Stephanie Brown, former Spoiler and onetime Robin, takes on the Scarecrow, a villain who has proven a huge headache for Batman and Robin on numerous occasions. Here, despite being half his size, never mind that she’s hallucinating from his latest toxin, she takes him out. Hard.
Possibly this has something to do with the fact that the new drug is a rage enhancer; it gives Steph the power to hoist Jonathan Crane on his own petard. Or maybe coat rack: The main thing seems to be that Steph was roused from a stupor by helper-in-her-helmet Oracle finally calling her ‘Batgirl’. This gave Steph the wherewithal to talk Scarecrow into submission, parroting back what she learnt in class that day.
Oh who cares, the fight with Scarecrow was just a long set-up for the emotional meat of the issue – original Batgirl making a vow to her second successor that she’ll give her whatever support she needs. Along with a new costume she has hanging up in the Batcave, in one of those ‘dead sidekick’ cases – is she trying to tell Steph something?
She’ll have a chance to tell Steph lots soon, as by the end of the issue Babs has gotten a job as assistant professor of something called ‘Comp480’ at Gotham University. Presumably that’s Computers 480 (please, someone explain US class titling), as information technology is pretty much all Babs could teach. Well, apart from librarianship, disguising masks as berets, crimefighting, congresswomaning, picking the ugliest spectacles in any situation . . . hey, she really is the whole package. Anyway Steph, have fun with your new mentor/stalker.
The issue closes on a happy note, with Batgirl leaping down on some crooks, all new utility bat-on (I’m surprised no one came up with that years ago) in her hands.
If there’s anything that’s going to keep me reading this book it’s a happy Steph. She’s been through an awful lot of angst (dad a costumed criminal, teenage pregnancy and giving up her baby, beaten up and forced to fake her death) so it’s pleasing to see her gung-ho on the streets of Gotham. She’s not quite ready for the Batgirl gig, and knows it. But she’s bright, willing, athletic and has Babs on hand to advise. I think she’ll get there. And along the way she can fill the light Batbook niche vacated by Tim Drake, who used to be happy little Robin but is now gloomy Red Robin.
Brian Q Miller’s script certainly keeps Steph likable, even when she’s gabbing away about philosophy. His Babs is a bit dour, but that’s likely to change now she’s gone through the motions of being stern experienced Bat-person and admitted she actually likes Steph. Wendy Harris, recently crippled daughter of the Calculator, looks to be a regular too, and it’ll be interesting to see what her role is. Maybe she and Steph could form a Daddy’s a Rubbish Rogue support group. Just so long as she isn’t an excuse for lots of appearances by the Calculator, who has been terribly overused these past few years.
Artists Lee Garbett, Trevor Scott and Sandra Hope work hard, taking us hither and yon around gargoyle-crazy Gotham. Cleverly, they have Batgirl looking darned impressive when posing alone on the rooftops, but the minute you see her next to another person you wonder how this little kid will survive the night. Scarecrow has rarely looked creepier and Babs . . . poor Babs. She’s a drab of the first order. Why I don’t know – speccie folk are tres sexy. Sort it out, Garbett!
Guy Major’s vibrant colours and John J Hill’s wonderfully clear letters finish off the creative package nicely. And Phil Noto’s cover is a keeper, with Steph looking at the reader in a challenging, but not teasing, way. Good trick, that.
So, first story over and I’m on board for a few more issues. Good luck, Steph.