By Scott Peterson, Kelley Puckett, Chuck Dixon, Damion Scott, Mike Deodato Jr., Pablo Raimondi & various (DC Comics)
ISBN: 978-1-4012-6627-1 (TPB)
Way back when, after Gotham City was devastated in a massive earthquake (see Batman: Cataclysm and Batman: No Man’s Land in 2000) it was written off and abandoned by the US government in a spookily prescient foretaste of what would happen to New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina hit in August 2005. Amidst the rubble, a number of heroes struggled to protect the innocent. One of these was a brand-new incarnation of Batgirl.
As the crisis ended and a semblance of normality returned to the battered metropolis, the new heroine got her own series and a mentor in the form of Babs Gordon, the wheelchair-bound crime-fighter called Oracle, who was also the first Batgirl.
The new operative is an enigmatic problem. Raised in utter isolation as an experiment by martial arts super-assassin David Cain, she cannot communicate. Part of the process creating Cassandra Cain was depriving and overriding her language centres in an effort to make combat her only communication tool. An apparent runaway, she was briefly adopted by the Batman as another weapon in his never-ending battle, before the more humane Oracle becomes her guardian and teacher.
In this first paperback/digital volume – spanning April 2000-March 2001 by collecting #1-12 of the monthly series and first Annual – the new Batgirl is trying to find her way, bereft even of the ability to learn, whilst revelling in the role of defender of the helpless, but her development as a human being threatens to diminish her capacity as a weapon, and the mystery of her past would indicate that she is possibly a two-edged sword in Batman’s arsenal…
In a bold experiment, initiating writers Scott Peterson and Kelly Puckett eschewed the standard format of individually titled stories to craft a continuous string of high action, deeply moving episodes which saw the neophyte street warrior battle the dregs of Gotham City while attempting to adapt to a life where not every person was her enemy.
Fast, furious, frenetic, visually expressive incidents (illustrated by Damion Scott with inkers Robert Campanella & Coy Turnbull) are interspersed with flashbacks to her lethal and cruel formative years with Cain pitting her against assassins and worse, while keeping a stunning secret of her natal origins all for himself…
In contemporary moments, Cassandra prowls the streets determined to honour her saviour Batman and sole friend Babs, battling thieves, thugs, rapists and all the worst human predators the city can throw at her.
All too soon, her first failure – to preserve an innocent life – leaves her emotionally wounded and susceptible to metahuman attack, even as Batman discovers his new operative may have blood on her own hands. Complicating the crisis, a telepath Cassandra rescues boosts her ability to speak, but inadvertently destroys her gift to read body language leaving her helpless against ordinarily easy opposition.
As Batman hunts and confronts Cain to clear Batgirl’s reputation, the embattled, dauntless wild child continues to risk her life in Gotham: going rogue and defying the Dark Knight to patrol the streets until she is targeted by Lady Shiva Woosan.
The world’s deadliest assassin has personal reasons for testing herself against Cassandra, and provides a cure for her lost battle assessment sense, but only to further her own insane agenda…
As Batman further unravels the convoluted mystery of Cassandra’s origins, Batgirl returns to duty, but again confronts failure at metahuman hands. Barely recovered, she finally faces her father and helps save Commissioner Gordon (in ‘Mute Witness’ from Batgirl #12 by Chuck Dixon, Dale Eaglesham & Andrew Hennessy). Her never-ending battle pauses for now after Batgirl Annual #1 takes her to Madras, India for ‘Introducing: Aruna’ by Peterson, Mike Deodato Jr. & John Stanisci.
Joining her mentor Batman and shapeshifting local hero Aruna, Cassandra explosively confronts millennia-old prejudice and ingrained racism whilst hunting for an abducted Bollywood child star exposed as a member of the “untouchables” caste. The shocking tragedy is supplemented by an origin for the shapeshifter, courtesy of Peterson, Pablo Raimondi & Walden Wong
Spellbinding, overwhelmingly fast-paced and terse to the point of bombastic brevity, this is a breakneck, supercharged thrill-ride of non-stop action that still manages to be heavily plot-based with genuine empathy and emotional impact. Truly superb comic storytelling which should be on every fan’s wish-list or bookshelf.
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