There have been a few Batgirl incarnations and people usually have a favourite among them – the original Barbara Gordon either in her pre Killing Joke appearance or her New 52 and beyond stories, Cassandra Cain’s journey and Stephanie Brown who held the mantle from Bruce Wayne’s “death” up until the New 52. With the launch of New 52, Stephanie Brown’s history was removed and changed back to Spoiler which means that the Batgirl: Stephanie Brown issues are a slice of a past that is no longer canon and to me, makes it extra special and enjoyable.
This review is of the first volume of the newer edition of the Batgirl: Stephanie Brown which collects Batgirl #1-13. Special, yes, but is it any good? Let’s find out.
Cassandra Cain’s Batgirl was perhaps on the darker side and was Batgirl during some dark times, too such as No Man’s Land and (sadly for both Cain and especially Steph, War Games). Brian Miller has come to brighten up the character a bit while still retaining what Batgirl as a hero means – a kick ass team player with a bite to match her bark and Stephanie Brown is definitely that. People tend to use the word sass when it come to Stephanie Brown and that was definitely in the front of Miller’s mind as sass comes out in droves during Batgirl Rising.
Batgirl: Stephanie Brown is now collected in two simple volumes with the first being the first thirteen issues of Batgirl Rising and makes it much easier to collect the whole thing. It also makes the collection a bit cheaper per issue than the previous collections. 13 issues, 330 pages for under £$20 is an absolutely bargain especially if it’s a book of decent quality as well, which it is and we’ll get to in much more detail shortly.
Stephanie Brown is a vibrant character and in Batgirl Rising has been written to be a very realistic nineteen year old considering the circumstances. She doesn’t plan ahead, she doesn’t have all the answers and she can’t stop talking even during a big fight with a supervillain. This makes Steph as Batgirl a thoroughly enjoyable read even if on the immature side. More mature than Cameron Stewarts New 52 Batgirl but definitely less mature than Gail Simone’s Batgirl. Then again, if you wanted mature you wouldn’t consider Batgirl in the first place would you? In my opinion, the tone Miller sets with Steph is absolutely perfect and exactly what I want from a Batgirl book regardless of who’s under the cowl.
Now, the plot(s). There’s a few storylines included in this and although they are decent they do take a backseat to Stephanie’s characters development and world building. The first story, Point of New Origin, explores Stephanie getting Cain’s cowl and costume and hitting the streets. Obviously this draws the attention of previous Batgirl and fan favourite Oracle who demands her to stop. Stephanie being Stephanie doesn’t and the rest of the storyline sees Stephanie overcome obstacles and earns her right to the cowl, which Oracle concedes to in the end.
Field Test is Stephanie’s first Batgirl encounter in her new suit against a supervillain. You could say this is her official unveiling storyline and to be honest it’s a pretty decent issue overall that is written well and drawn perfectly. The relationship between Oracle and Stephanie Brown truly begins here and it’s one of if not the highlight of volume 1 of Batgirl: Stephanie Brown. Oracle is cool, calculated and methodical whilst Steph is the complete opposite… and it works! There’s a sub plot also emerging here involving Wendy, th daughter of Calculator, who is having a seriously tough time getting to grips with losing the use of her legs and Oracle having a very tough time breaking through. Despite Batgirl: Stephanie Brown being the title Oracle does get an awful lot of page space and we aren’t complaining.
In the next arc, Core Requirements, Steph finally has a run in with the then Batman and Damian. Obviously relations are a bit frosty at first but an explosive situation with Batman and a daring rescue from Team Batgirl get them in line. We knew it was going to happen but it was the way in which Miller wrote the encounter with them both, in particular Stephanie and Damian’s exchanges were marvellous and Core Requirements easily becomes the best arc of the book so far.
The final two arcs are a one and done issue with Red Robin (Tim Drake) called Robins are Red where Drake shows his face again, scolds Stephanie but Stephanie stands up for herself. It’s a filler issue between the last proper story and the next but it works quite well as Tim and Steph have quite the history. Stephanie is growing more and more in confidence as Volume 1 goes on and she’s not just playing dress up any more, she is a great superhero in her own right and together with Oracle she is a force to be reckoned with to the criminal underworld…and of course, sassy!
The final storyline, The Flood, is a four issue action packed arc where the Wendy/Calculator/Oracle plot finally comes full circle. It sometimes borders on the line of being farfetched, especially when Wendy flies a massive plane into a building and Calculator/Oracle have it out inside their minds. It’s not the best but it’s not the worst but it does set the tone moving forward that Stephanie Brown as Batgirl is here to stay and all the characters are now set in their roles which means that Volume 2 should be a bit more free and original.
Artwork throughout is of a very high quality and consistent throughout, the inks and lines match the tone very well. In particular, the drawings of the characters really pop out and Steph in her new costume looks fab.
Overall, Batgirl Stephanie Brown Volume 1 is fantastic value for money due to just how much you get and the high quality content inside. If you’re a Batgirl fan then this is a no brainer as Steph only held the mantle for a short time. If you’re a fan of DC pre New 52 then this will be right up your street.
We highly recommend this one.
Last update on 2021-03-01 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API