One of my geeky resolutions of the year was to step out of my blogging comfort zone. To take more risks on my blog and write about new things. One thing I wanted to try was to write more reviews. As I am reading more now, book reviews seem like a great place to start. And the obvious book to start with is the Shadow of the Batgirl graphic novel. As I had been so excited about the release of this book earlier this year.
I love Batgirl, I love Barbara Gordon and I love Cassandra Cain. I adored the Batgirl III storylines where Cass was Batgirl and Babs was her mentor and Oracle. And so, when I heard about a new book that reintroduces this dynamic, I love the idea of this Shadow of the Batgirl by Sarah Kuhn. You could say I loved the book even before I had read it!
Cassandra Cain was first introduced into the DC Comics during the No Man’s Land storyline in back in 1999. During the crossover event, she became Batgirl and quickly became a fan favourite. Soon afterwards she had her own comic book written by Kelley Puckett and Chuck Dixon. Which ran for 73 Issues most of the issues are available as Trade Paperbacks. (see the recommended reading below).
Shadow of the Batgirl Reviewed
This graphic novel is a new re-telling of her origin story. But, as it’s is a Young Adult graphic novel. A few elements of Cassie’s story have changed from the original, making it less violent. This is also true of Barbara’s back story; they hint at an accident but there is no mention of the attack by the Joker. (I am assuming this is covered in the Oracle Code graphic novel).
Yet, there are some similarities to the original storyline and this version. Both versions of Cassandra are the daughter of the infamous assassin David Cain. He raised both versions to fight and kill from a young age. In the older version of the story, her father didn’t give her a traditional education of reading and writing. Instead, he taught her to read body language and predict her opponent’s next move. Whereas, in the re-telling, she can read and write but has had little interaction with people. Meaning she has not developed interpersonal skills, but can still read human behaviour.
In the No Man’s Land comic book, when Cassandra first meets Barbara, she is mute. This creates an exciting dynamic to the relationship between teacher and student. At first, Barbara is teaching her to read and write. And later it changed to crime-fighting once Cassandra dons the Batgirl cowl. There are some accepts of the teacher/student relationship in Shadow of the Batgirl. But I would have liked it to be explored more, hopefully, this will be in the sequel if they write one.
Similarly, in both the old and new origin stories of Cassandra Cain. There is an incident during her first job as an assassin. And the very young Cassie runs away and ends up living rough on the streets of Gotham. However, the incident in the two stories is different. Once again a less violent version in the Shadow of the Batgirl graphic novel. She also appeared to be older during the incident.
Stepping away from the origins storyline part of this graphic novel and focusing on the main part of the book. The other two sections of the book “Becoming” and “Being” revolve around Cassandra’s time living alone in Gotham City. She lives in the Gotham Library spends her days researching her favourite superhero Batgirl. Who had recently disappeared from the city. And her evenings trying to stop her father. During her adventures, she befriends the librarian Barbara Gordon (who she does not realise was Batgirl). And the owner of a local noodle restaurant Jackie Fujikawa Yoneyama. Both of whom help her in endeavours.
Nicole Goux’s artwork deserves a mention. Her interpterion of Cassandra is a younger more innocent version of Batgirl. This may be because of the younger audience. Or perhaps because of this version of Cassandra. Either way, I loved this version. One thing I loved was the naïve nature of her makeshift Batgirl outfit. As well as the final reveal of Cassie in the Cape and Cowl.
As this book is designed for a young audience, I am assuming that is the reason for the changes to the origin story. The less violent version of the incident and not really examining her upbringing. However, this should not put you off this amazing book! It is an amazing graphic novel that re-established Cassandra as Batgirl and hopefully one that will introduce her to more fans.
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