One of the truest cores of Batgirls as a series is the relationship between Cassandra Cain and Stephanie Brown. Best friends that could not be more opposite yet also so similar to one another, from their tenacity and desire to help others down to their strained and often toxic relationships with their biological parents.
This relationship has been front and center through this current story arc, moving an overall plot line (with the Mad Hatter) forward but through the means of extensively focusing on these two Batgirls and their care for one another. In the last issue we witnessed how far and hard Cassie was willing to go in order to find her friend, and here we see that pushed even further as the two friends will do anything to protect one another.
I’ve long stated just how fun this series is but it also has a very emotional and serious dramatic side to it at the same time. Here Becky Cloonan and Michael W. Conrad lean far more into that emotional drama as we see just how toxic Cluemaster is and was as a father and how he’s been driven to the brink thanks to his resurrection. Stephanie is one of those characters that has been given space to have dramatic storylines here or there, but a lot of her time in the DC Universe has been in a more supporting role. I’m so glad that in the modern era, a number of creators have and continue to give her more and really dive into her world, and Cloonan and Conrad just do it all so much justice here.
While the final page of the last issue was effective, I knew Stephanie wasn’t dead there and they knew that I (well I guess they knew readers in general…but maybe it was me personally) knew that, and that final image we saw played into the overall hell that Cluemaster was putting Stephanie through in this issue. Truth be told though they flipped the whole board over again and caught me off guard when Stephanie moves to protect her friend and for a moment makes the ultimate sacrifice. No lie, I gasped and thought for a moment that we might be without Stephanie for a little while, knowing that she would come back at some point but not knowing when. Good thing Cass was around to make the choice to bring her friend back with that Lazarus Serum snagged in the previous issue.
I absolutely love this series and everything about it because it’s just so rich in character and emotion as they pull all the right strings to make this book dance the greatest of dances. People have wanted any of the Batgirls in their own book again for years, but truly the choice to put them all together in one book as Batgirls together was the greatest choice ever. Especially in the hands of these writers and the various talented artists, colorists, and letterers that they have been able to work with through these fifteen issues so far. This is a comic book that you hand to someone to show them how fun, powerful, meaningful, and just amazing comic books can be so maybe they’ll understand and join us in this amazing space.
With this issue, we get the return of Neil Googe and Rico Renzi handling the art and colors respectively after taking a couple of issues off. As noted this series tackles a lot of darker or hard topics or situations while able to maintain a lighter sort of feeling, and a lot of that comes from the choices in the art teams. Googe’s style very much hits that fantastical/whimsical feeling while carrying around a great weight in the darker and more brutal elements at play at any given moment. It’s terrifying meets sillier or more human-style moments, though this issue is heavier on the human element than the sillier bits.
Renzi’s colors bring that same energy, layering it on top of what is there to create an even deeper sort of effect. These are colors that are bright and vivid yet are toned down in a lot of spaces in order to create a real but also heightened state of reality, to remind us of the more down to Earth quality mixed with the very over-the-top quality that makes the Bat-line such an intriguing place to play.
This duality that the art and colors capture makes sure that moments that are meant to be painful feel that way despite the appearance of something lighter. It sort of throws the audience off guard before flipping that switch to cause them to gasp or scream or whatever else might come as they watch events unfold. We have action here but this is a far more personal story and the tight confines of the cabin help keep that feeling, the choices of so many close-ups and extreme close-up panels as we move through this encounter add to the confined and in-the-moment feeling. We’re right there in the room as Stephanie and Cass deal with Cluemaster and the pain he is causing.
A new letterer enters the space as Frank Cvetkovic joins the party and captures a ton of that same energy that others have before in this series. Right away the board is set as things like tone and volume are made abundantly clear with the choices for the font as well as its size and placement, allowing the emotional moments to have far more impact as they land. Because with those elements in play, we can actually ‘hear’ how the character might say a given line or just how they are feeling. One of the best elements is just how small the font for Cluemaster is in many cases, his voice coming off softer likely because of the neck injury that had in fact killed him in the past, giving it an even more creepy quality.
Batgirls #15 is now available from DC Comics.
One of the truest cores of Batgirls as a series is the relationship between Cassandra Cain and Stephanie Brown. BestCOMICONRead More