EP0028: Batgirl, Volume 3: Point Blank (Review)

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After defeating the arch-villain Lady Shiva, Batgirl (Cassandra Cain) faces her biggest challenge-actually having her own adventures in the midst of numerous crossovers.

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Transcript below:

Batgirl takes an Issue off to recover from death, then she gets involved in a lot of crossover events, and finally she gets to battle Batgirl? We’ll talk all about it as we review Batgirl Volume Three: Point Blank, straight ahead.

Welcome to the Classy Comics Podcast where we search for the best comics in the universe. From Boise, Idaho here is your host, Adam Graham.

OK, probably the first thing I should make clear is we’re not actually talking about the Barbara Gordon Batgirl in today’s program…talking about the Cassandra Cain Batgirl who was active from 2000 – 2006 and then again in 2008 for a mini series, but she was actually the first Batgirl to have her own title. Barbara Gordon’s Batgirl previously only had strips in other magazines such as Detective Comics or Batman Family.

Cassandra Cain was the daughter of David Cain as well as anti-heroine Lady Shiva. She was raised to be a killing machine by her father, and is traumatized by the memory of the one man she remembers killing when she was eight years old. The way he taught her and raised her was that she did not actually learn any language – she learned to read body movements which made her very effective as a fighter. However, she did learn to talk in the early Issues of Batgirl which caused her fighting skills to falter. She then made a deal with her mother, Lady Shiva; Lady Shiva promising to restore her powers and abilities as a super martial artist in exchange for fighting her a year later in a fight to the death. And Cassandra agreed to this, and in the battle to the death with Lady Shiva, Lady Shiva killed her but then brought her back to life and then Cassandra ends up defeating her. And I guess you would have to call that a draw overall, and that’s where Point Blank comes in. It collects Issues Twenty-Six through Thirty-Seven, and follows immediately on the end of her battle with her mother.

Issue Twenty-Six actually finds her out of action because she is recovering from being temporarily dead and is out like a light, but Barbara Gordon who is Oracle at this point sends Stephanie Brown who is known as Spoiler out to investigate a bit of an aftermath of that fight. And Stephanie goes out and does the investigation shadowed by her imagination’s take on Batgirl. So, Batgirl is in this as a phantasm of Stephanie’s imagination. This Issue is a bit weird, it’s OK, it’s really weird you have a Batgirl-like episode where she appears just like that as well as for a couple brief moments as she is recovering. After that we get into in Issue Twenty-Seven, the book does something and this is probably one of the chief challenges with this book, is that in the Batman Family books there was an event going on – actually a couple of events that came right one after another. One is collected in Bruce Wayne: Murderer? and then also Bruce Wayne:Fugitive, about Bruce Wayne being framed for murder and the Bat Family trying to work this out. And there are three Issues of Batgirl in this book that actually tie into those two events. I personally am not a big fan of including event-tying comics in the book because they tend to take you out of the story and out of the character’s world, and I would just rather you’ve put those in the Events Book. But they didn’t in this case and it turned out not to be so bad, they are at least mixed.

Issue Twenty-Seven ties in and it has her, when learning about Bruce Wayne being suspected of murder, she does something nobody else does and digs up the body of the victim and makes a discovery when she examines the corpse. And it shows her kind of unique take as well as some of her growth and the type of person she is.

Issue Twenty-Nine is also a tie-in and that one is a lot more dubious. In this book she is essentially helping with Nightwing Dick Grayson recreating the scene of the crime, so she is the stand-in for the corpse and she spends the entire Issue with this recreation going on and people talking all around her with this recreation. Because she’s has such limited language skills she tends to talk in pretty clipped sentences which means most of this is other people talking. So, I did not like Issue Twenty-Nine much. Issue Thirty-Three is kind of an aftermath story where she goes undercover at the prison to question David Cain, and she has a surprising reaction, some good action and some good emotion in regards to David Cain’s involvement in the affair and it’s a pretty intense scene.

Issue Twenty-Eight of the book isn’t a tie-in but it has Spoiler coming to her for some instruction in martial arts. And in the course of this they make friends with each other, and theirs is just a special bond because Spoiler was the daughter of the villain Clue Master. And they end up having a bonding moment over that because Batgirl just sits there and listens as she’s talking about it, and then finally she reveals who her dad is, and Stephanie’s like, “You’re just kind of sitting there and your dad’s David Cain who everyone is scared of. Yeah, I mean, my dad threw me in the closet when he was upset with me. What did yours do?” And she said, “Shot me”. And she and Spoiler just have this moment where they’re laughing and it’s kind of this weird bonding experience over this difficult childhood that they both had, but in slightly different ways.

Issue Twenty-Eight ends with Spoiler telling Cassandra that she’s got to go out and do something with Kim Drake, which once again feels like there are things going on in the other books that are affecting our hero when without us actually knowing what’s going on. But you also see at the end of the book that in just some very subtle ways that this really does make Cassandra sad. I get it, she’s not someone who has expressive statements or thought bubbles really, but the art really does a good job of capturing her emotions, the subtle clues that you pick up on. The art throughout this is actually really good. Because she doesn’t speak a lot the pictures have to say a lot and portray a lot in terms of what she is doing, her emotions and the action. The story also does have her fighting some robots. I’m a little vague as to what the reason for the villain is on that – the actual justification seems to be that the artist or writer couldn’t imagine having a story that’s just about her having emotional character development, so instead we definitely have to fight a robot. It was cool the way it worked out.

Then we get a three-Issue crossover done featuring Connor Hawke. Both Cassandra Cain and Connor Hawke were characters created by Kelley Puckett. Puckett did not write this issue, Chuck Dixon did, and the story feels a lot more like a Connor Hawke story than a true Batgirl story as she keeps getting pressed to the side because not only is Connor Hawke, who’s kind of like a Green Arrow type character, not only is Connor Hawke in it but you end up getting a crossover with Robin who Dixon also wrote, as well as Spoiler. So, this one is an OK story – I just don’t like a story where the main character of the book begins to feel like a secondary guest character in her own series.

Issue Thirty-Four, considering that the last really big Issue to show some major growth from her was Issue Twenty-Eight, Issue Thirty-Four was a good one. It had her teamed up with Batman and hunting down the killer of a child. However, when they capture the killer it leaves her feeling less than satisfied and Batman tells her, “We captured this killer, brought him to justice. He’ll pay for what he did. That’s something.” “Not enough! What about the other boys, girls, men and women, the people they would’ve killed, people they won’t kill now.” “Dozens of life saved because of what you did. Isn’t it enough?” “No.” And then Batman says, “Good. Now you’re ready to be a detective.” And that’s an interesting insight into how Batman thinks and what drives him – and on one hand it’s a positive driving force, on the other it can kind of make him a bit unhinged and create these pockets of frustration that nothing he ever does is enough. But it also marks a turning point where becoming a detective becomes Batgirl’s focus; and the next Issue – it’s a two-parter – Thirty-Five and Thirty-Six has her hunting down an agent known as Alpha, and there is a nuclear bomb in Gotham City.

And it turns out through the course of the story, she encounters a person who has lost his memory. She figures out that this is Alpha but continues to tell him that he’s a secret agent who is charged with finding this nuclear device that has been planted in Gotham City. And it’s interesting to see how she works this and the way that these two interact, and there are some good surprising twists in there. I really enjoyed this particular story.

Issue Thirty-Seven is ‘Thicker than Water’ and it finds Batgirl pursuing a talented young girl who’s been kidnapped by her father. Now on one hand the little girl’s mother has shown that she does not actually care about the girl; however, the girl’s father is a thief – and he’s a thief who really pleads with Batgirl to let him keep her because he truly loves her and Batgirl decides that’s not enough. And as you read it you wonder how the way she handled that interaction was coloured by her own relationship with her own dad, and you can tell that she kind of wonders that as well. And, again, the art is very expressive here in capturing her mood.

The book does have one little other feature at the end of it, and it is a situation where she is doing training exercises and she decided to go ahead and have the simulator choose someone for her to fight at random – it’s a computer simulation – and she ends up fighting the old Barbara Gordon Batgirl, and thrashing her repeatedly and she ends up wondering how this person even made it as Batgirl. And the answer comes and I think it’s a good way to pay tribute to both versions of Batgirl.

Overall, this book has some really good high moments, some great character moments, and some good art that’s very expressive with some great action, great fighting. What I don’t like about it is I think the crossovers are a bit iffy but they’re not as bad as they could have been, and the three- issue arc really kind of pushed her to the side. Still, she was a great character and I enjoyed reading the book, so I will give this a rating of Somewhat Classy. Alright, well that’s it for now. If you have a comment send it to me: classycomicsguy@gmail.com and check out our website classycomicsguy.com and follow us on Twitter @ClassyComicsGuy. From Boise, Idaho this is your host, Adam Graham, signing off.

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