It is quite rare indeed in this day and age to see DC Comics put out a graphic novel like this. Oh, sure some of you reading this can say, “Well, Zechs this is one of your favorite characters.” And you be correct, Cassandra Cain is one of my favorite characters to fellow in media. You think I will be all, picking at this very comic at every detail? Yes, I will, more so because it is my favorite character. I’d be even more critical because of that reason alone.
Because the character is a very rare case, when a company that almost completely disowned the character just nine years ago, and for two of those years declared the character “toxic” tossed into limbo along with other characters “discarded” because they brought one of the few things at that time DC had best represented: legacy. Oh, this isn’t the first time that DC attempted this with the character and “try”. Try being the keyword with Batgirl Vol. 2, which was a paltry thin but well-meaning story. But in the end, it failed because it tried to lighten bad storytelling and editorial choices that had bound the character.
Here we are eleven years later and once again fans of the character DC is trying again with teenagers and younger readers with Shadow of the Batgirl. Do they succeed where the past attempt had utterly failed? The answer is a resounding yes.
Writer Sarah Kuhn weaves a tale that is a literal lover letter to the character that takes inspiration from all corners of the characters past (along with the creators who had worked on the character prior), but provides a more modern spin. Likewise, she tightens the script making sure every subplot with the character and a supporting player gets their respective payoff by the end. No sequel baiting anywhere, other than– you are left hungering for more of this world.
It’s amazing how many layers Kuhn puts into almost two hundred pages with the cast she’s given, but she does it so effortlessly. We follow Cassandra’s journey of running from her past, to thinking she’s one thing, when in reality she is something more. Between all that we see her impact the lives around her, and we see other characters going thru the same issues the protagonist has.
Yes, this is a teen’s book, and I maybe way out of the age-range. Yet, there is a pathos to Kuhn as she makes Cassandra a very well-rounded, and endearing character. Likewise, she adds much layers to things we’ve seen prior authors attempt with horribly one-dimensional love interests. Yet, here? They seem perfectly alright, and are relevant to the plot, than say just being thrown in for reasons unknown.
Likewise, the art by Nicole Goux is just utterly amazing. The way she carries expressions throughout the comic, you get to fully get into Cassandra’s mindset or emotions without even the need of a word balloon. More so it helps with the humorous moments in the book as well. There were times literally the way Goux drew Cassandra had me cracking up because that was the intended purpose. When Goux goes serious, it’s kind of off putting. That’s another positive this graphic novel does well balancing the serious moments with some humorous ones. Every note pays off perfectly. You can clearly tell both Kuhn and Goux threw their all into this and what we get is something quite remarkable.
For the character’s abilities, Kuhn shines by letting Goux see the world as she see’s it (an element James Tynion IV used in his various works of the character, but here the technique is really perfected on thanks to the artist). The way Goux stages a panel showing what we see and then what Cassandra see’s is very nice set-up. To get why she’s reeling from this world and is so very much an outsider to.
Likewise, the “dream” sequences Noux are just chilling all thanks to the added glorious colors by Cris Peter. It all enhances the book’s antagonist, David Cain. Who’s presence overshadows this story and hangs over Cassandra intimidatingly before she finally confronts him. Yet, save for a few flashbacks, the character only appears at the end in full.
Really, if there’s any downside is the antagonist. Frightening though he’s made out to be, the overall climax with David Cain is probably the only nitpick I have. It’s just so darn quick. You think there’d be more of a fight, but it’s done and over with. Then again, I digress “the fight” at this point of the story was everything prior, and prior to the confront was when the real climax occurred.
The other I can see some have the Batgirl outfit Cassandra uses thru most of the book, yet the look doesn’t phase me at all given the story’s context. More so, I am not the intended audience but I can understand the necessary choices made and the story context given as well. It really phase me at all, as some others it does.
Though one more thing of Peter’s is just the richness of colors that carries the various moods, settings, and atmosphere around the characters, and moods. I really loved the use of blues in this along with pink. They’re made with by Peters with striking effect. I’d almost say the coloring of Peters’ are almost an additional character in the work itself impacting the story more so.
Shadow of the Batgirl is an amazing reintroduction to new readers of Cassandra Cain. Showcasing the very things many fans became attached to the character more than twenty years ago when she was introduced. For fans of this character, current and old. You truly will enjoy this book. When a comic hits you the reader with raw emotion you know the creative team have done their job and done it well.
For, new fans curious as to why this endures after so long. Kuhn and Goux masterfully show why in this masterfully coda of the character, “You can change. You can.” It makes me so very happy that they hit this so spectacularly out of the park. I can’t help but open this graphic novel again. It made me realize why Cassandra Cain is one of my favorite comic book characters. When a book does that. It deserves this kind of score.
5 out of 5