Written by Bryan Q. Miller
Art by Dustin Nguyen
Man, how does this book stay awesome from issue to issue? I mean, aside from the obvious combination of an interesting lead character, a strong supporting cast, a writer who clearly understands not only the character, but how to write a girl of her age, and some of the best possible artists for the series? This issue BQM drops in Klarion the Witch Boy for a team up, and despite the very street level Batgirl being fully capable of dealing with crazy shenanigans, she hates magic. Hilarity ensues over, and over, and over again, and when not giving us reasons to laugh, he gives us reasons to care. I mean, it’s not every day we see Steph help out a magical blue witch boy to save his magical were-cat.
Last month I gave this book a perfect ten, in large part due to how well crafted the encounter between Steph and Damian was. This issue might not have our favorite sociopathic sidekick, but as I said before, it does have Klarion, and he is very much in his Morrison/Seven Soldiers form. He’s mischevious, well intentioned, but horribly immature. The premise of the issue is that his familiar, his cat Teekl, has turned into a six foot were-cat and is murdering people to steal their hearts….because Klarion, who can see through Teekl’s eyes, didn’t want him coupling. That’s right, the conflict of the issue arose because a character didn’t want his cat getting lucky. How great is that?
On top of all of this, it’s Valentines Day, and Steph is single. Traditionally she’s always had Tim to fall back on, but she isn’t the Spoiler any more, nor is she defined by Tim Drake. So Valentines Day leads to her finding a corpse, and Klarion holding a heart and drawing things with the blood from it. So off to a good start, right? The two go from an alleyway crime scene, to Limbo Town, and all the way to Gotham University and a Valentines Carnival. As far as team ups go, despite the complete lack of any sort of real reason for these two characters interacting, Miller makes the absolute most of it. Steph and Klarion play off of each other in an incredibly entertaining way, because, I mean, it’s not every day you get to combine Steph’s attitue with the naivette and sense of adventure that is Klarion. Just like it’s not every day Steph punches out a blue faced limbo girl, or gets stuck in a magical bubble.
Dustin Nguyen steals the show this month, without a doubt. The issue is GORGEOUS! From the more traditional superheroy feel of the pages in Gotham, to the highly stylized pages in Limbo Town, this issue just showcases his talent and versatility. In my humble opinion his Limbo Town portions easily outdo Frazer Irving’s work in Klarion’s mini a few years ago, which is saying a lot as I’m a fan of Irving’s. Nguyen very clearly separates from the normal from the magical in this issue, effects like Klarion’s magical ball of trapping people leave the contained figures in that same stylized style of Limbo Town. Not to mention the first and last pages with the red wash and almost story book feel.
Steph is such a great character, and if nothing else, Bryan Q. Miller has shown her versatility and how it sets her apart from the rest of the Bat family. I couldn’t imagine a story like this with Dick, or Tim, or Bruce, and especially not any of the former Batgirl’s, and yet with Steph I don’t even question it. Just like I don’t question how a book can flow so naturally from murder mystery, to were-cat fighting, to Limbo Town, and then to a Valentine’s Carnival. The pacing is perfect, the flow is phenomenal, and every character has their own unique voice.
I never really thought I would see Klarion in the DC mainstream and like how he was handled, but then I read this issue and found myself pleasantly surprised. Now, while I don’t want to see him popping up left and right, I wouldn’t be opposed to seeing Miller drop him in from time to time. Or anybody, for that matter, he’s been batting a thousand with guest stars. From Supergirl, to Robin, and now Klarion, I’m kinda itching to see who he brings in next!
This is far and away, by far, my favorite book in the Bat family, and I read all of them but Azrael. Every month we get a great issue, featuring an interesting character in a well crafted situation. We’ve yet to have an issue featuring bad art, and in fact, the book just seems to look better every month, especially with Dustin Nguyen lending his talents to the title. Steph is more than deserving of a solo title, and it’s one that I anxiously look forward to every single month. This book is a must read for fans of the Bat family, fans of Steph, fans of teenaged heroes, hell, fans of female heroes! If there is a single complaint to make about this book it’s that there just isn’t enough of it, because every issue I read I wish I had more!