By: Bryan Q. Miller (writer), Pere Perez (artist), Guy Major (colorist)
The Story: An American Batgirl in London.
The Review: A downside to the vast concentration of American-based heroes in the DCU is you’ll rarely get the chance to see foreign characters show up, regardless of how great they are. Among these unfortunate foreigners are Britons Knight and Squire, reconceptualized and popularized by Grant Morrison. Despite starring in a recent miniseries by Paul Cornell and their obvious potential for stories, their appearances are sadly limited to the occasional guest shots.
Emphasis on sad, as Miller uses Squire, spunky sidekick to Knight, to great effect this issue. He has no easy task following Morrison and Cornell’s lead in portraying the unconventional heroine and the quirky version of Britain she operates in, but he does a pretty superb job here. He both captures the wacky spirit that makes K&S stories so fun (our villain du jour: “Calls himself the Orphan. Always wants some more.”), and enthusiastically embraces the English way of things.
Thankfully, the issue never reads like a mishmash of clichéd Britishisms, as it likely would under your typical writer. After Scott Kolins’ dreadful interpretation of Scottish talk in Flashpoint: Citizen Cold #1, it’s a tremendous relief to see Miller’s tasteful take on Squire’s dialogue. She speaks in that wondrously understated, lucid way which clearly ID her as British, without ever going over the top—well, except for saying “Oy” a little too habitually for one issue.
Batgirl and Squire have to count as one of those no-brainer team-ups, and in the very capable hands of Miller, it can’t be anything but enormously delightful. The girls achieve a rapport almost immediately (“…does that make you—Squire?” “You might as well just tell the whole world!” “But—” “Just pullin’ your chain, [Batgirl].”), avoiding the early antagonism that usually marks these kinds of meetings, and that rapport sings through the rest of the story.
The jokes on this title generally lean on the enjoyable side, but a fair share can’t avoid seeming like just too much at times, banter for banter’s sake. But with each heroine acting the comic or straight woman by turns, the humor’s just on fire this issue, like when Steph takes the sidecar to Beryl’s motorcycle as they see the London sights. Steph: “This is all really ‘top drawer’—” Beryl: “Take it over a ‘gentleman’s wedge’ any day.” “Now you’re just screwing with me.”
Stephanie as Batgirl has been one of the most likable characters in the DCU, and with the equally adorable Squire guesting, this issue reads like a comic book version of eating warm brownies. Once their momentous misadventure is over, they have one of the sincerest heart-to-hearts in comics this year as each expresses admiration/envy of the other, Steph for Beryl’s closeness to her mentor, Beryl for Steph’s independence—simple and touching.
Perez doesn’t put in the greatest detail in the world (he has some of the most by-the-books settings I’ve seen), but he brings great vitality to the characters, especially in their faces, and this issue has so many great ones: the girls exchange conspiratorial glances, share mutual expressions of wit and grit, and basically wear their hearts on their sleeves to each other.
Conclusion: Two lovable characters in total sympathy with each other, a foreign setting, fully-realized, oddball villains with a hero-and-world threatening plot, with a lot of laughs tossed in? If this isn’t what comics are for, we might as well just stop reading.
– Minhquan Nguyen
Some Musings: – Kudos to Miller for actually taking into account the fallout from Cornell’s Knight and Squire mini to give some extra motivation to the villain.
– You can’t really call it a British comic without an homage to the Beatles’ Abbey Road album cover, right?