyen

Some Musings: – I think all the writers of the teen-superhero titles need to sit down and hammer out their characters’ ages once and for all.  How is Steph in college, but Superboy’s still stuck at Smallville High?

– I love that Steph’s Bat-car is basically a purple Mini-Cooper with a gattling gun on top.