Tuesday, July 12, 2005


Batgirl has quietly become one of the most enjoyable Batbooks around.

Andersen Gabrych has subtly and patiently constructing a Cass Cain who is a product of her past but not a slave to it, unlike certain other pointy-eared Gotham types. I was initially very skeptical of the move from Gotham to Bludhaven, but in hindsight it was completely obviously necessary (unlike over in Robin) as it has allowed Cass to develop as a character and a heroine away from the shadow of the Bat. This hasn't been a perfect beginning -- I still want to see Gabrych put a little more juice into his world building; the too-convenient moles, perfectly decked-out abodes, and weak problems to solve are not worthy of the work he's doing with Batgirl herself -- but it has been more than enough to wipe the memory of Dylan Horrocks' run from the memory cache.

Arguably the biggest difference between this Cass and her previous incarnations is that she is no longer afraid of herself. Cass is doing her best to accept her horrific beginnings and move past them, becoming part of a world she hid from for too long out of fear that she'd break anything (or anyone) that she touched. She is learning to read, learning to speak, learning to interact with her surroundings because she is curious, not just out of professional need. Bruce Wayne goes through life casing the joint, looking for weaknesses and escape routes and stripping away all of the inefficiencies and thus all of the joys, but that's a path Cass no longer chooses to emulate. Instead of Batman being the model, Onyx has taken on a greater role. Another reformed assassin, Onyx can give Cass both hope for the future as well as the occasional ass-kicking. Batman, on the other hand, is almost like a colleague -- Cass shows up unsummoned at the Batcave and expects to be treated as a fellow professional. That is a far cry from her more timid past interactions with her mentor.

Cass-the-fighter may no longer be all of who Cassandra Cain is, but that is still an important element and Gabrych has effected his changes without losing any of Cass's uniqueness as a living weapon. Quite the opposite; she has become a truly special force, making much more use of her 'gifts' than she did with previous writers. Her ability to read people through body language (something she doesn't do in her civilian mode, either intentionally or unintentionally on Gabrych's part) has too long been an unused part of her arsenal; she now taps into it as needed, assessing and reassessing situations and, as was the case in this issue, knowing when it is the only way she will be able to get answers.

This issue begins a story arc that would have been impossible at any earlier point in Cass's history. She has never cared who her mother was because she has always been too afraid to look closely at her own life, especially anything that touches upon her father. David Cain's interest in his daughter has always been discomforting; he raised her as a kind of animal, but is now almost apologetic, although while his paternal affection exists, it is pragmatic in the extreme and no comfort. Cass is frustrated by him, but not to the point where she is excluding him from her emotional renovation -- she did give him a Father's Day present.

If you missed the start of Gabrych's run, don't fear. I think this stands perfectly well as a jumping-on issue. Which means you can pick this up (it came out 29 June, but should still be on the current issues shelf of your LCS) instead of a half-dozen of the other Batbooks that aren't nearly this cool.


Blogger Dorian said...

I agree. This book is really an under-rated gem. I think the mask is still turning people off, especially casual customers. I've had parents specifically cite the mask as the reason they're not buying the book for their kids.

Tue Jul 12, 03:47:00 PM EDT  
Blogger The Comics Shrew said...

I wonder if a mask change couldn't be effected as part of this transformation. Not necessarily going back to Barbara's mask, but something a little less forbidding.

Tue Jul 12, 04:28:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Andrew Burton said...

he raised her as a kind of animal, but is now almost apologetic, although while his paternal affection exists, it is pragmatic in the extreme and no comfort.

Not as an animal, as a weapon; a weapon that could think, adapt, grow, and communicate with him. David Cain, however a horrific person he is because of the kids he killed to get to Cassie, loves her in his own way like Brainiac loves Computo. Cassie and Computo are both creations that exceded their design. Much like Brainiac helped Computo grow up, I think Cain is trying to help Cassie... Mature, excel beyond a weapon, protect her from herself, etc.

It might be, as you say, pragmatic, but I disagree that Cain raised her as an animal.

Tue Jul 12, 07:17:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Guy LeCharles Gonzalez said...

I love what Gabrych is doing with Batgirl, especially in light of how much I despise what Winick is doing with Batman. Next to Gotham Central, it's my favorite Bat-book.

Wed Jul 13, 01:26:00 AM EDT  

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