Sunday, May 01, 2005

BATGIRL #62-63

Andersen Gabrych continues his reboot of Cassandra Cain's story, building up her associates, enemies, daily routine, environment, and everything else a costumed vigilante needs. Gabrych is working out who 'his' Cass is: struggling with a verbal world but eloquent in the physical, she is finally seriously attempting to create a human being to be the alter ego to Batgirl.

They both have a lot of work to do. Cass has been alternately overwritten and underwritten, the only teenaged hero-type to steer clear of any of the teams (Young Justice, Teen Titans, Outsiders) and the only Batperson without a lead role in a second book. The end result is that Cass has had very little breadth of social interaction on the page and very little depth of writerly imagination off of it. Her development has been slow and, in the case of Dylan Horrocks's run, occasionally unfathomable (and unreadable). We know who and what she is, but beyond that, Cass remains very much a cipher. Changing that has been Gabrych's aim.

There's no graceful way to construct an entire world for Batgirl in a short amount of time -- Nureyev would have trouble dancing around with this mess. And, as has been Gabrych's lot ever since he stepped in on Detective Comics last year, he's been handed the sour dregs of everyone else's bad plot ideas and told to make good beer out of it.

Courtesy of the train wreck that was Batman: War Games, Cass is not building a life in Gotham, but instead in Bludhaven, a place that has seen shockingly little environmental development considering that we're more than a hundred issues into Nightwing. It's crooked, it's corrupt, it's Newark to Gotham's New York and it used to be a whaling town back in the day. But beyond that, it's completely blank.

As such, reading Batgirl occasionally feels like those Daffy Duck cartoons where they break the fourth wall and we see the pencil coming in to create a tree or a costume -- there's a gang here? Okay, so there's a gang here. This is a nice part of town? Okay, so it is. It's all so convenient and plastic-y and so totally devoid of backstory that it might as well be a movie set. Brenda the Quirky Coffee Shop Girl and her story arc are straight out of central casting, even with the slyly done continued misperception that has Brenda thinking (with good reason) that Cass makes her living working rough trade. If Gabrych stays the course, eventually, hopefully, this will all seem like a real place. But right now, it doesn't and there's not much to be done about it.

Unsurprisingly, the particulars of these issues reflect Gabrych's need to create a dynamic story while dragging around a steamer trunk full of worldbuilding and simultaneously being hobbled by the upcoming Path to Infinite Crisis. Cass doesn't get to hang out with Wonder Girl or even Robin, who also living alone in the same strange city but isn't allowed to team up with her because he's got his own book (even though taking Robin away from Bill Willingham might be the best thing DC could do this year). Instead of logical connections, Cass has been granted the wacky -- sure, there's Penguin also in exile in Bludhaven, but Penguin has brought in the big guns.

Forget the local hoods -- Oswald Cobblepot has hired the Brotherhood of Evil and the Secret Society of Super Villains (or whatever they're calling themselves). I'd love to say that this is what happens when your title character can beat up Lady Shiva, but the truth of it is that it was probably least inconvenient to have the Villains United portion of Oblique References to Future Crossover Events parked in Batgirl than anywhere else. And while the showdown with Deathstroke was great, it was fairly undone by the appearance of Ravager. Actually, almost anything is spoiled by the appearance of Ravager, one of Geoff Johns's less-than-bright ideas. Here, though, there ain't no way Rose gets a shot in unless Slade holds Cass down and even then, it'd be a hard sell. Gabrych loses all cred, however, if this becomes a Spidey II-type community revolt.


Blogger Andrew Burton said...

Why do you say she thinks Cassie is a "dominatrix"? I figured with the bruises Cassie had in #62, she would have thought the opposite.

signed, Curious in Comments.

Sun May 01, 03:40:00 PM EDT  
Blogger The Comics Shrew said...

... because obviously I type faster than my brain works. *blinks* I was thinking "rough trade" and... that came out.

Also recall that Alfred was overhead calling Cass "Miss Cassandra" and that is where the original mistaken impression was formed.

Nevertheless, I've edited to make it more ambiguous.

Sun May 01, 03:52:00 PM EDT  

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