Batgirl #21

Title: The Lesson: Unchained Melody
Written by: Bryan Q Miller
Art by 
Dustin Nguyen
Cover by: Dustin Nguyen
Release Date: May 11, 2011

In Batgirl #21, Steph battles another Reaper, known as Harmony, and must deal with her self-appointed sidekick; meanwhile, Proxy is having trouble dealing with her grief, and turns to Barbara for a possible new way to heal.

Batgirl continues to be one of my favourite titles. Last time I praised the lightness and humor; in this installment the story takes a darker turn, focusing on Proxy’s grief over her brother. However, the story stills allows for humor and keepsthe audience both entertained and invested in the characters, though there are a couple more bumps in the road than last time.

Proxy gets quite the limelight here, focusing on her dead brother, whom she sees as a hallucination, and her decision to journey to the mystical Tibetan city Nanda Parbat. Her development as a character–and further separating her from the idea that she is a younger Oracle–is refreshing, and I wonder if her journey will continue within the pages of Batgirl. While I’m confident Miller can pull it off, her journey might overshadow Batgirl’s now solo missions back in Gotham.

The other half of the story focuses on Batgirl battling Harmony and dealing with Grey Ghost. The banter between Batgirl and her opponent adds some levity alongside Proxy’s story; the “steampunk catsuit” line is hilarious. However, while Harmony has an interesting costume, she is on the whole a forgettable villain. Miller is building Steph’s own rogues gallery, which is a great move, but only if said rogues are memorable and lasting.

The Grey Ghost remains the most annoying character in the series (though he doesn’t hold a candle to Bat-Mite). His desperation and pleading with Stephanie to be her sidekick is an old tune, though thankfully Steph shows some backbone and rejects him outright. With the dun dun dun! ending, I’m sure we haven’t seen the last of him.*

This issue also marks Nguyen’s much-anticipated return to the Batgirl title, and he doesn’t disappoint. The cover is stunning, and it’s worth purchasing the issue if only to stare at it. (wink header wink) Nguyen’s drawings are consistently fluid and clean; there are no sloppy faces or disproportionate limbs, and the rest of the art team do a great job with the inking and colouring. Love. But what’s up with the miscredit on the cover?

Nguyen bumps up the issue to a four-star rating. This wasn’t my favorite installment, but Batgirl remains a strong title with Miller and Nguyen at the helm, and I’m excited to see how Steph handles the reins on her own, and where Proxy’s journey will lead her.

* If you want some good Grey Ghost, check out the B:TAS episode “Beware the Grey Ghost.” Best part: he’s voiced by Adam West.


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