Batgirl: Death Wish

Batgirl: Death Wish
Batgirl Death Wish review
  • North American Publisher / ISBN: DC - 1-5638-9981-7
  • Volume No.: 3
  • Release date: 2003
  • UPC: 9781563899812
  • Contains adult content?: no
  • Does this pass the Bechdel test?: yes
  • Positive minority portrayal?: no
  • CATEGORIES: Superhero

With Cassandra Cain’s third graphic novel Kelley Puckett becomes the sole writer of the millennium Batgirl’s adventures. She’s now adapted to a normal world, and in A Knight Alone even survived an encounter with Lady Shiva, the most dangerous person on Earth. The two agreed to meet again in a year for one final death match.

Despite the foreboding title, this is a collection of standalone stories that read perfectly well in order. Puckett is a master of fast-paced, visual storytelling, allowing the artist to carry the tales in frenetic bursts of information in motion. Pages go by without a single word and this discipline carries the reader through the adventures at dizzying speeds. Here Damion Scott gives full rein to his cinematic impulses as the new Batgirl prepares for her date with death by invading a US government spook base in search of a corrupt agent, repeatedly trips over Boy Wonder Robin as both discover they’re working the same case from opposite ends, and explores the ramifications of the death penalty. This is by far and away the best and most troubling tale, when she intervenes in the execution of a felon she’d previously captured.

Throughout, Cassandra’s problems with speech and inability to read are handled cleverly and with sensitivity. When Chuck Dixon guest-scripts a telling and bitterly funny parable about families, that singular McGuffin is the trigger for Batgirl to join Stephanie Brown (the hero-in-training called Spoiler) in an attempt to handle the fallout of a kidnapping gone bad.

Puckett resumes with a moody tale as Cassandra’s father, assassin David Cain returns to Gotham with a contract to kill one of the “Bat-Squad”, and in the penultimate story ‘Little Talk’, Batman and Oracle debate the young hero’s motivation in meeting Shiva again. It’s a moody prelude to the climactic ‘I am Become Death, Destroyer of Worlds’, which features the ultimate confrontation between the two greatest martial artists on Earth – a tale full of style and surprise which still finds room to reveal a deep well of psychological subtext.

These gripping tales of flash and razzle-dazzle are picture-perfect examples of comics combat, with just the right ratio of action to plot, to keep the reader’s pulses pounding and eyes wide. Next up is Fists of Fury, while DC later reissued these stories with a few additional tales as To the Death.