Batgirl: Batgirl Rising
Bryan Q. Miller, Lee Garbett, Tim Levins, et. al.
DC Comics, 2010
Ever since I began using comics in the classroom, I've bemoaned the lack of strong, intelligent, un-objectified (if that's a word) female protagonists in the comics medium. A few years ago, with DC's now-defunct Minx line, I was given a brief reprieve from my complaining. Titles like The Plain Janes (and its sequel Janes in Love), Re-Gifters, Good as Lily, and the oft-overlooked The New York Four all featured women that the female readership could be proud of. Now that those comics are gone, there's been scant few comics to fill the gap in the strong female protagonist department. Enter Batgirl.
Batgirl is an important addition to a school comics library because it is not only respectful of women, but of all readers in general. Telling the story of Stephanie Brown's first few adventures in the Batgirl costume, Batgirl Rising weaves together action movie elements, teenage drama, (elementary) philosophical debates, and years of Bat-continuity in one fun, easy-to-access package.
After a bumpy start in which perspective is shifted too often and the action isn't terribly clear, the art services the story well in that it gives us (what I believe to be) accurate insight both into the seemingly-normal world of a college freshman as well as the danger that same freshman faces on the streets of Gotham. Particularly, I am impressed by the artists' rendering of Stephanie's wardrobe; rather than wearing mini-skirts with a thong poking out of the top (yes, that's how many -- if not most -- comic book artists still draw women), Stephanie dresses how women actually dress. Her proportions are modest and underplayed, which I believe is an important factor in any comic that enters the classroom.
The flaws I found in this collection (these seven 'chapters' were originally published as individual issues of the ongoing Batgirl title) were few. The Bat-novice may not know, for instance, quite what many of the characters' backstories are; though this isn't essential to enjoying the plot, it might take away some of its richness. There is a curse-word or two ("dammit" and "hell"), and there is quite a bit of violence. But in all, this is a story of a young woman making the right choices, and with its blend of action, humor, and theme, I think that Batgirl: Batgirl Rising would make a great addition to a classroom or school library.