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Who's The Hottest Batgirl Of Them All?
Advance Review: Batgirl #45

Batgirl #45
writer: Dylan Horrocks
artists: Rick Leonardi and Jesse Delperdang

Even with a solid new art team, the still relatively young title Batgirl suffers from the same malady that plagued Green Lantern for years. Despite being the version of the character that actually sells, too much time is spent dealing with an inferiority complex toward the previous Batgirl. (However, nobody seems to care much about Betty Kane - the real first Batgirl.)

There must be a DC Bible somewhere that insists that this is how you treat a second generation hero - heck, even though Wally West has been The Flash for over two hundred issues, Geoff Johns only recently got rid of the shadow of Barry Allen. For some reason, this rule never applied when the Golden Age versions passed the mantle on to the Silver Age ones.

So despite my not having picked up this book in almost a year, I find myself facing the same dilemma. Cassandra has far more legitimate fighting skill than Barbara Gordon ever did. Part of her skill includes an ability to "read" an opponent's physicality in a way that even Batman cannot do, though it's possible the powers that be have toned down this ability. At any rate, though she may not be as keen intellectually as Barbara, this new Batgirl is clearly the one you want at your back in a fight.

And yet, to Cassandra and seemingly everyone else she almost confides in, Barbara was the better Batgirl. If only somebody would ask Barbara herself…

However, this issue deals with the shallowest aspect of the comparison, and if I must be true to my fanboy self, it's also the aspect where, yeah, Barbara wins: the costume.

Even the normally hormonally-controlled Tim Drake can't help but be nonplussed at Cassie wearing the costume. "In fact," he gasps mid-battle, "I can't believe I never noticed it before, but you are one very hot…" Before he can finish, a thug cold cocks him. Good thing, too, because Cassandra could kill a man with just her thumb.

So what makes the difference? A casual survey around the office comes up with "it's the high-heeled boots," which indeed become a plot point as Cassandra breaks one. There's also the simple difference that you can actually see some of the person underneath in the original costume, rather than the stark black faceless number the new Batgirl favors.

And in some ways, that's a theme to this whole book. Cassandra has no idea who she really is under the mask, having been raised only to be a perfectly obedient assassin. When a drugged out woman accuses her of having no soul, the remark stings Batgirl. Not only because it might be true, but also because she doesn't understand the actual concept of a soul. In a somewhat too clever parallel on Horrocks' part, the new drug on the street is also called "Soul," making some people placid and turning others into raging brutes (mentally, not physically).

A dual quest, then, begins. But it feels like we've been down this road before. At least the new art team makes it look fresh. Leonardi's style allows teens to look like teens, and though Delperdang tends to be a blocky, scratchy inker, he has learned to tone it down a bit. It still looks like Klaus Janson crossed with Jack Kirby, but that seems to be the unofficial house style on Gotham-set books. Still, Leonardi's fluidity shines through, making the book look cleaner than when I left it.

The popularity of Barbara Gordon does not elude me. It's obvious from the excellent Batgirl: Year One mini-series that not only is there deserved affection for the character, there's untapped potential. But if we're going to deal with our current status quo, let us just admit that any good "original" Batgirl stories are simply going to be in the past. If anybody had thought she was that cool back in the eighties, editorial wouldn't have let Alan Moore paralyze her. (The same thing applies to Supergirl and The Flash - their deaths were shocking, but let's also remember that neither had a book by the time those stories came around.)

This Batgirl has held her own far longer than Barbara Gordon. So let's let her accept it, start figuring out who she is, and then explore the consequences of that. Even Kyle Rayner finally accepted that he makes a cool Green Lantern, even if H.E.A.T. doesn't agree.


Derek McCaw

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