What does it say about Stephanie Brown and Cassandra Cain — that they’re the stars of the Convergence: Batgirl series?
For the uninitiated, the first Batgirl was indeed Barbara Gordon, but the character didn’t get her own title until Cassandra Cain took over the mantle back in 2000. Cain was an instant hit, and the first volume of Batgirl ran for six years. Cain was featured in the second volume which had a much smaller print run with seven issues, and then in 2009, Stephanie took over after a quick stint as Robin.
The convergence has chosen Stephanie as one of the heroes fighting for Pre-Flashpoint Gotham City, and much of the issue serves as a flashback bringing readers up to speed on what’s happened to the universe since it was wiped away by Flashpoint.
For the past several years, Gotham City has been kept inside one of Telos’ domes. Living in a bubble, Brown decided to hang up her suit and become a maternity nurse. Crime is still an issue, and Red Robin and Black Bat still patrol Gotham’s streets.
When a news report lists the heroes who will represent the city, Brown finds out she must return as Batgirl with the fate of Gotham City in her hands.
Alisa Kwitney does an excellent job with getting readers caught up, and the flashback works in contrast to the main convergence storyline by showing us what life is like living in one of Brainiac’s collection pieces. The story’s strength lies in Kwitney’s ability to spotlight the tension and strain caused by the imprisonment, highlighted by a conversation between Brown and Cain. Hungry for meat, Cain threatens to eat the guinea pig, prompting a bit of conflict between the roommates.
The themes continue to play out when the dome around Gotham disappears. Citizens move in droves, grasping for freedom, and Brown resourcefully heads them off at the pass. The scene serves to set the stakes even higher — the desire of Gotham City to be free clashes with its hero’s doubts in her abilities as she fights for her city’s freedom. Kwitney’s Brown is unconfident and brash, yet the way her flaws are written in serve to make her more likable.
The emphasis on character drives the story, and it’s a welcome bridge that fills in the gap for readers who have sorely missed members of the Pre-Flashpoint Bat-Family. And while fans might be excited to see their favorite characters return, how will they cope when Convergence kills them off again? The issue’s first page shows which “cities” will be battling it out in the Convergence: Batgirl series — El Inferno, Angor, Follywood to go along with Pre-Flashpoint and Flashpoint Gotham — and Catman and his nemesis Grodd make an appearance this issue.
The visuals by Rick Leonardi are solid, and his Brown is as cow-eyed as ever. The out-of-shape Brown contrasts against the emaciated yet muscular Cain, and the panel compositions tell a great story through facial expressions. The art is a little rough at times, especially during the action when characters get a little stiff. Still, overall, it executes well.
Mark Pennington inks the issue, and the outlines are strong. I would have liked a little more detail — some of the panels on the page with Catman sneaking up on Batgirl look more like storyboard panels with vague depictions of Batgirl. The rest of the issue looks good and layered with depth in the panels. Colorist Steve Buccelato has a hand in separating the foregrounds from the backgrounds — the scene with our heroes trying to stop the Gothamites from leaving puts brighter and bolder colors on Red Robin, Batgirl, and Black Bat which really pulls them away from the the busy background crowds. There are also some great panels exhibiting Buccelato’s lighting work — the page where Brown leaves her teammates while she looks for a pre-battle bathroom break shows Tim Drake and Cain discussing the situation with some beautiful shading work that sets an ominous tone.
Convergence: Batgirl #1 sets the bar high with a strong issue that doesn’t keep new readers out. Kwitney’s scripting is inviting, and the measured approach gives readers all the information they need to understand the conflict and to appreciate the concern. For Brown, the convergence is the worst thing at the worst possible time — and she spends a good portion of the issue comparing herself to others. I can see certain ways this story will play out, but it doesn’t make me less excited to watch what happens next. The creative team has all of the ingredients for a great second issue, and I hope it makes huge waves.
And I really hope Cassandra comes back to the main DCU.