Overview: The final arc of Batgirls opens in Batgirls #17 with Steph and Cass relaxing and having fun, but they are violently interrupted by a terrifying sniper attack.
Synopsis (spoilers ahead): As Batgirls #17 begins, Grace O’Halloran, sporting her eyepatch, interviews Gotham district the Hill residents for the Aparo Park Jubilee but is frustrated that none of them are locals, muttering about gentrification and how no one gives the Batgirls credit for making the Hill safer. Steph, Cass, and Kyle Mizoguchi are out for the Jubilee, and Cass drags Steph off to dance. Their jubilant Jubileeing is tragically interrupted by a gunshot, and Steph herds the civilians into Mr. Dhaliwal’s bookshop for safety, then the Batgirls change and seek out the sniper. They find Grace’s cameraman shot by the sniper, and while Steph gives him CPR, Cass seeks out the gunman.
Later, Commissioner Montoya is briefed by Office Brooks, then talks to the Batgirls. Cass and Steph train intensely to catch the sniper. Steph reveals that after being shot (and briefly killed, see Batgirls #15) by her dad, her anxiety about catching the shooter is much stronger.
That night, as Grace has an alcoholic relapse in grief at her friend and cameraman’s critical condition, the Batgirls stakeout the rooftops, then decide to break up an illegal gun sale by the Hill’s Angels (to an undercover, drunk, and frightened Grace). Steph tries to get them to go home in a combined show of force (batarang disarms) and reason (appealing to their better nature), but the frightened gang isn’t backing down. Things look ugly, but suddenly, the sniper attacks again. Cass saves a gang member, but they fire back wildly. The Batgirls kick the gang into an empty grave and tie them up, as Oracle cuts the lights and helps them out as mission control. Steph runs as a distraction for the sniper as Cass runs towards the shooter. She makes it to the sniper’s nest but only finds three bullets and a note ominously saying, “One for each Batgirl.”
Analysis: In the first issue released after the news that the Batgirls series is ending at issue #19 (though the recent solicitation for the Knight Terrors: Nightwing two issue miniseries in July and August revealed that Cloonan and Conrad are writing that book and including the Batgirls, so potentially that could be counted as issues #20-21 of Batgirls. Hey, I’ll take what I can get!), we get a nicely constructed first of three issues pitting the Batgirls against a terrifying sniper threat. The tone seen in Batgirls #17 has finally settled on the kind of sweet melancholy that Cloonan and Conrad are most comfortable with and most skilled at evoking, in contrast with the slightly manic attempt at mimicking DC Super Hero Girls that slightly marred the first couple of arcs. The narration boxes have found a much better rhythm and amount – helping out for wordless scenes like the intensely passionate dance scene opening the story but not interfering in serious moments like the final scene of the Hill’s Angels and the sniper in the graveyard. Steph and Cass are clearly professionals by this point – managing crowds, facing terrifying threats, communicating well, and performing intense feats of derring-do, like Steph distracting a sniper while Cass races to attack the sniper’s nest.
Cloonan and Conrad mentioned in various locations that they wanted to show the impact of new people moving to a neighborhood, both positive and negative, and in their work with recurring figures like Grace O’Halloran and the Hill’s Angels gang, they’ve really gotten some interesting thoughts down. The Batgirls have made things safer and attracted new residents, but that makes locals like Grace and the Angels both happy and irritated. We don’t know for sure what the sniper’s motivations are (solicitations and covers indicate that classic Chuck Dixon villains Gunhawk and Gunbunny, as well as one of the Saints from the first arc – potentially indicating rewrites once the cancellation of the title came down), but there’s a chance given the ominous note that the Batgirls brought them down on The Hill, similar to Christopher Nolan’s idea of escalation from Batman Begins and The Dark Knight. All in all, Cloonan and Conrad are paying off a lot of threads they’ve set up throughout the series, and hopefully, it will wrap up nicely for our wonderful heroines.
Robbi Rodriguez, the occasional artist throughout the series, turns in one of his better books here. His art, enhanced nicely by Rico Renzi’s neon green and pink-dominated coloring, has a nice balance of loose energy and clean and appealing linework, unlike issues #7-8, where the looseness overwhelmed the appeal of the lines. Rodriguez enhances the emotions of each scene – the wistful passion of the opening party, Grace’s terror and grief, and the sheer overwhelming danger of the sniper scenes. Though not anywhere close to my favorite artist of the run, Rodriguez definitely has done excellent work on this issue and hopefully will keep it up for the next two.
Jorge Corona, though he only drew the first six issues of the series (plus the three ten-page short backups in Batman during Fear State), has drawn all nineteen main covers of this run – quite the achievement. And most of them are really good – including Batgirls #17, featuring Steph, Cass, and Babs stacked up in front of the Clocktower face, each with a unique expression nicely highlighting their characters. David Marquez, in the second of his four cover series for this run, digitally paints and colors a gorgeous Stephanie Brown against a bright gold background, walking towards the camera in a mid-length shot with body language exuding confidence. Interior artist Robbi Rodriguez provides the 1 in 25 incentive variant, with a visor-clad Steph crouching in front of a standing Cass wearing bat-ear headphones, a nice nod to the dance scene inside.
Editor’s Note: DC Comics provided TBU with a copy of this comic for review purposes. You can find this comic and help support TBU in the process by purchasing this issue digitally on Comixology through Amazon or a physical copy of the title through Things From Another World.
As Batgirls builds to its finale in two issues, Steph, Cass, and Babs work together brilliantly to face the grim sniper threat.