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Batgirl #50
writer: Dylan Horrocks
artists: Rick Leonardi and Jesse Delperdang

Why have we given a special glow to the number 50? With the industry being as spotty as it has been, really, having Batgirl survive to 48 issues should have been the milestone - four years! Amazing! Especially when the book is about a barely verbal teen-aged girl that prefers to communicate by kicking ass.

Actually, when put that way and considering the larger demographic, it's amazing that this book isn't being put out weekly.

Be that as it may, though the character herself was interesting from inception, the book never held much fascination for me. A new art team came in a few months ago that I liked better, but it still wasn't enough to really hook me.

However, with this milestone issue the character works completely. Framed within the larger context of the Bat-family fighting to break up the distribution of a dangerous new drug on the street, writer Horrocks works out a confrontation between Batgirl and surrogate-father Batman in the only way that the girl can truly communicate. On the fringes of their battle, the rest of the family tries to put a lid on the chaos in the streets of Gotham while keeping their cool about the central conflict within.

It gives Horrocks the chance to show why the "family" works. Both sons, Robin and Nightwing, deal with it differently. Tim Drake easily plays psychological games with the supplier of "Soul," Dr. Death, with a confidence lacking in Nightwing. For his part, as has been touched on before, Dick Grayson loses some of his competence when fearing for Batman's well-being. (The drug, which amplifies rage in its users, has affected The Dark Knight.) In the Mother Hen role, Oracle calmly deals with her own helplessness. What can you do when the two best fighters are going at each other?

And that main fight actually makes sense, really using Cassandra's background as the driving force for the combat and the plot. Too often, her "language of violence" gets a cursory nod, buried as the reason for why this book features an inordinate amount of fight scenes. It's good to see it brought back into focus, though it would be nice to occasionally move past it.

In some ways, though, it's clear that Cassandra is moving past some of her hang-ups. I missed whichever issue she finally altered her costume to a look closer to Barbara's old one. It could have been a marketing move for licensing, but it feels right to move her more firmly into the legacy of the bats, instead of just wearing The Huntress' cast-off uniform.

What also feels right is the art team. Though the book still has a unique look, with Delperdang's inking definitely highlighting shiny rubber, vinyl and leather, there are panels where Leonardi's pencils combined with the inks could have easily been taken from Dick Giordano's Batman run in the seventies. It makes sense to give Batgirl the occasional nostalgic look, as she struggles to follow in the footsteps of a character whose heyday really was back when comics were "…still only 20 cents."

Cassandra still isn't my favorite character, but DC has a good team turning out solid work on the book, and this milestone issue makes a decent place to jump aboard.


Derek McCaw

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