Oh, what a pleasant surprise. I have to be honest, I kind of just picked this up on a whim. I’ve always had a passing interest in Cloak and Dagger—while I’ve never actively sought them out, I always appreciated them when they made appearances in various titles I’d be reading. Hearing about this miniseries, I was a little turned off at first by the idea that it’s a tie-in to the “Spider Island” event. Oh, another event? Another tie-in? I was ready to pass on this. I was gonna pass on it so hard, its face was gonna hurt.
Well, something obviously changed my tune. I’m not sure if it was the preview art, the fact that there was a female creator on the book, or just the overall badassery of Cloak and Dagger that convinced me to give it a try, but I’m glad I did. This was enjoyable.
While this story does function as a tie-in to Spider Island, I’d argue that it’s a pretty loose one. I’m not reading Spider Island at all, but I could get into the setting for the story quite easily from the recap page, and then it’s all more or less relegated to the background from there. This is not so much about Cloak and Dagger reacting to Spider Island as it is just about Cloak and Dagger themselves, their relationship, and what makes them tick in the midst of all the action. These are the types of stories I always want to read, and Nick Spencer, despite being quite a busy man these days, appears to deliver. Here, we learn that the duo is being evicted from their makeshift home inside a church. Cloak takes matters into his own hands and arranges a “Heroes for Hire” type of setup for the pair, of which Dagger is critical. What makes the events and discussions in this issue so interesting, though, is how it’s all laid out for us by Emma Rios. The artwork most certainly amplifies the dialogue coming out of the characters’ mouths, particularly during one double-page spread that’s done just achingly well. Rios plays with Cloak and Dagger’s dark and light, yin and yang, form and function aspects of their personalities, and it accompanies the script in a way that’s complementary, not overbearing.
If I have any reservations regarding the script, I’m worried Nick Spencer will just beat us over the head with this yin yang analogy for the rest of the mini, but I’m hoping that isn’t the case. I feel like he’s a talented enough guy not to go that route, and I think the remaining issues should be equally good if not better. Oh, one weird thing—there’s a part where the Avengers show up, and Wolverine has some pretty skeevy dialogue when talking to Dagger. I don’t really get it. It seemed noticeably off to me. Meh—if that’s the worst thing, I’ll take it. I’m actually kind of anxious to learn what happens, especially when you consider who the villain of this is—which I’ll let you find out for yourselves.
If you’ve got some room in your pull list to play around, check out Cloak and Dagger.
Well … that was fun while it lasted. I guess this isn’t a review of this issue alone so much as of the series overall, as Bryan Q. Miller wraps up two years writing what has been a truly wonderful book. I’ve voiced my devout love of this series before on this blog, so it’s probably unsurprising that I was nearly in tears reading the final issue of something I have cherished for the last 24 months. That’s how good this title has been, that I can get this emotional over its ending. Although I’m looking forward to reading the “New 52” Barbara GordonBatgirl under Gail Simone, I can’t help but feel major heartbreak over losing a character I never expected to love this much—Stephanie Brown.
Bryan Q. Miller does a great job in concluding the series with this issue. Readers from the last issue will recall the unexpected appearance of Stephanie Brown’s father, Cluemaster—the catalyst that set Stephanie off parading as a vigilante in the first place during her Spoiler days. This is Steph’s first meeting with her dad since she was “killed,” and it’s a dramatic one. I only wish Miller had more time and more issues to write and develop this encounter (his plans were cut short via the reboot mandate; read the interview here). As it is, he uses this opportunity to bring Steph on a “what if” style adventure—what could have been for her, what she dreams of her legacy as part of the Bat family, what could await her in the future, etc. I’ll leave it to you to discover the plot device Miller uses to bring all this about; it’s something I haven’t seen in a while, so there’s a bit of nostalgia there, and I really enjoyed it. The artwork by Pere Perez does a lovely job of conveying the ideas present, and Dustin Nguyen’s cover is beautiful and perfect—as his stuff always is. Man … this is depressing. I’m going to miss this book so hard.
If you’ve never read this title, you’ve really missed out on something special. Fans who once clamored for Cassandra Cain are now clamoring for Cass AND Steph, and hey—how awesome would a TEAM BATGIRL book be?! We struck gold with this incarnation of Batgirl, and all I can do is wait patiently for Steph’s triumphant return. Her happy-go-lucky, never-say-die attitude means she’s bound to come back eventually. Right?
I asked a few different people at the comic shop this week what they thought of Fear Itself #2. The common response was “I don’t know. Hammers?”
Birds of Prey #12 – Gail Simone continues to effortlessly impress me, as this latest issue of Birds of Prey finds the ladies come face-to-face with a villain from Simone’s Secret Six. I always love when a writer cross-references work from other titles to provide a sense of continuity, assuming it’s done well, and Simone has no problem incorporating one of her own creations here. I’m eager to see how the Birds will handle the threat—after all, this group is far from being anything like the Six, and it’s a pretty ridiculous villain we’re talking about. A few refreshing elements to this issue: Zinda taking a more upfront role in the team’s current mission; Helena attempting to recruit and subsequently teaming up with The Question; and Hawk & Dove in the backseat of the story so far—the less of them, the better as far as I’m concerned. I like this book to concentrate on its core members—Babs, Dinah, Helena, and Zinda. Spotlight guests are welcome, but let’s keep them that way. When it’s just those four, the story seems to flow better, the quips come easier, and the tone throws it back to the good old days of the Birds book. Jesus Saiz comes on board for art duties here—I feel like I haven’t seen enough to really judge if I like him or not, but his stuff IS good. I’m not sure why Birds of Prey has been given the finger as far as not having a steady artist—a book as stellar as this month after month should have some priority and artistic consistency—but hopefully things change now with Saiz in the hot seat.
Batgirl #21 – As much as I love Birds of Prey, these days I think I’m never happier than when I’m reading Batgirl. I love this book SO MUCH. I love Stephanie Brown, I love Bryan Q. Miller’s writing, I love the unapologetic humor, the fantastic artwork by Dustin Nguyen, the overall happy-go-lucky, FUN tone of this book. How I went so long before this title without Stephanie Brown in my life is a mystery to me, and the awesomeness that makes Batgirl what it is just continues to flourish with each story arc. Issue #21 continues Stephanie’s fight against The Order of the Scythe as she engages their newest member, Harmony. Not only does she have to deal with new foes, however; she’s also losing some allies. With Barbara stepping away from her Oracle persona, Proxy also breaking the news that she’s heading out on her own search for self-discovery, and the Grey Goose “betraying” Steph (though unbeknownst to her and, frankly, probably welcome), they’re dropping like flies. I love Bryan Q. Miller using the Goose’s obnoxious persona as a mirror to how Steph herself began as the arguably annoying Spoiler—it works hilariously well. What DOESN’T work well is what I propose to be this sense of urgency Miller has tried to build up over Proxy and her decision to leave team Batgirl. I don’t know enough about Proxy to really care or empathize; quite frankly, I’m kind of excited to see her go. Let’s focus this back on Batgirl and let her awesomeness shine on its own. It’s what got me into this book, and it’s what will keep me here.
Amazing Spider-Man #661 – I don’t read any Spider-Man titles on a regular basis; rather, I pick them up here and there when something catches my eye or sounds interesting. I wasn’t planning on reading this issue until my ever-hilarious friend and sometimes co-worker Dario urged me to check it out. I’m so, so glad he did, because this issue was … um, “Amazing.” Christos Gage temporarily takes over the writing duties, and he does a damn fine job—I was laughing out loud on almost every page as Spider-Man attempted to substitute teach Hank Pym’s problem children. Sampling the work here has made me want to check out his Avengers Academy; I’ll definitely be going back and picking up the first trade now. You know when you get into a stretch where you just seem to pick up bad issue after bad issue after bad issue of titles, and you get to a point where you’re like “Geez, do good writers EXIST anymore, or is it all just a world of Judd Winicks and Matt Fractions”? Then you pick up a Mike Carey or a Gail Simone and it’s THEN that you remember why you read comics in the first place. Your faith in the medium is restored. This is what this issue of Spider-Man was for me: faith-renewing. Thank you, Mr. Gage.
Captain America and the First Thirteen #1 (One-Shot) – I’ve been waiting for this one-shot for months, not realizing it had come out in March. Woops. Well, I guess I don’t mind the wait, because it wound up being pretty good. The ingredients are all there—Cap, Peggy Carter, wonderful artwork, and Kathryn Immonen doing the writing? That’s a win. We get a backstory here set during Cap’s time with the Resistance. It’s one of those stories that, although arguably “unessential” for our knowledge of the continuity, still adds a unique layer to the characters and their relationship that the reader may not have gotten otherwise. There’s war, drama, strong women, humor, and smart lines left and right. Some might call it a “throw away;” I call it an entertaining read that gets me even more excited for the upcoming Cap movie. Ch-check it out!
X-Men: Legacy #248 – This is THE X-Men title to read. The rest is toilet paper.
X-Men: Prelude to Schism #1 & 2 – Ummm … what? What the hell is this junk? Oh my God. Aforementioned faith is once again destroyed. I quit comics … (for the third time this week). Okay, seriously—this is such an utterly pointless mini. Issue two was a carbon copy of issue one, and neither part bothers to accomplish anything aside from attempting to illustrate Cyclops as some sort of savior to mutantkind. I say “attempting to” because what it ACTUALLY accomplishes is just a bunch of whining. This is two issues worth of Cyclops trying to make a decision—a decision on what, you ask? We don’t know! You aren’t going to be told, dear reader—and the best part is we have still another two issues left to go. Don’t waste your time with this. If you’re looking for a worthwhile X-book event to read, go back and pick up Mike Carey’s Age of X storyline in X-Men: Legacy. You need Prelude to Schism the way you need syphilis.
Holy cow, is this book awesome. There has not been a single issue of this title that’s come out yet where I haven’t laughed out loud during at least one scene, and this issue was no exception. But before I get into what’s going on in the title, I need to make a statement: Stephanie Brown is no Cassandra Cain.
That’s precisely why this book is so great.
Whenever I bring up Batgirl in a conversation at the comic shop, read about Batgirl online, what-have-you, someone always inevitably conjures the opinion that “Stephanie Brown sucks, Cassandra Cain was a way better Batgirl, waah wah waaah.”
Er, okay. I don’t have anything against Cassandra Cain, but that’s comparing apples and oranges.
I’ve said it before, and it bears repeating: Stephanie Brown is a totally different type of Batgirl. She’s not a hard-trained, hyper-violent, kick-Batman’s-ass-in-a-fight type of Batgirl, like Cassandra. Stephanie is a clumsy, self-deprecating, save-the-day-while-narrowly-avoiding-destroying-Gotham-a-second-time type of Batgirl. She’s not the daughter of Lady Shiva–she’s a college kid. That makes her relatable. It’s also what makes her absolutely adorable and hilarious. And in a comics world full of darkness and angst (despite how “Bright” the Day), Stephanie is happy-go-lucky in the face of whatever’s thrown her way. It’s kind of a nice breather.
If you’ve given this book a chance and it still hasn’t whet your appetite, then fair enough—although I do want to argue that with the bureaucracy of its first year done and gone, the book can certainly only get even better as it has less boundaries and more freedom to play around. You might want to consider giving it another round, particularly with this issue. If you’re reading Supergirl, Red Robin, Teen Titans, etc.—you should be reading Batgirl. If only for this:
There, in a few quick pages, you have the essence of what makes this title such an entertaining read. I was originally somewhat worried about Dustin Nguyen taking over art duties on this book, but after those few recap pages, any fear I had flew rather swiftly out the window. As much as I will miss Lee Garbett’s awesome stuff, I can rest easy that Batgirl is in very capable hands.
There’s not much more to add. Bryan Q. Miller is a gem writing Stephanie—one that I would hate to see go away due to low readership. To address the script in specific terms would take away something, I think. I don’t want to give you a plot summary of this book/issue, suffice it to say that anything can and often does happen. We’ve seen everything so far from heartfelt stories to general hilarity; Barbara saving Batgirl’s skin and vice versa; teamups with Dick, Damien, and Kara, and quite possibly my favorite moment in Stephanie’s short history as Batgirl where she accidentally slaps Bruce in the face. What more can you really ask for?
A number of interesting questions are up in the air right now as far as the Batgirl mythos, and it involves all three ladies who’ve donned the Batgirl name. Last week’s Batman: The Return one-shot saw Stephanie questioning and loudly disapproving her new assignment under Bruce to apparently relocate to an English boarding school. The original Batgirl herself, Barbara Gordon, is surprised when Bruce introduces her to “Internet 3.0” (whatever that is), instructs her to customize her “avatar” as she sees fit, and the accompanying image shows Barbara in her own Batgirl uniform. Cassandra Cain, meanwhile, made a brief reappearance in the last issue of Red Robin, wherein Tim Drake offers her her former uniform and invites her back into the Bat family—which Cassandra is seen to consider before fleeing. Is there room for three Batgirls? Given the shift toward “Batmen” around the globe, I have to wonder what’s next for these ladies, and for Stephanie in particular. But until the day that we see Steph, Cass, and Barbara fighting side-by-side in uniform, I will continue to cheer on the current Batgirl as Cassandra Cain’s successor.
Publisher: DC Comics
Written by Bryan Q. Miller
Art by Dustin Nguyen, Derek Fridolfs
Colors by Guy Major
Letters by Sal Cipriano
Originally posted on 8/18/10 at Nerd Caliber’s Blog of Inquiries.
The DC solicitations for November are out, and it looks like Batgirl‘s getting a new artist in fan-favorite Dustin Nguyen. While it certainly piques my interest to see how Nguyen’s unique style will suit the fun and adventurous tone of Batgirl, I’m sad to see the stellar and consistent art of Lee Garbett leave the show. Garbett’s work has been a fantastic accompaniment to Bryan Q. Miller’s script, bringing Stephanie Brown to life as the titular character, and now, heading into year two, the general concensus seems to be that fans are happy with how the book’s been handled.
I don’t know about you, but when I’m happy with a team on a book, it can sometimes be jarring to learn of a creative change being made. Despite the fact that the duo of Miller and Garbett have been tackling Batgirl for over a year now, it still feels like such a small amount of time. One year is just long enough for me to grow attached; having the rug swept out from under me with an artistic change–despite the fact that I like Nguyen and am interested in seeing his take–is admittedly somewhat disappointing.
Such a shuffle, then, raises the question of whether or not creative teams should be required to stay on a title for a certain length of time. Marvel’s new Black Widow series, for instance, is already doing the creative team shuffle after just one story arc! I signed up for Marjorie Liu and Daniel Acuna, but as of issue six, I’m getting Duane Swierczynski and Manuel Garcia. Is this fair to the reader? Barring unforseen circumstances, should there be a required creative commitment of at least one year to start? Perhaps more if things are going well? Despite how this post may sound, I do like change. It’s part of what makes comics so great and exciting–the constant “new.” But you know what they say–if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. While I will continue to read and remain loyal to this title, right now, I almost wish they’d leave it alone just a little bit longer. I’ll miss you, Mr. Garbett–thank you for 14 great issues.