Thursday, November 17, 2016

Batgirl #1 (2000)

Batgirl #1 (April, 2000)
Co-Plotter - Scott Peterson
Co-Plotter & Script - Kelley Puckett
Penciller - Damion Scott
Inker - Robert Campanella
Letterer - John Costanza
Colorist - Jason Wright
Separations - Jamison
Associate Editor - Joseph Illidge
Editor - Darren Vincenzo
Cover Price: $2.50

How crazy is it that it took until 2000 for the first volume of a Batgirl comic book to launch... unless of course, I'm mistaken... at which time I'll look quite foolish, however, to my knowledge this is the first ever ongoing Batgirl series.  

This one really wasn't on my radar when it was on the shelves.  The only issues in my collection were the ones that tied in with Bat-family crossovers like Bruce Wayne: Fugitive/Murderer.  In the years since, I did become a bit curious about this book... but, I gotta tell ya, it isn't often I come across this series in the wild.  Just today while browsing a local buck-a-book room, I lucked across this first issue.  Let's give it a look and a chat.


We open in flashback mode.  A group of blindfolded thugs are led into a dojo where they find themselves faced with the threat of... a young girl.  This girl is Cassandra Cain, and her "father" David is there setting up a camera to tape the "performance" to come.  One of the thugs notes that they have been assembled atop a sheet of plastic... that's curious, right?  Cassandra stabs a knife into the mat, and David invites any thug to pick it up and try to cut his daughter.  They refuse... and, well... Cassandra brutally beats them all.  I mean, it's bloody... and there's teeth everywhere.  

In the present, we join a teenage Cassandra as she spars with Oracle, Barbara Gordon at the Clocktower.  It's a escrima stick battle... and it's a tough one.  Babs is just barely able to disarm our girl.  She tells Cassandra that she needs more practice, and wheels away scoffing at the "unstoppable killing machine" reputation Batman had given her.

We stick with Barbara for awhile as she updates her Oracle computer files.  She designates the name "Batgirl" to Cassandra, and updates her own file to read "Original Batgirl" or "Old Batgirl" depending on whatever caption you wanna believe.  We learn that Cassandra was born to unknown parents and trained from birth to be an assassin.  She ran away at age nine, and drifted from place to place.  Here we also get a shot of the terrifying new Batgirl costume.

Back in flashbackland, we watch as a man with a scar swipes a bottle from a transient.  This gets a bit sketchy from here... I can't quite follow it myself, but I'll give it a go.  A drifting Cassandra shows up, and scarface appears to recognize her... I think.  He breaks the bottle and brandishes it in her direction.  After standing still for a moment, she flees.  The scarred fella starts laughing... but then suddenly drops to his knees and sobs.  Wha?  I'll include the entire two-page bit, you be the judge.  I'm guessing he was probably a guy that David had her fight... and she will likely be responsible for the scarring... but it wasn't terribly clear right off the bat (pun probably intended).

Back in the present, we observe a man attempting to sexually (?) assault a woman.  I think it's a sexual thing, as he tells her not to "fight it"... and calls her "baby" a few times.  Looks like we found our pitch-perfect first baddie for our new Batgirl, eh?

Or for Batgirl to distract so BatMAN can bust the dude up.

It's now daytime, and Cassandra (who I really want to call "Cassie", but I don't think that'd be right for this gal) is plucking petals off of a flower.  Barbara enters and invites her out for a trip to the park.  At the park, Babs tries to get into our little protagonist's head.  This doesn't go all that well... Cassandra runs away.

At night, Batman comes to the Clocktower to check in on his potential new charge.  We get a bit more information on Cassandra's past... or at least more detailed info.  David Cain was experimenting with infants... kept them in isolation, and deprived them of human speech... with the thought that the brain would adapt so that it would view physicality as a language onto itself... which it kind of already is for people not raised by psychopaths.  Anyhoo... this allows Cassandra the ability to foretell what an opponent may do before even they do.  Barbara comments on her talent with the escrima sticks, which causes Batman to smile... he'd only trained her with them for five minutes.

We now join Batman and Batgirl sparring.  Bruce feels that Cassandra is taking it easy on him, and encourages her to go all-out... and so she does.  Following a barrage, Batman comments on the girl being "out of shape".  That is, until he begins coughing up blood.  This pleases him... however, there's no time to celebrate because something is about to go down.

It's an armored car robbery!  Batgirl swoops in and starts scaring fools into submission... like really... she swats a dude's gun away then just scares him off.  Really going for that pacifism trophy, eh?  Well... no, because the next fella is one she's gonna have to fight... and wouldn'tcha know it... he's got a scar on his face!  She tells him to shut up... which makes him realize who she is...

Later, Batman gives her the "job well done" shtick and they share a relatively touching moment as Batgirl touches the side of Batman's cheek.  This really seems to freak our man out.

We wrap up as the film from the beginning of the issue ends.  We come to find that David Cain has been taking a stroll down memory lane while his "daughter" matures into a Gotham vigilante.


Yeah... really liked this one.  Right off the bat, I'll get this out of the way... this is one that makes me feel homesick.  The Bat-family at the turn of the century was such a great little (?) corner of the DC Universe.  Between the main book(s), the sidekick books, and Birds of Prey... there was plenty of good reading to be had.  This Batgirl fits into that mold quite well.

If I'm not mistaken Cassandra Cain first surfaced during No Man's Land, and we were not privy to her origins or motivations... though, I might be wrong there.  I do know that this is most certainly not her first appearance.  Here we get a bit of her backstory, and a very helpful expositional conversation between Batman and Oracle to help fill in some blanks.

Writing and pacing (outside that broken bottle scene) were well done.  The fact that Cassandra is more or less mute really speaks to the quality of storytelling... again, discounting the broken bottle bit.  The art... is spotty.  There are pages that look amazing, and others where Cassandra's head/face looks really blocky and just not right.  The Batgirl outfit, on the other hand... looks awesome.  It almost has a symbiotic spider-suit kinda look... or like Spawn's cape... it's as though she's wearing liquid, and it looks really quite striking.  It's almost something out of a horror book... and I really love it.

I am woefully behind in my Rebirth reading, but I believe Ms. Cain is part of the Detective Comics cast, so this is actually a book that contemporary readers may get something from... outside the great story, that is.  Definitely worth seeking out, has been collected, and is available digitally.  Worth a look.


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