By: Bryan Q. Miller (writer), Dustin Nguyen (penciller), Derek Fridolfs (inker), Guy Major (colorist)

The Story: So long, and thanks for all the data-hacks.

The Review: It’s very easy to classify Batgirl as essentially a humor title.  Case in point: it’s hard to imagine any other series that would include in its supporting cast a stalker-nerd posing as an antiquated television hero to be our titular heroine’s sidekick.  Add to that the constant stream of witticisms the characters spout off and yes, calling this a humor title would make much sense.

And yet, in its own way, Batgirl has no problem confronting some serious questions.  It’s as if in the midst of all the amusement the title usually indulges in, it’ll suddenly receive a moment of sobriety, like Steph’s reluctant agreement with Grey Ghost’s cynicism: “This city doesn’t want to be saved.  Why else don’t the people take back their streets?”  Miller mostly understates these moments, doing little to build on them to add some new dimensions to his story and characters.

But this issue shows he’s perfectly capable of doing so when he wants to.  Proxy had been in danger of becoming too vestigial an accessory to this title, with little purpose except to be a data-cipher for Steph, but Miller turns that around in a big way.  Not only do her lucid hallucinations of her dead brother reveal her troubled soul, they also tackle the difficulties of finding ways of healing yourself spiritually.

Miller uses the scene between Marvin and Wendy almost to work through his own awareness of her limitations as a character up to now.  Marvin challenges Wendy to do something with her life.  “Batgirl and I are doing what we can to keep this city safe,” she tells him, and he retorts, “Are you happy?”  Her ensuing silence implies as much use she gets out of helping Batgirl, it’s done nothing to help herself.  It’s a subtle realization for both Wendy and, perhaps, Miller.

Miller acts on this point immediately, having Wendy depart to Nanda Parbat to find inner peace just when we get an intimate connection to her.  It’d be nice to check in on her personal journey in future issues, both for the story potential and also to ensure her place in this title.  But her absence can also be a good opportunity for Batgirl to tackle the more intellectual side of things.

Unlike the rest of the Bat-family, who are very purposeful in all they do, Steph’s a devoted ad-libber, showing more cleverness than genius.  She may overcome that trend after all.  She may need it; as mercenary as the Reapers seemed at first (with the bank heist and all), their theft of a DNA sample from the corpse of a dead nun who could “remove maladies from the accursed” indicates a much bigger, weirder plot at stake.

Nguyen’s (what joy it is for me to write that name) fluid, sketchy art has such a specific style that it’s no wonder it looks best in a controlled setting, like covers (and this issue’s cover is a real beaut).  His interiors, on the other hand, often seem a bit too minimal, but for a youthful title, it works pretty well.  The action looks all the more kinetic for his sleek lines, and he can cram a surprising amount of emotion into his characters’ shallow faces.  Kudos to Fridolfs for never overwhelming Nguyen’s thin pencils with obscuring inks.

Conclusion: This issue gives you the more serious side of Batgirl—and it’s a good look.  I wouldn’t mind a little bit more of this kind of thing, since Miller does pretty well at it.

Grade: B+

– Minhquan Nguyen

Some Musings: – Holy crap, she’s taking six classes, two of which are workshops?  That’s like twenty-four units.  How the heck does she have time to commit crimes?