13 Aug 2011

Cover To Cover: BATGIRL #24

Writer: Bryan Q. Miller
Art: Pere Perez & Guy Major
DC $2.99

Stewart R: And so it is that all good things must come to an end. Over the past two years, Stephanie Brown’s life has been turned upside down and inside out as she worked hard to find her feet as a superhero in Gotham City and Bryan Q. Miller has been there every step of the way, shaping and moulding Stephanie’s adventures and displaying a real love for the character.

Unfortunately for Stephanie, Miller and the eager readership the giant hand of change is hovering over the snowglobe that is the DC Universe and is set for a good old shake of that container next month. When the contents finally comes to rest, Stephanie Brown will no longer be Batgirl and I for one am a little sad about that. And having read this week’s final issue of this volume I’d say that Mr Miller is too. With only 20 pages at his disposal, he wraps up the mystery of who had been pulling the strings of the Order of the Scythe and the Reapers all this time AND allows it to tie in with something of an ode to what could have been.

The reveal at the end of the last issue that showed that Stephanie’s father, the villainous Cluemaster, had been keeping a close eye on his daughter all this time brings things full circle as it was because of him all those years ago that she became Spoiler and started her superheroine career. There’s a brief and tense battling reunion of sorts and further evidence that Stephanie has the skills to fight through situations that turn against her. Admittedly this end to the Reaper story, which had been running on and off for the last 10 issues, feels a little anti-climactic and rushed but then I’m assuming that Miller’s hand has been forced somewhat by DC’s schedule and the desire/need to give Stephanie a decent send off. I’m quite willing to look past the swift ending to this particular case thanks to the rather excellent use of the Black Mercy flower as a plot point as it allows Miller and the very talented Pere Perez the excuse to show us several adventures that this iteration of Batgirl could have had - or still might? - in a brilliant montage of single page splashes. They’re all terrific fun and highlight just how much potential there is in this character...and creative team for that matter!

I’ll admit here and now I got a little moist in the eye when reading through the hospital scene as the subject of Stephanie’s secret identity has kept things interesting throughout the entire run and I thought that that particular scene was handled with just the right amount of subtlety and care. So too is the final, poignant rooftop meeting between mentor and pupil which drums home the fact that Miss Brown has gone from an unsure, teenager almost playing at crime-fighting to a young woman who’s fought through a difficult and troubled past to realise that she’s in control of her own destiny (regardless of what management at DC say!)

At the close of the final page I can honestly say that I loved this series from start to finish. Yes it’s unfortunate that certain plot threads didn’t get the opportunity for expansion or closure but such is a life in writing, illustrating and reading comics. What we certainly got was a series that remained true to it’s protagonist, kept things fun and inventive, managed to work when rolling the extended Bat-cast into the odd adventure and maintained a consistent aesthetic throughout thanks to the talented artists that contributed over the past two years. Even pushed with time and page constraints what has been delivered this week in the 24th and final instalment is the best tribute to Stephanie Brown, Batgirl that we could have asked for in the circumstances. 8/10

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