By David Kenney
She’s no comic pin-up. Sure, she might be sleek and curvy, but she’s also mute and deadly. She senses your body movements before you make them so flirting might end up hurting. She’s Batgirl, the anti-comic babe.
To fans of the ’60s Batman series, Batgirl played the cute part and saved Batman’s dark butt every once in a while. Barbra Gordon by day, Batgirl by night, her character involved the usual tinges of sarcasm and wit but little else. Then came the Batman and Robin Batgirl: valley-girl crusader Alicia Silverstone. Like, what a setback. No more.
Unlike her predecessors, the new Batgirl is no lowly sidekick. Replacing the bland sarcasm and wit are about 10 phrases and a relentless fighting force. A threat even Batman fears, the new Batgirl battles swiftly, but gently. A few bat-swacks are all she’ll inflict on anyone who asks for it.
Not that she hasn’t snuffed anyone out before. Raised to be an assassin, the teenager’s hazy past has the Dark Knight second-guessing his other option to Robin and Nightwing. With only issue four out, Batgirl’s mysterious history is creeping out to wreck her. Still, this history twists interest around this bat like cotton candy around a stick. Confronted about her past by the former Batgirl and present Oracle Barbra Gordon, Batgirl flees to dwell in her own darkness. And by the looks of the storyline, her problems are only just beginning.
Any bleak tone generated by the comic is offset by Batgirl’s child-like kindness to strangers and her calming demeanour. Reading her story is like watching a kid grow up, except this kid could snap your neck as easily as cracking open a pop can. She’s the underdog, the bat you want to fly out of her own nightmare.
That said, is she worthy of wearing the cape, cowl and bat insignia? Definitely. Batman boosts her worthiness in saying in issue four, "She was perfect. Not good. Not better than expected. Perfect." Better than that, she manhandles teen hero stereotypes, trading wisecracks for a sincere and mysterious demeanour with each bat-biting issue. And unlike Batman, she’s actually got a healthy sense of humour.
Dialogue may be sparse but the gorgeous artwork speaks volumes. If only more common comics made use of this type of show-don’t-tell visuals. Despite her perceived limitations, her weaknesses are stronger than those of any other teen character.
Who needs catch-phrases and gadgets? Maybe Batman, but not this dark knight. He can have his batmobile–this girl’s got great character. Wow, oh, wow. Holy, good comic, Batman, er, Batgirl.