Batgirl #12

Batgirl #12

Batgirl #12
Cover by Stanley 'Artgerm' Lau

When too-full-of-themselves creators break the girl toys, at least the Bat-franchise has lesser-known writers who find ways to make them work in new ways. The most obvious example is Batgirl, who after Alan Moore crippled her as a plot device, was reinvented by writer couple Kim Yale and John Ostrander as Oracle, information source for the DC universe. Now, Bryan Miller is cleaning up Dan Didio’s mess from two years ago. In Teen Titans #62, Didio directed the fanboy in-joke of returning Wendy, Marvin, and Wonderdog to continuity only to turn it into a gore-fest. (Because that’s what readers of superhero teen teams want in Didio’s world: carnage.)

Ahem. Stupid as that idea and its aftermath was, I’ve been impressed by Miller’s reinvention of Wendy. Not to mention Stephanie Brown, who also was sacrificed as a plot device, only to now proudly carry the name of Batgirl. Daughter of the villain Cluemaster, she was killed after daring to take the name Robin, in a story that also ruined the supporting character Dr. Leslie Thompkins for no good reason. (Thank you, Bill Willingham, for once again making me queasy over the way you write women.) No one thought she was good enough for the title, usually for no reason other than that she was female. The guy who couldn’t manage to rescue her from a villain’s clutches and torture doesn’t get to tell her whether or not she can be a hero, in my book.

(Outside the comics, this event led to the forming of a feminist fan group, Girl-Wonder.org, over dismay at how previous Robins had been honored with memorials in the Bat-Cave, whether or not they stayed dead, while DC refused to do the same for the female version. That campaign has ended, but clearly, Willingham and others still need to learn from it, since making violent threats to those who criticize your comics and your politics isn’t particularly funny. After he ruined Shadowpact, good riddance to him on JSA.)

But now there’s hope! In the few issues I’ve read of this title so far, Batgirl has been mentored by Oracle, but the older woman has been kidnapped by the Calculator and put into some kind of mindscape. Batgirl’s going to rescue her, with the aid of Wendy, who it turns out is the Calculator’s daughter. She’s got computer skills, like Oracle, but although she’s in a wheelchair, Wendy’s also shown flying a rescue plane.

I admit, I didn’t get all the psycho background stuff Miller is doing to flesh out the villain, but that wasn’t the part I cared about. I really enjoyed seeing women fighting together and supporting each other. It’s nice to see some writer in the DCU other than Gail Simone crafting stories this way. I like that the “victim” got to be the one to ultimately take down the villain, with the support of the heroes. I like the way the women sound different and have different motivations. To those who think getting help weakens Batgirl as a character, I say, it’s more honestly female to consider collaboration a strength instead of a concern.

Wendy and Batgirl share a moment

And I like this message. Sure, Wendy’s new role is very close to Oracle’s, but DC has a handful of Flashes, a Super-Family, and a whole squadron of Green Lanterns. Why not a few more brilliant and beautiful information goddesses who demonstrate you don’t need to be able to walk to be heroic? Thank you, Bryan Miller, for turning Didio’s cardboard victim into someone I want to read more about, as part of this fascinating group of women, instead of leaving her behind. I hope we see more of Wendy in Batgirl, which I’ll be following. Maybe now that they’re fleshing out the supporting roles with new and reclaimed female characters, the next step is seeing more women carrying their own titles.


14 Responses to “Batgirl #12”

  1. James Schee Says:

    Sounds interesting, as I always liked Stephanie as Spoiler back when Dixon was writing Robin.

    Is that her costume? Very nifty! Combines her history as Spoiler with the classic Batgirl look. I think its good to give her a partner who does info other than Oracle too. With all the superheroes out there, it really doesn’t make sense that Barbara could do it all by herself.

  2. Johanna Says:

    True, and it likely makes it easier for the writer who wants an Oracle-like function but doesn’t want to impinge on Gail Simone’s Birds of Prey stories, where she’s a major cast member.

  3. Caroline Says:

    I agree wholeheartedly with this review, it nails exactly what I have loved about this run.

  4. DC Women Kicking Ass Says:

    I agree with your review, Miller really has done a great job with this book. I think DC is missing an opportunity to bring younger women into comics with Batgirl. I wonder if they will do some target marketing for the upcoming trade.

  5. DaVeO Says:

    Batgirl IS a great title and my fave of the Bat comics. Next issue she’ll be teaming up with Supergirl. This is a relationship that has already been explored in the World’s Finest mini series by Sterling (Supergirl) Gates showed an instant camaraderie between the two young women and I can’t wait to see how Miller writes it.

    As for more titles for females, yes, definitely please. Although DC is doing pretty darn good in my eyes lately. We have Batgirl, Supergirl (now past the 50 issue mark!), Power Girl, Wonder Woman, Gotham City Sirens, Zatanna, Birds of Prey and coming down the pike Batwoman.

    Over at Marvel we have…hmm, Black Widow and some one-shots and minis. Is this right? That’s a little sad.

  6. Caroline Says:

    As far as Marvel, She-Hulks, Spider-Girl & X-23 are launching as ongoings to keep Black Widow company. There are also women in high-profile positions on almost all of the team books (the adjectiveless ‘Avengers’ title being the major exception, hmmm. . .) Plus I wouldn’t be completely dismissive of the the minis & one-shots. . .it’s a different philosophy but the advantage is that it gives exposure to a lot of different characters.

    There are things to work on, for sure, but it’s not a completely easy/obvious straight-up comparison, because the companies are doing different things.

  7. DaVeO Says:

    I completely forgot about the new Spider-Girl! I like the artist they have lined up for it. I think She-Hulks is another mini, but yeah. Marvel is doing steps to get more exposure via mini’s and one-shots so I applaud them for that. X-23 too? Is Yost writing that?

  8. Caroline Says:

    I asked the artist about She-Hulks on Twitter and first he didn’t know then said it was an ongoing, but still didn’t seem totally certain. So it might be one of those ones that could go either way (or else it’s an ‘ongoing’ they’ll cancel after 4 issues ha ha ha *stab*. Sorry.

    I believe Marjorie Liu is writing the X-23 book. Also, I think Spider-Woman would still be happening if Alex Maleev had been able to commit to it, so that’s more bad luck than a luck of respect for the character.

  9. DaVeO Says:

    Spider-Woman being canceled was a let down (as was She-Hulk). I missed the whole Bendis/Maleev/Daredevil run so I was hoping to get on this wagon with an awesome heroine. Such a shame not even a year could be squeezed out.

    What’s actually kind of weird is that I don’t think Maleev suited the project (I know, I know pitchforks are headed my way). Just like I don’t feel Gaydos was good for the last Manhunter run, the series not the co-feature.

  10. Caroline Says:

    I liked both Maleev on Spider-Woman (though could have done without the motion aspect) and Gaydos on Manhunter. But I’ve heard the same sentiment elsewhere. It does seem like there’s sometimes an effort to combine the female-centric books with some other niche artist/attention getting project so they’re not ‘just’ female-superhero books. This can be successful as with the JH Williams work on Batwoman, but the Spider-Woman motion comic was kind of a bomb (at least from a fan/reviewer point of view) so that might have hurt the project.

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