By: Bryan Q. Miller (writer), Pere Perez (artist), Guy Major (colorist)

The Story: Honestly, Steph, this wasn’t the girls’ night out I was expecting, so…

The Review: Last we left Batgirl, she was in a hotel room about to tear into what I presumed to be some Milk Tray under the disapproving cowl of Batman, on the eve of her big British mission.  So it was surprising to find this week’s issue opens with her back in business in Gotham.  Then I remembered that in two months, Steph Brown as Batgirl would be no more, so Miller likely had to work some time-jump magic to let the title finish its course in her hometown.

It can’t be said the skip in time does much for the Reapers plotline.  You keep getting the sense that Miller had to nip and tuck away at certain details he might have otherwise fleshed out, just so he can truncate the conclusion into two issues.  Certainly this explains why we still know almost nothing about the Reapers beyond their underage henchmen in nifty suits.  It also explains why we learn of a fairly important featured character’s death after the fact.

Besides the disappointment of not getting to see Steph’s first major team-up with Bruce since they both returned from the dead and the rushed pace of Batgirl’s showdown with the Reapers, there’s a certain dissatisfaction in the villains themselves.  Since all we’ve seen has been well-equipped college kids committing semi-sophisticated heists, the Reapers’ motives have always seemed small-scale and vague.  There were hints of a much bigger picture at work, but now it looks as though that story will have to be left to our imaginations.

Another plot thread left to our imaginations?  The sweet-yet-also-slightly-icky romantic tension between Steph and Nick Gage, who both mark off several notches on their lovers’ checklist in the span of eight pages: the peevish, unreasonable accusations, the emotional “opening up,” and the wistful farewell to a love ended before it even begins.  Steph’s internal “Goodbye, sweet Detective” just before setting off to confront the Reapers alone seems rather ominous; you can’t tell if she’s assuming she’ll never see him again, or if she’s determined never to see him again.

Actually, if we ever get to see the conclusion of that lingering question, it’ll likely be the latter, as it’s unlikely Batgirl will go down in Butch Cassidy fashion with five of her superpowered gal friends in tow.  Their teamwork and banter makes me hope Miller someday gets an assignment for a Charlie’s Angels-type title featuring DC’s teen super-heroines.  You can’t beat Supergirl getting her mean girl on as she nonchalantly allows a Reaper to bash into her slim yet steely wrist (R: “I’ve had this dream before!” S: “So have I!”  R: “Really?”  S: “No.”).

And at least we get fairly tremendous ending reveal of the Reapers’ “client.”  The repercussions from that twist should keep the last issue fun and entertaining, while offering the possibility of taking Stephanie back to her Spoiler roots.  The revelation doesn’t have the impact it would’ve had with several extra issues of groundwork and building tension, but, if anything, it’s all the more unexpected (contrary to the client’s facetious, “Weren’t the clues obvious enough?”).

Perez delivers a simple, character-centric style similar to Marcus To over on Red Robin, but his lines are thicker and less refined, giving an even cartoonier look (thanks to bold coloring choices by Major) to the proceedings.  His work seems a bit looser and sloppier than usual, as the characters lose some of the dramatic depth he used to deliver so well before.

Conclusion: Miller tries to paint over the major gear-shift in story as best he can, and there are some enjoyable moments, but this is definitely not the way anyone expected this series to go.

Grade: B-

– Minhquan Nguyen

Some Musings: – I’m actually shocked, considering all the oftentimes excruciating repartee heroes and villains deliver in battle, that they don’t scream, “Shut up!” more often.