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Batgirl #18

Posted: Saturday, February 12, 2011
By: Danny Djeljosevic

Bryan Q. Miller
Dustin Nguyen, Derek Fridolfs (i), Guy Major (c)
DC
Internet, I come to you today NOT as the usual highfalutin critical savant who keeps giving 5.0s to each issue of Casanova and whatever ridiculous superhero book that happens to speak to his increasingly narrow sensibilities, but as a regular olí comic book reader. I like Charles Burns, but I also like people in costumes punching one another. Including luchadores.

You see, for a brief moment, I was considering skipping Batgirl this month. Print comics are a touch too expensive -- while DCís price drop is smart and unprecedented, ďDrawing the line at $2.99Ē is tantamount to ďOkay, weíre going to continue pummeling you, but this time without the brass knucklesĒ -- and I figured my three-bucks-plus-tax could be better suited paying for half of a burrito. You see, I like comics, but I also like burritos. You can put French fries in them. You canít put French fries in an issue of Batgirl and expect any degree of success, unless youíre looking to create transparent comics.

But then I noticed that Batgirl #18 had Klarion the Witch Boy on the cover. Klarion, the gothic pilgrim of Grant Morrisonís Seven Soldiers of Victory. Whose unconventional kid shtick is akin to the also-Morrison-created Damian Wayne, except his skin is blue and nobody ever points that out, do they? I suppose, if youíre living in the DC Universe, where reality is constant at risk of being drastically altered and heroin-addicted superheroes lurk around every corner, foamy-mouthed rape in their eyes -- what are these comics about again? -- a kid with blue skin is hardly cause for alarm. One Stephanie Brown, however, points out that Klarion has blue skin, because she is the only sensible person in the DC Universe. And she dresses like Batman, which is not a sensible thing to do (just ask Batman).

The Dustin Nguyen-painted cover also helped.

Right. So I bought the thing, and loved it. It helps that itís a thematic sequel to the previous issue, where Batgirl was mismatched with the aforementioned Damian Wayne and hilarity ensued. This time itís a Valentineís Day themed issue, where Batgirl teams up with Klarion to undo the damage he did when he denied Teekl, his horny familiar/cat, the chance to mate, turning him into a violent werecat thatís been murdering men and ripping their hearts from their bodies. Totally understandable if youíre a Witch Boy and you can see through your familiarís eyes.

So, the issue is basically about Batgirl and Klarion catching Teekl and then trying to find a suitable cat for him to have sex with -- which sounds juvenile, I know, but writer Bryan Q. Miller hasnít written a story where our heroes find some random alley cat and throw it in a cardboard box for Teekl to ravish. No, the execution is far more amusingly high-concept, involving a jaunt into Klarionís home of Limbo Town, where Batgirl is the outsider (ďSheís not a witch!Ē somebody accuses) and they have to find Teekl a proper mate. AND thereís enough room to get a four-page denouement of Stephanie and Klarion at her schoolís Valentineís Day fair for some witch-out-of-water hilarity.

You can see the beats where ďTo Be ContinuedĒ would show up, were this into a three-or-four-issue affair, but Miller does it in 20 pages, with enough room for jokes and a denouement. I suppose it helps that Millerís a writer for TVís Smallville, where heís required to tell a complete story in 40-something minutes. As a result, Batgirl has an episodic, Buffy kind of vibe, where you have fun one-off adventures and then longer, mythology-building arcs. Then there are the trappings of the young female superhero with a life that revolves around school when she isnít punching bad guys.

And, sometimes, Dustin Nguyen draws an issue, and that guy is great. Not only is his art stylized, expressive and visually dynamic, but he also throws in some gorgeous painted pages for the first and last pages and the Limbo Town scenes. Moreover, his figures are sensible and highly appreciated. In other words, Batgirl actually looks like a girl and not some artistís swipe file of porn stars and swimsuit models.

Mostly, Batgirl is one of the best mainstream superhero comics on the stands, a solid -- and accessible! -- book that knows what itís supposed to be. One free of endless crossovers and excessive continuity. Where nobody gets raped and Batgirlís chest symbol isnít a boob window. Unlike most superhero books, you could give this to a kid, a comics-curious girlfriend, your next door neighbor, whoever, and not be arrested. Itís fairly low on the sales charts, which is a shame because it exchanges the event-obsessed immediacy of higher-profile books for charm and wit, which too few superhero books have these days.

Please, everyone, buy Batgirl and make sure it stays around for a while. If you do, Iíll let you watch me eat a burrito.



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