Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Goodnight Stephanie Brown, and Good Luck: The Final Batgirl Issue

This week sees the release of Batgirl #24 and the end of Stephanie Brown's (brief) era as the titular heroine. Proving herself to be a legitimate hero, Stephanie matured into her new role considerably, making friends, reconnecting with former mentors, discovering herself, and triumphing over villainy with a solid right hook and hilarious wit. Similarly, Bryan Q. Miller proved himself to be one of the most consistent and entertaining writers in the comic book industry, and it's a crying shame this title has been relaunched in favor of the original Barbara Gordon's return in next months DC Relaunch.

Mr. Miller himself gave an exit interview over at CBR in which he expressed his love for Stephanie, his modest chagrin at the cancellation of the title, and some preview pages of the ultimate issue.

The Reapers have been a shadowy, villainous organization antagonizing Batgirl for the past year, Now on her own, with Oracle/Barbara having faked her death and Proxy/Wendy off to Tibet to find herself (apparently an editorial mandate to be rid of her, which is harsh and I imagine similar to what Wendy's poor brother endured in that awful Teen Titans where he was eaten by a dog) Stephanie was left on her own to get to the bottom of the mystery. And at the end of last issue, she did, discovering that the man behind the Reapers is none other than her incarcerated father, The Cluemaster.

Her father's villainy was the reason Stephanie first entered superheroics, donning the guise of The Spoiler and appearing in Detective Comics alongside Batman and Robin on her father's trail. Eventually she became a mainstay in Robin's solo series, becoming his girlfriend and sometimes-partner, while going through a particularly famous teen pregnancy issue (it wasn't Robins and she chose adoption over abortion.) After Tim Drake announced a brief retirement from being Robin, Batman got Stephanie to take his place.

This brief, lambasted period of Batman history is still rather cool when you think about it. Yes, Bruce Wayne proved himself to be a total douche, only hiring Stephanie as a way to manipulate Tim into returning, and thus screwing with her confidence so much she ended up causing War Games in order to prove herself to him, but only solidified her lack of popularity among Bat-fans. Still, she did receive straight-up Batman training, something that explains her level of proficiency currently, and I recall a particularly cool issue where she had to take on Mr. Freakiest-Psycho-Ever Zsasz.

But then Black Mask tortured the crap out of her in War Games and she died of her wounds and Batman failed again, though he never put her costume up as a memorial in the cave. Or so we thought, because in fact Dr. Thompkins' personal version of ethics and the Hippocratic oath means allowing her nearest and dearest to believe she withheld medical attention, thus killing a teenage girl, when in truth she faked the teenage girl's death and took her to live in Africa. This is why I don't go to Free Clinics.

Anyway, that's her backstory, but her life under Miller's pen has been stellar. Revamped, brimming with confidence, ambition, and commitment, Stephanie reentered the world of crimefighting with gusto and never looked back. Miller has made her a proactive, fully dedicated hero, an amalgamation of some of the best Bat-qualities: Bruce Wayne's mission, Tim Drake's forethought and planning, and Dick Grayson's joy and love of life.

While Miller had plans for at least 6 more months of stories for Stephanie as Batgirl, it was not be. The New DC 52 #1 issues features the return of Barbara Gordon to her original role. Obviously a harsh blow, Miller however found a way to be both honest and diplomatic in his recent CBR interview:

CBR: Do you think your version of Batgirl helped revive interest in the Barbara Gordon one?
I have no idea! I have no thought or opinion on that whatsoever. It's awesome, it's great and I never in a million years thought that would happen, so regardless of who is under the cowl, my time with the book helped keep that brand alive, as it were. I wish it was still Steph; I think it's great that it's Babs, but naturally, I think I'm very partial to Miss Brown.

CBR:Going along with that, how do you feel about the switchover from Stephanie to Barbara come September?
Miller: I think, along with everyone else I'm going to hold off any kind of judgment on that until I read it. I literally, and I'm not exaggerating, I have no idea what is planned with "Batgirl or how it happened or pieces of continuity -- I know nothing about it. Naturally, I would love to see and had planned to see Steph under the cowl for an additional amount of time. But I'm very interested to see how it all works out with Babs.

Miller had to compress many of his planned plot-lines into an issue and a half, but assures us Stephanie's send off will do her fans proud. Here's hoping we get to see more of Stephanie, and Miller, in the near future.

See ya Steph. Thanks for a great two years.

1 comment:

  1. did she just die in da last comic 0.o