Shadow of the Batgirl Review

by Jess Roth on February 05, 2020

Writer: Sarah Kuhn
Artist: Nicole Goux
Colourist: Cris Peter
Letterers: Janice Chiang with Saida Temofonte

The most enjoyable, standout stories in the medium are the ones that read like love letters. I don’t mean the amorous kind you can craftily Google and insert your significant other’s name into for extra Valentine’s Day props (you didn’t hear that from me). I’m talking about the sort of love letters that seem to only be penned in comics— from entire creative teams to the characters who shaped them. The ones they grew up with, the ones who taught them about integrity, courage, heart and hope— DC Comics has had a lot of love letters throughout its distinguished, storied history. The newest one being Sarah Kuhn’s Shadow of the Batgirl, the latest from their YA-targeted line, DC Ink. From what I understand, Ink is supposed to hook new fans by modernizing familiar characters and tweaking them for an audience that’s accustomed to the likes of Rainbow Rowell and John Green over Geoff Johns or Brian Michael Bendis. Shadow of the Batgirl has done that and so much more.

In Shadow of the Batgirl, readers are (re)introduced to Cassandra Cain (one of the most criminally underrated Batfamily members): the teen assassin daughter of supervillains— who couldn’t even bother to teach her how to read, because who needs literacy when you can decapitate someone?— who will one day don the Batgirl cowl. Shadow of the Batgirl allows readers to experience that journey with her: the good, the bad, and the ugly.

Speaking strictly from a YA standpoint, this little book has it all: identity crisis amidst outside expectations, female empowerment, positive representation, good character development, fast pacing, conversational dialogue, and the art and colours are vibrantly moody without burning your retinas. But it’s also so much more.

From the outset, it’s very clear that Kuhn knows Cassandra Cain— the sort of knowing that comes from being entrenched in a character’s history. You can practically hear Kuhn’s younger self cheering “That’s my girl!” throughout this gem of a book— she knows her so well, in fact, that she’s able to reinvent her for a new audience (a great chunk of which, I’d wager, will be interested in visiting their local comic shop after reading this!) while keeping the raw essence of who she is. It’s a rare gift to find an author who understands, respects, and adores her protagonist so fiercely and eloquently; it’s the only acceptable kind of PDA. It’s also worth noting how well Kuhn uses Barbara Gordon as a supportive mentor for Cass, allowing Batgirls past and present to interact organically without either one being reduced to A Very Teachable Moment. Goux’s art is the perfect companion, enhancing the story rather than distracting from it, and the colours are the ties that bind Kuhn’s awesome reimagining together. Everything was handled spectacularly, the creative team gave it their all and delivered an amazing final product.

Despite Shadow of the Batgirl’s short length, it fires on all cylinders to pack quite the memorable punch. Here’s to hoping we’ll see a sequel.

Our Score:


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