I do have to hand it to “Batgirl” as a title; after sampling the title with its debut and not being grabbed by the book, it’s nice to sit down with some more recent issues and see things starting to shape up for the better. It’s apt for “Batgirl,” since Bryan Q. Miller is writing the series in part about how Stephanie Brown is slowly easing into her role as Batgirl, and it feels like he and Lee Garbett are doing the same thing as the creative team.
“Batgirl” #7 finishes up a three-part story co-starring Batman and Robin. While the cynical part of me knows that high profile guest stars can be good to draw additional attention to the book, Miller gets credit for using Batman and Oracle as being former fellow students who have found themselves with students in their old roles. With references to how Robin and Batgirl back in the day didn’t get along, our new Batgirl and Robin have a sparring relationship that doesn’t quite work. Damian Wayne as Robin is one of the toughest “voices” to get right these days, and Miller’s stab gets some of it right. He nails the fact that Robin finds himself superior to everyone else, but makes him sound like more of a schoolyard kid than an accomplished and ruthlessly smart juvenile. I was less impressed with his handling of Batman, who gets far too battered by simple problems so that Batgirl and Robin have someone to save. Taking a strong character down a few pegs to make your own character look tougher rarely succeeds, and this wasn’t one of the exceptions.
On the other hand, I do like that Miller’s been quietly carving out his own corner of Gotham City for “Batgirl.” With the new neighborhood of Devil’s Square (which needs some more fleshing out if we’re going to stay here) and little-used villains like Roxy Rocket and Livewire, he’s able to keep from stepping on other people’s toes and hopefully over time develop his own little pocket of characters. Having a few previous issues to catch up here, I found myself actually missing a bit of the university setting, or Wendy from Teen Titans. Hopefully they aren’t already done for now.
Garbett’s pencils remind me of J. Calafiore’s art, which is interesting since he’d drawn a recent “Batgirl” mini-series that’s unconnected to this one. There’s something about the way he draws the layers of characters’ hair, or the long and lanky bodies of his characters. It’s a nice style, and one that makes fully-clothed characters able to look sexy without flesh on display or strange attempts at provocative poses. What grabbed me the most, though, is that Garbett draws Damian Wayne exactly like Frank Quitely, but in Garbett’s own style. It’s a strange synthesis of two different artists; while the writing of Damian felt hit-and-miss, Garbett leaves no doubts on which character is in the Robin outfit here.
When I read “Batgirl” #1, I wasn’t interested in giving the series another shot. After seeing Phil Noto’s covers over the past few issues, though, I found myself curious enough to take a second look. (Proof, I guess, that a good cover artist can pull in additional readers!) I’m glad I did; Miller and Garbett are improving with each issue, something you don’t see often in comics. They may not be quite there just yet, but they’re getting closer and within reach. I’ll definitely take another look soon.