This review of Batgirl issues 1-37 by author Kelley Puckett, Illustrations Damion Scott has been adapted from two previous posts. First is the spoiler free review followed by the spoiler full review and summary.
Spoiler Free Review
I am disappointed in this run as a whole. As is far too often the case an interesting character gets diluted to be just like every other character you see over and over again. It’s frustrating. This run features the Cassandra Cain Batgirl, not to be confused with Stephanie Brown or Barbara Gordon.
This run of Batgirl started out with a lot of promise. Cassandra Cain is being trained by Batman and Oracle to be the new Batgirl. She was raised to be an assassin by super bad guy Cain. He raised her without language or any other distractions from fighting and killing.
Since she was raised with zero human communication she is mute and has a very difficult time getting along with fellow humans. That’s interesting! I haven’t seen this character before! Give me more!
Well, you’ll get that character for 3 whole issues before everyone wussed out and found a super lame way to give her the power of communication. It’s so lame. Just all of a sudden she comes across some random guy who happens to be able to to re-wire her brain to give her language but is unable to turn it back. He does this all without her permission and of course giving her language wrecks her fighting skills.
Who the heck is this guy who thinks it’s his place to go around changing people’s brain patterns like he knows what’s best? Doesn’t matter apparently because he only shows up to ruin the only thing that made Cassandra Cain stand out in overcrowded Gotham City.
The rest of volume 1 still had some promise so I remained hopeful that it could turn around by the end. Short story, it doesn’t. It gets worse and worse as it goes along and by the end I didn’t even know what was happening anymore.
As with many comic books this one assumes that you have a lot of previous knowledge. Good luck with deciphering several issues if you’re unfamiliar with Stephanie Brown. I barely know who she is and those issues got very confusing for me. As well as several weird mystery plots that came out of nowhere and then got solved just as quickly.
Also for some reason ancient Rome gets into the mix.
I honestly don’t know why this bothers me so much but it does. Why does Rome need to be involved in anything in Gotham? This book certainly doesn’t explain it very well so I still don’t have an answer for that question.
I would love to see this run finished in a totally different way. Keep the initial 3 issues, keep the premise, but change the rest.
Keep Cassandra Cain interesting!
By the end of this one she’s just another mask in the Bat Clan.
Batgirl: Issues 1-37 Summary
Kelley Puckett’s complete run of Batgirl is uneven. It starts off very interesting with our introduction to the unusual Cassandra Cain. She’s mute and can fight like no one we’ve ever seen before. But before long the run loses its edge and waffles into staccato storytelling before disolving completely into confusion and a weird and kind of lame ending.
Let’s break it down by volume.
Volume 1: Silent Knight
Volume 1 contains issues 1-12 and is definitely the strongest of the three volumes.
We get introduced to Cassandra Cain who was raised as an assassin from infancy. She was deprived of language and cannot speak. Fighting is her language, she can read people’s movements like most of us can read words.
She’s an unbeatable fighting machine that Batman and Oracle have taken on. They intend to train her to fight for the good guys and instill their no killing code upon her.
Batman is incredibly hard on Batgirl. He holds her to a standard nothing short of absolute perfection and makes his disappointment very clear every time she falls even slightly short. Have I mentioned before that I don’t like Batman? He’s a jerk.
The most captivating part of the first part of this run is that Batgirl is mute. This requires the story to be told with a totally different style than is normally seen in comics. She has no dialogue. No monologue. Not even any thought bubbles. She’s all action. This makes the first few issues fly by in a series of action packed wordless panels.
Until of course she rescues some sap who happens to have some weird and conveniently specific psychic powers. He sort of rewires her brain, without asking permission first mind you, and gives her the power of speech.
I really hate this guy. Who the eff does he think he is? To just bump into somebody and automatically presume that their brain function is incorrect because it’s different than something he’s seen before. That’s messed up.
Of course him giving her the ability to form words causes her skills as a fighter to regress back to the level of a novice. She wants to be changed back but he is unable to for plot reasons.
She tries to go out Batgirling but hurts some people and gets injured herself. Batman says she needs to train very hard now in order to get back to a fraction of what she was before. She hates this. Then a villain named Lady Shiva knocks her the eff out.
Batgirl goes out for revenge and with a cheap and lucky shot knocks Shiva down, she claims she doesn’t kill so she leaves her alive.
Shiva comes back to find her and says that she can retrain her far quicker than Batman ever could but she must agree to a battle to the death one year from now in exchange.
Batgirl decides to train quickly and be perfect for a year instead of training for 10 years to be mediocre.
I thought this was a very interesting development for her character and I honestly expected it to pay off more than it does down the line. It’s about here that the run starts to go downhill.
The rest of volume 1 has nothing to do with everything I just talked about and doesn’t really pay off later in any way either so just ignore it. I know I did. But I had the hope that it would keep developing Batgirl in interesting ways so I persisted.
Batgirl Volume 2: To the Death
Volume 2 contains issues 13-25.
Volume 2 becomes very episodic. My notes for volume 2 are incredibly boring and simple.
Apparently there was a Joker plot that came up in issue 15 that never goes anywhere. Good to know…
Each issue has a somewhat contained plot that starts to become repetitive. Basically, Batgirl saves someone, this is somehow tied to a conflict that causes her to question her upbringing and morality, she has an existential crisis, messes something up, has another crisis, is determined to get better, goes and saves someone new, repeat.
For over 10 issues we get this formula with very little else. That brings us to issue 25 when Shiva and Batgirl have their one on one to the death.
They square off and Shiva immediately kills Batgirl.
She also then immediately revives her and they fight for real. Based on this final page I thought it ended in basically a tie.
However, Shiva never comes back and there are some things in volume 3 that lead me to believe she’s dead so I guess she killed her?
Volume 2 is a big step down from 1. It lost most of its overall direction and instead became short vignettes sometimes involving a Robin or two or Oracle or Stephanie Brown or whoever else to humanize Batgirl a little. But they should have understood that what made Batgirl interesting was how unlike these other characters she was and how hard it would ever be for her to fit in.
Trying to make her just one of the Bat bunch is a disservice to her character and I believe that is where this run started to fail. Knowing comics this was likely a point of contention between the creative team and the capitalist production team. That seems to be the pattern but I’m just speculating.
Volume 3: Point Blank
Volume 3 contains issues 26-37.
Volume 3 is where things just fall completely apart. It’s where my notes start to contain many question marks.
Apparently Shiva had a cult of followers who now want to die at the hands of the one who was able to take her down. Cassandra Cain Batgirl has vowed not to kill so she does not desire to face them.
However, Stephanie Brown Batgirl has a lot of self esteem issues and wants to prove herself against them. She’s a floundering idiot next to Cassandra Cain and it’s painful to see them together and supposedly bonding like girlfriends.
There’s also some sort of convoluted plot about some murder and Batman. Batgirl and Robin reenact the murder and determine that Batman wasn’t the killer and I have no idea why they ever thought he would be. The whole freaking run has been about how he thinks murder is bad.
Then Batgirl and Batman solve some other case together and they are both terrible at communicating and make an awful pair. It’s like watching a comedy with two straight men, just awkward and you want to leave.
Some other stuff probably happens but my notes became very vague and I honestly don’t remember because apparently it wasn’t memorable.
My last note just says “daddy issues.” Yeah, that’s an understatement. There was a lot to do with Cassandra Cain’s father Cain but it’s honestly pretty basic. He’s bad, created her to be bad, now she’s not bad. So not bad that she forgives him more than revenge murders him. The end.
Oh and there was something to do with ancient Rome for some reason?
I don’t know honestly, as I said it really fell apart there at the end.
I really wanted to like this one as a whole as much as I liked the first 3 issues. I was so intrigued by this mute girl who could only communicate by fighting. Such a concept! But so quickly abandoned.
As a whole it was disconnected and lacked both a central conflict and central motivation. Cassandra Cain has too many negative influences, Batman included, and her positive influences are diminished to casual stereotypical girl talk.
The first volume is worth checking out but maybe write your own fan fiction as a continuance. I think a creative team with no censor notes could really have a lot of fun with the character.
Volume 1: Silent Knight 4/5 bats 🦇🦇🦇🦇
Volume 2: To the Death 3/5 bats 🦇🦇🦇
Volume 3: Point Blank 2/5 bats 🦇🦇
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