GRAPHIC NOVELS

Shadow of the Batgirl

DC Comics. Feb. 2020. 208p. pap. $16.99. ISBN 9781401289782.
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Gr 6 Up–Teenage assassin Cassandra Cain can’t remember anything—who she is, where she came from, even how to speak. As she finishes off a man in the alleys of Gotham City, her dying victim’s last words, about his daughter, trigger something in her. Overwhelmed, she finds refuge in the public library. Spying on a librarian’s storytime, she learns to talk again and discovers that Gotham’s hero Batgirl has gone missing and a crime wave has broken out. But the librarian’s tales of Batgirl motivate Cassandra to take her past—and future—into her own hands and become the hero she was meant to be. Kuhn’s reinterpretation of Batgirl is a tender, moving addition to DC’s series of superhero origin stories. Sympathetic characters, such as children’s librarian Barbara and local ramen chef Jackie, soften the sinister, Jason Bourne–inspired plot. While Cassandra’s romance with the library intern feels tacked on, kind and literary Erik is a gentle foil for the skilled warrior. Goux’s frenetic, jagged art depicts a gritty, menacing Gotham, though the vast library is a soothing sanctuary. Scenes of Cassandra leaping around the stacks and kicking over piles of books joyfully subvert the idea that a library should be a quiet, orderly place.
VERDICT Kuhn’s winning tale of a budding superhero attempting to forge a path ahead will resonate with teens wrestling with their own identities.

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