Pick of the Week

Pick of the Week – 01.12.2011 – Batgirl #17

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498
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Avg Rating: 4.7
iFanboy Community Pick of the Week Percentage: 21.1%
 
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Written by BRYAN Q. MILLER
Art by PERE PEREZ
Cover by DUSTIN NGUYEN

Size: 32 pages
Price: 2.99

In these days of marketing machines and heightened expectations it is often rare that a comic book that I am really looking forward to not only completely meets, but exceeds my expectations. Such was the case this week with Batgirl #17.

Two of my favorite characters in comic books right now are Stephanie Brown AKA Batgirl and Damian Wayne AKA Robin and when I saw that they would be teaming up in this issue I was really excited and immediately marked it down in my tattered mental calendar as an issue to look forward to. Their brief interactions in this title in the past have been a blast — to say that Damian has no respect for Stephanie would be an understatement — and now we were going to get a whole issue devoted to a team-up? Fantastic!

And fantastic it was.

There’s trouble in Gotham City (shocking, I know). Someone is kidnapping elementary school kids and Bruce Wayne Batman (or, as Stephanie refers to him in this issue, “Batman-Batman”) has assigned Batgirl to look into it. Also on the case is Robin who really wasn’t actually investigating the kidnappings in the first place, but seems to have taken to observing kids his age around Gotham City, for reasons made clearer later in the issue, and while doing so witnessed some suspicious behavior which, upon investigating, brought him on a collision course with Batgirl and the kidnappings.

(The previous run-on sentence was in tribute to Stephanie Brown who I feel like would talk in them constantly.)

There’s nothing ground-breaking about Batgirl #17, its greatness is found in its simplicity. Take two characters who, on the surface, don’t really like each other (but deep down really actually do), throw them together and watch the sparks fly. It’s a storytelling technique as old as stories themselves and the reason why it has endured for so long is that when it is done right there isn’t a whole lot that really works better.

To Robin, Batgirl is a dumb girl (remember, he’s 10) who isn’t worthy of his father’s symbol. To Batgirl, Robin is an annoying and arrogant little twerp. When they have to work together, the pairing is more fun than any other in comics. In a lot of ways, Batgirl is the true polar opposite Batfamily member to Robin. She’s all about having fun on the job – she quips, she laughs, and she awkwardly flirts her way through her nightly adventures. Robin doesn’t know how to have fun unless it involves stabbing someone. Batgirl #17 is ostensibly about Batgirl and Robin investigating a mass child kidnapping but it’s really about the growing relationship between Batgirl and Robin, more specifically, it’s about Batgirl’s growing understanding of Robin. It’s her book so we’re let inside her head as she begins to understand that underneath this annoying and arrogant twerp is a 10 year old kid that doesn’t have the first clue as to how to be a kid. When they have to go undercover on a school field trip, Batgirl is horrified and then saddened when she finds out that Damian doesn’t know how to play with other kids. (And her heart melts when another kid asks Damian his name and he awkwardly says “Bruce”.)  By the end of this issue Batgirl’s big sisterly affection for Damian is real and when she takes him to an amusement park to jump on a Moon Bounce it’s one of the most touching moments of the week.

The introduction of Damian Wayne is one of the best things to happen in comics in a long time. He’s one of those great characters that can be paired up with all kinds of other different characters, usually to wonderful results. It worked terrifically in Superman/Batman #77 where Josh Williamson and Ale Garza put Robin and Supergirl together and the results are even better here.

But while Damian Wayne has been one of the best things to happen in comics in a long time, he also might be the trickiest. His voice is very precise and when it’s done wrong he comes off as caricature. Grant Morrison, obviously, writes the best Damian, but a strong second would be Batgirl writer Bryan Q. Miller. The isn’t the first time that Damian has appeared in Batgirl but every time he has appeared it has been clear that Miller has down pat that delicate mix of arrogance and vulnerability that makes Damian such a fun character. And I wasn’t the least bit surprised because Miller has become, very quietly, one of the best writers at DC Comics. He has turned Stephanie Brown into one of the most fun, funny, and relatable characters in all of comics.

I really am a big fan of Dustin Nguyen. He was a big reason why I loved Batman: Streets of Gotham and now that that book has ended, he’s the new regular artist on Batgirl and I’m not yet used to the change. Nguyen’s style is so different from that of previous regular artist Lee Garbett that it’s thrown me, ever so slightly, off my Batgirl groove. Luckily, Batgirl #17 features the guest art of Pere Perez, who is not only a fine artist in his own right, but whose style is much closer to Garbett’s. Batgirl just feels right drawn this way. Nothing against Nguyen — again, who I love — but I’d be more than fine with Perez as artist on Batgirl.

Batgirl #17 is a comic book rarity these days. It tells a complete story that is compelling, emotional, and not lacking action, and it does it all in just 22 pages. I’ve talked a lot about Batgirl over the last year, it truly is one of my favorite titles, and if you have at all wondered about the book, if you have at all thought about giving it a shot, then I urge you to check this one out. You don’t have to know anything; you don’t have to be following any storylines here or anywhere else. Batgirl #17 is just two great characters playing off each other while solving a crime and reading it was by far the most fun I had with my comics this week.

Conor Kilpatrick
I wish I had a butler who brought me a big stack of pancakes every morning.
conor@ifanboy.com


 

Comments

  1. Crap, if i had know Damian was in this I would have snagged it.

  2. Paul Montgomery Paul Montgomery (@fuzzytypewriter) says:

    Go Team Batgirl!

  3. I knew this was going to eventually happen.  Glad you liked it.

  4. This was fabulous.

  5. Can’t wait to get my DCBS shipment with this issue in it!

  6. Sure wish my shop’s comics hadn’t been delayed.

  7. Awesome! I won’t read this for a while but Batgirl has been such a great book, I doubt this will be any exception.

  8. Excellent pick. I love how Perez drew Damien as his actual age.

    Can someone reccommend a run/trade that is Damien-centric? I only know him from the past year and a half when he started being Robin with Dick.  

  9. @HailScott  Perez? I thought it was Nguyen.

  10. @Ilash  Not in this issue.

  11. @conor  It must be great that the Batman line seems to be on fire lately, with nearly all the books being very good.

  12. @Suicidalkangarooz  It is.

  13. 100% DC POW’s for 2011!!! You guys are sooooooooo biased.

    No, seriously. I’ve been meaning to check Batgirl out for a while. It really does sound like a fun book. But let me guess. DC hasn’t put out any trades yet?

  14. @j206  There’s a trade. Or like I say in the review, check this issue out. It’s a lot cheaper to sample one issue than a whole trade.

  15. I was mentioning on our show how the slickest thing I felt Morrison did, was to take Damien and drop him in Dick’s care, and I stand by that. It completely took him out of his expected safe zone, and story wise, I could see how this would make the biggest impact on him. He was completely ready for Bruce, and when that gets taken away, that ten year old is forced to grow in all the ways other than what he anticipated. Loved this book. For more of this “flavor”, he was recently teamed up with Supergirl in the Superman Batman title.

  16. I picked this up o whim, after hearing such great things about it for a while, and I enjoyed a lot. In some ways it reminded me of veronica mars

  17. This was my first issue of Batgirl – attracted by that magic combination of a light stack, cool cover, and noticing Damian in the solicit – and I loved it. I’ll definitely be back next month.

  18. How dare damian besmirch Alfred’s cooking skills

  19. Heya, loved this issue and not to be that guy… but Pere Perez drew the issue and Streets isn’t over yet.

  20. why is the first Batgirl trade for this series so expensive? Guessing out of print already?

  21. If Conor’s review hadn’t been enough to convince me, comparing Stephanie to Veronica Mars would have done it. I’ll definitely pick this up.

  22. @conor – Thanks for pointing out the trade. I’ve read an issue before and found it fun. But I’m one of those annoying ocd readers who prefers to read from the start of a writer’s run.

  23. I picked this up because of all the buzz on the book and the prescence of Damian and was not disappointed. A very funny and clever little character study. Loved the two page spread with the crossing guard strung upside down while Batgirl and Robin trade funny banter. Being a standalone tale with a guest artist I don’t if it gave me a feel for what the book will always be like, but I enjoyed it enough that I think I’ll try the next issue.

  24. Batgirl is the new Power Girl, the new Thor: TMA. Keep the ball rolling!

  25. I’m snowed in.  No comics this week, which means,  thanks for the heads-up, I’ll pick this up after I’ve shovelled out tomorrow.

  26. The cabbie beads on the driver’s seat in the bus made this for me.

    (Because I’m a fucking weirdo.) 

  27. I picked this up. Very disappointed it wasn’t Nguyen on art. The book wasn’t anything special in my mind. Miller’s voice for Damian was much too harsh at this point in time and the overall plot bored me.

  28. Haven’t read this issue yet, although I love the podcast people, why hasn’t this crew read or picked for the PotW “T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents” #3? That titles deserves some dap and some love from the crew, Nick Spencer is writing a masterpiece that could be compared to Watchmen. Very good stuff and totally recommended.

  29. this is my first Batgirl issue…and i sooo agree with you

  30. @Curse7781  I’m reading it.

  31. I am so pleased that this got the pick of the week. This series in filling the hole that Power Girl left.

  32. This was definitly a fun issue and a nice cleansing read after Supes this week. Nice to know DC can still actually make comics that are fun. But I digress. Damian has definitly one me over and may just stand as the single best contribution to DC comics Grant Morrision has ever made, and the man has made more than a few. So teaming up Damian with Batgirl=Fun. Teaming up Damian with Teen Titans=Fun. And teaming up Damian with Dick (especially when written by Paul Cornell)=Fun. This leads to only one logical conclusion. We need a monthly Damian team up book ala Marvel Team Up or Deadpool Team Up. Call it Brave & the Bold: Damian edition if you like, just as long as this book happens. Now. 🙂

  33. I can’t wait to read this issue.  This series has been fantastic from the get go.  Glad to see it get some PoW love, but trust me when I say this people:  it’s this good every month!

  34. @StorytellerSJK – EXCELLENT IDEA! A Damien Team Up Book i would totally buy that book.

  35. This was a great review/recommendation.  I actually made a special trip yesterday (Thursday) just for this book even though I already picked up my pull-list the day before.  Damien has also got me reading Teen Titans as well, such a great character.

  36. Never picked up Batgirl before, but did after seeing it was the POTW and that Damian was in it. Loved it. Loved it more than Batman & Robin this week. It was fantastically good and I might have to stick around.

  37. Made it to the shop yesterday and bought as much of the currect series as I could find. It really is a great book!

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