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'Batgirls' #19 is a heartfelt farewell
DC Comics

Comic Books

‘Batgirls’ #19 is a heartfelt farewell

‘Once a Batgirl, always a Batgirl.’ May that always be true, and may we see these three again, and soon.

Stephanie Brown’s been having a bit of a moment. Maybe’s that’s just my very old pair of Stephanie Brown goggles speaking, but I can’t be the only one who thinks her latest romance on the much-maligned Gotham Knights CW show is a big deal, right? Right?

This, however, isn’t a review of Gotham Knights; this is a review of Batgirls #19 by Becky Cloonan, Michael W. Conrad, Robbi Rodriguez, Rico Renzi, and Becca Carey, the final issue of a beloved comic book series. The issue, like each before it, follows the do-gooder exploits of Gotham’s three Batgirls: Barbara Gordon, Cassandra Cain, and, yes, Stephanie Brown. The creative team also makes sure to feature the book’s supporting cast, from the Batgirls’ favorite podcaster Grace O’Halloran to their GCPD contact Officer Brooks. The issue opens, in fact, on Grace leading a parade in support of the Batgirls — who are themselves very busy tracking down a couple of anti-Batgirl snipers set on targeting those who support the vigilantes.

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This being the final issue of a superhero comic, it will come as no surprise that the Batgirls save the day by defeating the assassins. They even manage to leap triumphantly from a building on the final splash page. The plot itself is neat and tidy that way, just as we might expect from a final issue of a series prominently featuring “sidekicks” (try calling the Batgirls that to their faces). What’s more interesting is the emotional undertone.

Batgirls #19

DC Comics

Batgirls’ strength has always been its willingness to lean into both voice and heart, and Batgirls #19 doesn’t lack in either. To end this truly sweet — and often moving — series on a parade honoring a trio of women fighting crime in a Big Male Hero’s shadow feels like the perfect move. It’s made even more perfect by Cloonan and Conrad’s unwillingness to fall into cloying sentiment. Don’t get me wrong: I love a triumph as much as the next person. But the parade isn’t so much a metatextual celebration of the book as it is more chaos for the Batgirls to deal with in their never-ending battle.

And this issue is a never-ending battle. The danger for a final issue of a series like Batgirls, which has put “friendship” at the center of its thematic interests from the beginning, would be to lean too much on the readers’ attachment to these characters and their perceived relationships. But Batgirls #19 is practically all action, all rendered in Robbie Rodriguez’s lithe style, which has become synonymous with this title.

Stephanie Brown’s Batgirl, for better or for worse, is at the center of that action and therefore this entire issue. Cass, who is arguably the better fighter, gives Steph the go-ahead to take on their baddie, Gunbunny, one-on-one. Steph then gets the full focus of the series’ voice-y narration as it notes not only her improved fighting skills but also her status as a “world-class trash-talker” and “her secret weapon… entropy.”

Steph gets the longest and most personal fight scene in an action-filled issue. I’m not complaining — like I said, I’ve had Steph-goggles on since I started reading comics during her first turn as Batgirl just before the New 52 hit. I’m biased, really; she’s one of my favorite comics characters, and her decades-long history as a scrappy, stubborn, amateur-turned-expert vigilante feels just underneath the surface of this issue.

DC Preview: Batgirls #19

DC Comics

But I can’t help but wonder why Steph gets to hog all the page time in this farewell issue. Cass does have her own solo fight towards the end of the issue, but it lacks that character-focused narration that makes Steph’s fight feel like a culmination of her character arc. And while Steph and Cass get a touching friendship moment in the final pages — and I will always be enthralled by the dedication Batgirls has shown to developing and deepening that particular relationship — I have to wonder why Cass and/or Babs don’t get their own culminating moments.

I love Stephanie Brown, and I love that she gets to kick ass one last time in the pages of Batgirls, because who knows when we’ll next get to see her on a stage like this. Babs has her co-starring role in Nightwing, and soon Cass will be joining the Birds of Prey. Steph deserves this fight and this moment to herself, but I can’t help but feel that the other Batgirls deserved their own dedicated farewells, ones that honor their journeys over the course of this series.

Maybe what I’m saying is that I’m sad this book is ending. It’s rare to see a Big Two superhero comic book so dedicated to exploring the bonds between female characters, especially young female characters, and especially in a book like Batgirls, which is so clearly targeted towards teen girls. I would have loved to see all three of these Bats get their moment in Batgirls #19, but what I really mean is that I want another 19 issues of them kicking ass and kicking back. This farewell may have been lacking in its Cass and Babs time, but, like every issue of Batgirls, it doesn’t lack in heart. “Once a Batgirl, always a Batgirl.” May that always be true, and may we see these three again, and soon.

'Batgirls' #19 is a heartfelt farewell
‘Batgirls’ #19 is a heartfelt farewell
Batgirls #19
This farewell may have been lacking in its Cass and Babs time, but, like every issue of Batgirls, it doesn't lack in heart. "Once a Batgirl, always a Batgirl."
Reader Rating0 Votes
0
Stephanie Brown gets the farewell she deserves.
The unique supporting cast has time to shine.
Robbi Rodriguez's art continues to define this book.
Not enough Cass and Babs in this final issue.
The Shakespeare quote at the end feels a bit out of place and muddles the otherwise touching send-off.
8
Good

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