It’s Their World, We’re Just Living In It: Reviewing ‘Batgirls Vol 1’
by Scott Redmond
‘Batgirls’ is a truly unique series that gives the title characters their own corner of the world to play within and every page showcases how much the creative team loves not just these characters but Gotham and the whole of the Bat-related portion of the DC Universe. It’s a breath of fresh air and a shining beacon of hope taking place in a dark and sometimes overbearing world. This is the book that Batgirl fans have been waiting for.
Fans of Barbara Gordon, Stephanie Brown, and Cassandra “Cass” Cain have been waiting quite some time for the three to have a solid title to themselves as the bearers of the Batgirls title.
There were rumblings of such a title during the time that the whole line saw some shakeups when James Tynion IV took over as Batman writer all the way back at the start of 2020, and then again during the Future State event at the start of 2021. After the main Batman series got its own overhaul following Tynion’s departure late in 2021, the Batgirls, at last, have their own book.
Right away it’s clear that Becky Cloonan and Michael W. Conrad have quite a lot of love for these characters, picking up on their varied personalities. Even though the Oracle system and their Clock Tower base were destroyed, and they must lie low, there is still a lot of fun and upbeat energy in this book as the three get used to their new neighborhood and situation. The friendship between Cassie and Stephanie has always been a fantastic one and it does not disappoint here as they play off one another, for good and for bad, very well.
With a new series comes a new set of digs, and a place to call home. The Hill is a section of Gotham that has been mentioned and featured before, but it really feels alive and diverse here in this book. We’ve already gotten great views of neighbors of all types, even visiting the business of one and continuing to string along the ominous mystery of another neighbor at the same time.
Along with the new home and locale are some new villains, with ties to both the Fear State event that preceded this series as well as to the past of Barbara, which is fun. But what really sells the series is their interactions together.
Cass and Steph’s friendship is 100% goal, as they understand one another and support one another, and are there for each other. Just the moment where they both kept calling each other Batgirl when checking on themselves after the first Tutor encounter was so great. Babs is one of the best characters ever and has been perfect for the mentor role for decades and that continues here, just the scene with her and Cass passionately trying to convince Steph that she is strong and not a liability had me so happy.
Often new books like this, where characters who haven’t had a series of their own for a while are trying to build something, have a bit of trouble getting off the ground as they have a lot to build foundationally. That’s not the case here as Cloonan and Conrad are able to easily weave a tale that has the characters building up their new lives, dealing with their own new rogues, and fitting in tons of more personal character moments and it all flows so smoothly.
It’s all been helping build the Batgirls their own corner of this shared world, and not once has it relied on needing to have Batman or Nightwing or someone actually swoop in for a cameo or to save the day (though there are appearances/references). This is 100% Steph, Cass, and Babs’s book which is fantastic to see. Most importantly, the series is just extremely fun to read.
There are many elements that showcase how fun comics can be, and one of the significant things that instantly will give you a fun or light sort of vibe is the art that brings everything to life. We get that with the pairing of Jorge Corona and Sarah Stern.
Describing Corona’s art style in words feels so hard to do because it’s better to actually look at it. Wordwise though I would say that it feels slick, rough, detailed, and down-to-earth yet whimsical all at the exact same time. Action scenes are bursting off the pages with energy, like the amazing car chase scenes from a street-level POV that feel like we’re looking upward at Gotham looming over us. All the paneling choices deepen these feelings as we get great closeups of people or moments or actions as well as those greater wide shots that give us deeper glimpses into this world.
Gotham is a city with a variety of personalities within its neighborhoods, and nowhere is that clearer than within this book where this portion of the city just glows. One aspect that is very important here is how Corona depicts the area as not the ‘crime-ridden’ sort of look that everyone assumes for Gotham. It’s a very lived-in neighborhood that has some chaos to it, as Gotham does, but just looks like a place where people go about their lives as they try to make ends meet in this broken city. Each of the Bat-books in Gotham lately has done a very good job at depicting the various aspects of the city and giving it just as much visual flair and life as we see given to the various other DC Comics-created cities.
Stern pulls out all the variety of bright and popping colors that make this portion of Gotham look so different from others, which is not a dig at the rest of Gotham or other art. Truly one of the beauties of Gotham and the various Bat-books we’re getting currently is the various art teams have such varied visions that all work together because Gotham is a city that has so many unique quadrants and bits of personality to it.
Colorful colors can be found all over these pages, splashes of bright reds and greens alongside all the black and purple and Stern makes it all pop but also fit together. One thing that just caught my eye through the issues was the way the colors accurately change between the day and night scenes. In the daylight, they are still there but are muted, as things tend to seem in such bright sunlight, but in the evening and later scenes, those colors are brighter with pop while still being shadowy and somewhat muted. It’s such a great little touch not only for its realism but also for how it keeps things fresh and different throughout the book.
Becca Carey picks up the energy-filled baton and runs with it on the lettering side of things. This is an emotional book as noted above and that can be felt, as can all the distinctive personalities, through the dialogue as things like font size changes and styles really emphasize words or tones/volumes and show those personality flairs that set each character apart. Words bursting out of the standard bubble style are always a fun element to see brought into play, as are the varying style of SFX dotting the pages including the more mechanical ones. Fido robot’s little ‘woof woof’ could melt even the coldest ice hearts around.
There is a ton of fun on the pages already but the choice by this creative team to have the third-person narration caption boxes is one I support 100% because it perfectly fits this run’s tone. The purple box color and the almost typewriter-like font choice sell it even more.
Also, I’m a sucker for the codename logo font used in conversation. Give me all of that and I’m a happy camper.
No matter what is happening in the world or in one’s day, it is seemingly almost impossible to open an issue of Batgirls and not have a big smile or at least have a really fun time by the time the final page is turned.
Batgirls Volume One is now available from DC Comics.