This issue is “Batgirl” in a nutshell. It’s a fun romp on a ray of sunshine through the Dark Knight’s corner of the DC Universe. It’s a quick bouncing tour around the life of Batgirl, but it’s a nice encapsulation that welcomes everyone in.
Set upon her first mission for “Batman Inc.,” Batgirl winds up crossing paths with Damian Wayne as both are given the same task of finding missing children.
Given an opportunity to play Damian against Alfred, Bryan Q. Miller shows just how unflappable Alfred Pennyworth truly is. From one scene, very early in this book, Miller makes it known that he understands the world Stephanie Brown is part of.
The bickering between Stephanie and Damian makes this issue soar. The two bicker like siblings, but Miller lets us into Batgirl’s thoughts to see that her nagging of the Boy Wonder stems from a genuine concern that Damian might not know how to properly live his life. That is where the most interesting parts of this story really stem from. Sure, Batgirl and Robin are trying to crack a case for Batman, but it’s a case that doesn’t involve a major baddie from Batman’s Rogues Gallery, so naturally this story becomes a character piece.
After two issues of “Batgirl,” Dustin Nguyen gets a breather. Pere Perez capably fills in, delivering some of the best art I’ve seen in a comic in 2011 (OK, I know 2011 is less than two weeks past, but this art is spectacular). Perez mixes up the expression mastery of Kevin Maguire with the ability to render detail on nearly the same level as his namesake, George Perez. Perez doesn’t stop there, though, as he plays around with the page layouts and panel setups, delivering panels framed like bat-binoculars and shattered windows. Perez does a great job telling the story through the panels, frequently repeating panel set-ups to great effect as it shows the motion and interaction of those in the panels. There is a sequence of seven panels where Robin and Batgirl are bickering about their investigation being foiled by the other, while a suspect hangs nearby. The panels are insanely detailed, with brick and mortar in the background and the three figures in the foreground. The suspect’s struggle with gravity provides visual humor and realism while Batgirl and Robin act within each other’s space.
This book, inexplicably, finds ways to get better and better. I’ve enjoyed this title since issue #1, and I’ve seen a few artists filter through this book. With each artist, I fear that “when so-and-so leaves, this book is gonna be hurting.” Bryan Q. Miller, apparently, can read my mind and raises the bar for this book with each consecutive issue. With each and every issue, Miller’s artistic collaborator steps up to the challenge and delivers a book that sings.
This is a series about the emergence of Batgirl into the role of a hero, a leader, and a wonderful person. It’s a beam of sunshine on the new comics’ racks, and it does a great job of brightening my day once every month.