REVIEW: ‘Shadow of the Batgirl’

Reading Time: 3 minutes

Shadow of the Batgirl

Shadow of the Batgirl is the newest YA graphic novel published by DC Comics. It is written by Sarah Kuhn, with illustrations by Nicole Goux, colors by Cris Peter, and letters from Janice Chiang and Saida Temofonte. The graphic novel follows Cassandra Cain, a  teenage assassin, and her journey to becoming Batgirl.

Cassandra Cain is the daughter of super-villains and has been trained to be a living weapon. And while killing usually doesn’t bother her, one lifechanging moment during an assassination sends her reelings. After reevaluating everything she thought she knew, Cassandra begins to learn everything she can about Batgirl. However, Batgirl has not been seen in Gotham for years, but when Cass’s father threatens the world she is learning to love she will have to face her insecurities and take up the mantle to be the hero she never believed she could be.

Shadow of the Batgirl

Cassandra Cain has a dark past and Shadow of the Batgirl alludes to it beautifully while still being accessible for younger audiences. Cass struggles with words because she was never taught how to speak or read but she never comes off as unintelligent. Instead, Cass’s tenacity to learn on her own in the library, where she eventually meets Barbara, is inspirational. More so, the book beautifully highlights Cassandra’s gift of reading people and their body language. As someone with ADHD, a lot of Cassandra’s personality is relatable despite her upbringing being so pretty far off from what any teenager would experience. Most notably is Cass’s PTSD. Kuhn also shows Cassandra’s struggle with flashbacks and how simple actions, noises, or words can take her mind out of the present. As someone who has dealt with flashbacks in the past, it was remarkable to see it so accurately and eloquently narrated and illustrated here.

However, as much as Cassandra teaches herself, she isn’t alone. Shadow of the Batgirl also heavily features Barbara Gordon, a character who means debatably more to me than any other comic character. Babs works at the Gotham Public Library and after teaching a class about Batgirl, meets Cass. From there, Barbara guides Cassandra and helps her believe in herself. Seeing Babs in a wheelchair is extremely important, especially since we see that Babs isn’t resentful of her chair. In many current iterations of Batgirl, Barbara has expressed guilt and weakness over needing a chair. As someone who is disabled and has had to use a chair, it is refreshing to not see that narrative again.

Shadow of the Batgirl
Outside of the narrative, Goux’s artwork is unique but also fits the tone of the book as well as other YA graphic novels published by DC. The designs of the characters, particularly Cassandra’s homemade Batgirl suit, are precious. Peter’s colors are muted but never dull. Additionally, Cass’s skin tone looks perfect. Often, color artists struggle with depicting the skin tones of people of color but I am happy to say that is not the case here. Chiang and Temofonte’s lettering matches Peter’s muted tones. It is clear and concise, never overcrowding the artwork or the panels.

Shadow of the Batgirl is the best YA graphic novel DC Comics has ever published, it also, so far, one of the best comics of 2020. I don’t think I can recommend this book highly enough. This is an excellent read for fans young and old. Fans of Cassandra Cain, Batgirl, or Batman should pick up this graphic novel.

Shadow of the Batgirl is available everywhere comic books are sold and online.

Shadow of the Batgirl
5

TL;DR

Shadow of the Batgirl is the best YA graphic novel DC Comics has ever published, it also, so far, one of the best comics of 2020. I don’t think I can recommend this book highly enough. This is an excellent read for fans young and old. Fans of Cassandra Cain, Batgirl, or Batman should pick up this graphic novel.