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

The Story: Here’s a lesson for you kids: if you slack off in college, you may wind up a costumed speedster robbing millions in bank heists for a living.

The Review: When Batgirl relaunched with Stephanie Brown under the mask rather than Cassandra Cain, there was an expected uproar over the switch.  Cass spent many years getting over her grim background to earn her right to wear the Bat, while Steph in a lot of ways pushed herself into the biz.  But you can’t deny Steph’s nonchalant, happy-go-lucky attitude gives the title more energy and humor than Cass probably ever could.

Cass’ lone wolf personality made her interactions with other characters, even within the Batman family, infrequent and often cold.  By comparison Steph’s chemistry with all her supporting cast just flies off the page (with the exception of perhaps Proxy, who still needs to develop beyond angry nerd with punk hair).  You definitely can’t imagine Cass ever crushing on an older detective, nor can you imagine said detective giving her a paperclip bent into the Batgirl insignia.

Almost every title on the stands uses humor to some degree, only Batgirl has a female lead devoted to self-aware comedy, mostly because Steph’s character can pull it off.  Miller knows the trick to delivering jokes that work: they make a point about the characters or plot.  The beat Oracle takes after going overboard with her pep talk shows she knows she’s trying a little too hard to be a mentor to Steph and Proxy when they’re clearly handling things on their own.

Batgirl’s independence comes across full-force this issue, as she and Proxy design their sting pretty thoughtfully, but execute it thanks to some accidental deductions on Steph’s part.  Her wide-eyed realization of who’s been napping beside her in class this whole time instantly cuts to her running across campus to frantically get into costume.  It’s a sitcom-like moment Miller writes very well with her, and a scene which shows that she’s a rare bird in the DCU.

He still needs to learn to cut back on the jokes when the momentum’s already flowing along.  Trying to force banter tends to distract from the action than enhance it, and anyway, Steph’s clever breakdown of Slipstream’s powers is impressive in itself, along with her use of several electro-magna-gooperangs to take him down.  It’s a nice callback to her earlier enthusiasm of her new HQ and arsenal—what my one-time professor calls “using your inventory” (that’s what a creative writing degree is for, folks!).

Despite her good work, both she and Miller know it went off too smoothly to be a done deal.  Even though the Reapers still haven’t really proven their chops or danger just yet, the fact they see Slipstream’s failure as a minor thing indicates a much bigger plan at stake.  It’ll be fun to see how Steph rises to the challenge.

For a youthful title like this one, Bachs’ semi-sloppy art kind of works, but at the same time it crosses the line over to where the faces lose consistency between close-ups and pan outs.  Stronger, more defined lines would help make the action look more kinetic and convincing.

Conclusion: Batgirl tends to carry you away just by being charming and fun, but it really needs more mission substance to be a true superhero title.  Miller takes steps in that direction, but there’s still a ways to go.

Grade: B

– Minhquan Nguyen

Some Musings: – In Birds of Prey #11, Oracle’s getting over a cold, and in this issue, she’s blowing her nose prominently in one panel.  That’s some serious continuity consistency, right there.

– This just tells you what an idiot I am, but I laughed hysterically every time the GPS on Stephanie’s new Bat-Mini-Cooper (it’s purple!) went “I’m sorry.  I didn’t catch that.”