By Kelley Puckett, Scott Peterson, Damion Scott, Vincent Giarrano, Phil Noto & various (DC Comics)
After Gotham City was devastated by an earthquake (Batman: Cataclysm ISBN13: 978-1-56389-527-2) it was abandoned by the US government in a prescient foretaste of what happened to New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina (see also Batman: No Man’s Land Volumes 1-3, ISBN 13’s: 978-1-56389-564-7, 978-1-56389-599-9, and 978-1-56389-634-7 respectively). From the rubble, a few heroes struggled to protect the innocent. One of these was a new incarnation of Batgirl.
The crisis ended, a semblance of normality returned to the battered metropolis, and the new heroine got her own series. Mentored by Babs Gordon, the wheelchair-bound crime-fighter called Oracle (and the previous Batgirl) who now runs the Birds of Prey, the new wearer of the cape-and-cowl is something of a problem.
Raised as an experiment by martial arts super-assassin David Cain, she could not speak or communicate in any normal manner since her language centres were over-ridden by Cain to make combat her only method of expression. An apparent runaway, she was adopted by Batman as a weapon in his never-ending battle, but the more humane Oracle has become her guardian and teacher.
Her learning disabilities alleviated by a telepath, Cassandra Cain is beginning to adapt to a normal world, but things are still skewed since she defeated Lady Shiva – the most dangerous person on Earth – in a martial arts duel. By beating someone even Batman never could, she’s forced her close circle of new friends to look at her in a different way, and the inevitable challengers for Shiva’s title are now dogging her tracks…
This third collection of tales gathers together Batgirl #15, 16, 21, and 26-28: a seemingly disjointed array of stories that actually blend together surprisingly well.
Puckett and Peterson’s scripts are always lightning paced, sparsely dialogued and both have perfect ears for the great one-liner. The art from Damion Scott, Vincent Giarrano, Phil Noto, Robert Campenella and Jesse Delperdang is light and brisk with a delightful flavour of anime – if not quite manga – about it, and three of the six untitled stories (don’t ask me why) run the range from the dramatic tale of a mad scientist’s murder ray, a boy’s desperate plea to stop his dad becoming a killer and a purely manic tie-in to the Last Laugh company crossover event (Batman: the Joker’s Last Laugh ISBN: 978-1-84576-843-0) featuring a startling battle with intangible villain Shadow Thief.
The remaining three adventures deal with the fallout of Batgirl’s defeat of Shiva (set during the time of Batman: Bruce Wayne Murderer? – ISBN-13: 978-1-56389-913-3): a fast-paced, captivating treatise on girl friends a la Thelma and Louise (or perhaps Buffy and Faith) as Robin-in-training Spoiler briefly becomes Batgirl’s best buddy to train, talk trash about dads and generally take care of Gotham in the Big Man’s absence.
Spellbinding, overwhelmingly rapid-paced and brilliantly executed, these tales are a breakneck, supercharged thrill-ride that concentrates on non-stop action yet still manages to be heavily plot-based with genuine empathy and emotional impact. A perfect book to remind you just why and how comics are so great…
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