There is hope, friends! I have read the comic and there is hope!
Summary of Issue #2: Stephanie and Barbara were on the trail of a drug distributor who turned out to be the Scarecrow, who was working for Black Mask. They were also being unbelievable dicks to each other.
Issue number three starts out the same way. Stephanie says that the Scarecrow is hiding in an abandoned hospital, adding, “It isn’t creepy at all, if you were wondering.”
Babs: “I wasn’t.”
See, if you gotta be mean, at least be funny. It must be said that both of them are really channeling Bruce. Barbara is surrounded by Bats in a cave and Stephanie’s cape is has cranked the dramametor up to eleven. Barbara sends Stephanie off, saying, “You’re the only variable you can control in a situation like this.”
Inside the hospital, the Scarecrow gives his lackeys some scalpels and a dose of fear gas and watches them go after each other. They both die pretty quick. Scarecrow hears a sound and says “Come out, come out, wherever you – ” He sees that it’s Batgirl. “-Oh.”
Hah. Admittedly, no one wants their ass handed to them by Batman, but I bet they all feel a little silly when their ass is handed to them by someone who isn’t Batman. Not even a cool story to go with that broken jaw!
Or broken pelvis, because Stephanie starts low. Sadly, the Scarecrow quickly gets the better of her when the fear drug kicks in. Ah, The Scarecrow: When only battling your personal demons metaphorically is for weenies.
Stephanie hallucinates that the Scarecrow morphs into Robin, and then into Spoiler. Both beat Stephanie up, while telling her that she isn’t good enough. Stephanie flashes on Barbara’s phrase, “The only variable you can control is yourself.” Scarecrow counters that no one’s brave enough to face themselves all the time.
Stephanie: “I am.” And she kicks the living hell out of him.
Okay, it is expressed a little hokily here, but this is why I love the character. All the horrible, horrible things that the hallucinations said to her have been pretty much what almost every character has said to her since she started out. It’s what we’ve been reading about happening to her character since her *second* appearance. (When she first appeared she was an adult character spoiling the Cluemaster’s plans, and Batman liked her just fine. I don’t think it’s in continuity anymore.) For the past, oh, ten to fifteen years of comics, her character has been told, almost universally, that she wasn’t good enough, wasn’t worth people’s time to train, and should stop. Given that she’s been a superhero fangirl since she was a little kid, that had to be unbelievably discouraging. I suppose for some readers it must be irritating that she kept going.
For me, although I didn’t like the character at first, that she keeps at it after so much disappointment earns my admiration. I know many people can relate to Peter Parker’s beleaguered good guy persona. The just-can’t-win aspect of his character, paired with his irrepressible sense of humor, has attracted a lot of fans. Perhaps the same goes for Stephanie Brown, especially among female fans. Despite being told that she’s not good enough, that she doesn’t belong, and that nothing she can do will change that, she keeps going because she is just. That. Stubborn. And if obstinance is all she has, that’s what she’ll make do with.
Now that everything has been resolved and the arrival of the cops can’t do one bit of good, the cops arrive. Detective Nick Gage tells Stephanie not to move while brandishing his gun, but she gets out a one-liner and explodes some gas capsules, covering her escape.
The next morning Stephanie has waffles with her mom, Nick finds a note on his car window written in what looks like lipstick thanking him for not shooting, and Barbara introduces herself to Wendy before taking a job at Stephanie’s university. Look! There is light in the sky! Potential for fun and happiness! I can hardly believe it.
But wait! There’s more!
Barbara takes Stephanie to the cave, where she makes an oath. No, not the ‘never stray from the path of righteousness’ one.
“I pledge to you, Stephanie Brown, my guidance. Support. For aas long as you want it. When you go out at night you won’t be alone.”
Stephanie says that neither one of them will be alone.
Readers, I felt my jaded heart melt. And when, on the next page, some muggers are unsuccessfully trying to shoot a girl wearing a purple batsuit and a big smile? It melted even more. Aww, yeah. This is how it’s supposed to be.
Interesting Irrelevant Detail: The subtly red background color in all the Batgirl scenes mirrors the red of the, frankly awesome, cover. Nice job, colorist. Well played.
Suckiness Advisory Warning: The detective’s a decent foil. The Stephanie-Babs relationship has worked out. There are a few good background characters, including Wendy, percolating in the background. Babs has a life. I think we have clear skies ahead, people!
Overall Awesomenss Level: Well. Look at that. Rising. And a month ago I might have predicted nothing of the kind. Bring it, issue four. Bring it.