“Shadow Of The Batgirl”
Writer: Sarah Kuhn
Artist: Nicole Goux
Color Artist: Cris Peter
Letterers: Janice Chiang with Saida Temofonte
Review by Steve J. Ray
One of the reasons I love DC Comics so much is the way that they present a range of titles suitable for every kind of audience imaginable. The sheer scope and variety of their publications is impressive, diverse and comprehensive. Their recent forays into the YA market, with books like Kami Garcia’s Raven, have been incredibly successful, and this month’s “Shadow Of The Batgirl” is another absolute winner.
I love comics that challenge me, even as an adult, but I also really appreciate it when I can hand a piece of work – like this book – to an adolescent and know that what I’m giving them is a quality piece of storytelling. I can happily recommend “Shadow Of The Batgirl” to new readers, old cynics, girls, boys and human beings of all descriptions, shapes and sizes, comfortable in the knowledge that each and every one of them will see, or feel, something that they will enjoy, or relate to, in these pages.
Sarah Kuhn has delivered a Batgirl story for the 21st Century that shows her love for every iteration of this character, and her respect for all that has gone before. The best bit, though, is that this isn’t a rehash, a reboot, or a re-telling, oh, no… it’s much, much more. This is the essence of Cassandra Cain, this is the inner truth of Barbara Gordon. “Shadow Of The Batgirl” delves deep into the souls of these two wonderful characters, respects their histories and delivers their magic in a way that’s totally today.
Comic-books, graphic novels, or whatever you want to call them, are movies with an unlimited budget. Like films, they are also the fruits of many people’s labors. One of my favorite aspects of this medium is seeing a finished product that is a true collaboration, and team effort. Sarah Kuhn has written a beautiful story, and Nicole Goux, Cris Peter, Janice Chiang and Saida Temofonte have brought it to life.
I love Nicole Goux’s line art and character design, I absolutely love it. I am also in complete awe of her storytelling ability and draftsmanship. At first glance the book’s art looks simple, and cartoony. It really is deceptive. When you look at the level of detail in the backgrounds, the movement, the page composition and the pacing, however, you realise that it’s really hard to make things look this simple.
The majority of this book is set in a library, and Nicole draws every book on every shelf, or in piles for training (buy this graphic novel… PLEASE). She draws Every. Single. Book. She draws doors, windows, cracks in walls… I could go on for days. Instead, I will ask you to look at the double page spread above. Cassandra is surveying the library, taking mental notes of all the people in it, and the quiet corners that she can hide in. Everything and everyone she sees becomes a person or place of importance in this story. Look at that library! I am in total awe of these pages. Thank you, Nicole.
Cris Peter’s colors are quirky, textured and atmospheric, and the way her work fits with Nicole’s is just lovely. Her subtle pallet works with the line art, enhancing mood and movement, without swamping the subtleties or shadows. I can tell that the two artists talked and talked throughout the creative process, because this is clearly a collaboration. This is a clear example of two artists wanting to make each other look great, and not wanting to steal the limelight for themselves.
Rounding off the creative team are Janice Chiang and Saida Temofonte. It’s amazing how much character and style these talented ladies have infused into their work on this book. From brilliant manga-esque munching noises, to the SMACKs, Hnnfffs and CLANGs that are comic-book commonplace, every sound-effect works and every line of dialogue is perfectly placed. Tremendous work.
I’ve loved Cassandra Cain since her “No Man’s Land” debut, waaaayyyy back in 1999. Her gift at reading body language before she could even speak always made her one of the most fascinating characters in comics. Sarah Kuhn has brought that back, but in a way that keeps all of Cass’ awesomeness, yet also adds new levels of delicacy to her, making her all the more sympathetic. Then there’s the fact that she was the first character of her kind in terms of her look. I’m not talking about her costumes here (though all three designs by Nicole Goux and Cris Peter absolutely ROCK), I’m talking about something far more important… but Sarah Kuhn says it way better than I ever could in her intro:
Cassandra Cain was one of the first Asian girl heroes I saw who actually got to be the hero. She wasn’t a sidekick, she wasn’t cannon fodder, she wasn’t there to teach anyone a Very Important Lesson about racism. She was freaking Batgirl… and she was biracial, like me! I devoured every appearance, I obsessed over every story point, I adored the way creators Kelley Puckett and Damion Scott envisioned her.
I fell in love with Cassandra Cain – and she helped me see that a superhero could look like me.
Even more reasons why this character is so well loved.
“Shadow Of The Batgirl” is a great comic-book/YA graphic novel and a terrific read. I now desperately want to see the further adventures of Cass, Babs and the awesome, AWESOME Jackie (I love that woman so much; pages 152 and 153 of this book blew my tiny little mind).
So, pay your late fees villain, clean up your trash, and be with your sequel… you never know when Batgirl may be watching.
Images Courtesy of DC Entertainment
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