“Number Ones!” is an article series on NerdMerge.com where we sit down with issue number one of new releases and older comics books. Are they worth looking into? Should you skip it? Thais what we are here to help you figure out! Just a quick review to help you with your shopping and pull lists.
This time we are digging into “Batgirl” from April of 2000 featuring Cassandra Cain!
I was fortunate enough to get my hands on a first printing and first issue of Batgirl, from April of 2000. While that doesn’t seem like much, this issue was in amazing condition for the fact that soon it will be 17 years old and sat in a random box until it was purchased. I was thrilled to pick it up and take a look inside. Batgirl is a personal favorite of mine and I had always wondered about Cassandra’s time as the heroine.
Trained from early childhood by a notorious assassin, Batgirl Cassandra Cain has the uncanny ability to sense her opponents’ movements before they happen. But now that she’s living and working in Gotham, can she live up to the expectations of her mentor, the Batman?
We jump right into the story answering the question: “Who is Cassandra Cain?”. We get our answer in a brutal display of martial arts, speed, and technique. Cassandra was a trained assassin from a young age, knowing very few words. Her kidnapper taught her to read the body as it if were language, she knows what you are saying without you saying a word, she can read your body language and know what you are going to do before you do it. This set up alone for a character is fantastic. The story about her first nights out as Batgirl using what she knows under the guidance of Oracle (the former Batgirl, Barbara Gordon) and Batman (Bruce Wayne).
We get very little dialogue from Cassandra herself, the story is told through the speech of other characters, From David Cain (her kidnapper/father), Oracle, and Batman. They discuss her, weaving the tale of her past and her potential in the future. Batman seems to have high hopes for her, smirking at how quickly she picks up skills and her understanding of what he does. This is a solid story from the start and the writing reflects that, showing her encounters with thugs and getting help from Batman to handling it herself and Batman telling reminding her that when she is out at night, she is him. That is a bold statement, she isn’t a sidekick, nor is she a secondary player. He is stating when she is out fighting crime she is a representation of Batman, she seems to understand that. And it is a position she takes willingly. With the tease at the end showing David Cain, it teases that this tale is going to be an interesting one and one a Bat-fan should not miss.
This is an older book, no it is not ancient, but it shows. The time period of this book’s production shows through in the art and it feels rather hit or miss on an aesthetic level. Large chins are the story of the day. Cassandra and Bruce both have large chins and out of her costume, Cassandra looks a lot like Lilo from Lilo and Stitch. Barbara Gordon in some panels appears to have the face of a puffer fish. While I understand the trope of heroes having large chins, it isn’t something you see a lot today outside of the work of Frank Miller. It is distracting, to say the least in some panels, but overall, there is nothing wrong with the art. Damion Scott’s line work is clean and well done, the coloring and lettering are what you would expect of a Bat Family comic. There isn’t really anything mind-blowing or breathtaking happening art-wise, but it is still pleasant.
My favorite thing about this Batgirl is Cassandra’s version of the Batgirl suit. Cassandra herself is lean and muscular, which shows in the suit but the mouth hole, typical in most masked hero’s suits has been covered. As speak is not a tool she relies on, it is pointless to expose her mouth. What I love about it is how otherworldly she looks. The dark sockets for eyes and the covered mouth gives her an almost demon like look. For the lack of a better phrase, it is freaking awesome. It is unique and she is an imposing ghoul like figure when she shows herself to an enemy. Seriously, I am not sure how much cooler Cassandra Cain could be.
This book is for fans of the Bat Family and Batgirl. You are doing yourself a disservice if you see this book and do not pick it up.
Pros: Protagonist, Supporting Characters, Costume Design, Back Story, Potential
Cons: Large Chins, Puffer Fish Faces