Batgirl #5

Story by
Art by
Sandra Hope, Lee Garbett, Oliver Nome
Colors by
Guy Major
Letters by
John J. Hill
Cover by
DC Comics

Bryan Q. Miller writes an incredibly enjoyable, completely believable Stephanie Brown. The costume she wears isn't a mask to hide behind, but rather an homage to a legend and a means to conceal her identity while also enabling her to do what she feels needs to be done. This book surprises me with its straightforward storytelling. As Stephanie herself says in this issue, "There's room in our line of work for hope, too." An odd decree from someone wearing the cape and the cowl that is so feared in Gotham City.

Of course, where there's one bat, there's a colony, as Batman and Robin show up in this issue. Batgirl's overzealousness leads to further confrontations and bickering among the Bat-family as Dick Grayson personally delivers a piece of his mind to Stephanie's mentor, Barbara Gordon. The results are not complete in this issue, but they are enjoyable. Damian's crazy stalker act, Barbara's unnecessary lashing out, Stephanie's defensiveness -- all of these put the humanity and insanity of the Bat-family on display.

Garbett's art is keenly detailed, yet restrained when the character interactions demand more attention. Garbett's style has flashes of Barry Kitson, intermingled with bits of Jim Calafiore's line quality and Marcos Martin's clean figurework, all of which add up to a seemingly custom-crafted artist for this title and this character. This book doesn't need to be submerged in shadows the way most Bat-books should be, but the shadows need to be readily available. Garbett understands that and delivers. He also brings some great storytelling -- check out the diner fight scene on the second-to-last page for an example of what I'm talking about.

This book is classic comics at its best. No disemboweling, no improper innuendo, just good old straight-forward superheroics. "Batgirl" is to 2009 what Mark Waid's run on "The Flash" was to the 1990s: a rare commodity that should be appreciated by more folks. At a time when the cowl seems to be threatening to dim Dick Grayson's shining personality, Stephanie Brown stands as a beacon of hope in the cowl. I grabbed this book to review it, figuring it'd be worth checking in on it again. From here, I think I've got another addition to my monthly pull list.

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