"A Bat in the House"
"The First Time"
Writer: Dan Slott/Ty Templeton
Artists: Rick Burchett(p), Terry Beatty(i), Lee Louridge/Zylonol(c)
Fans of the Babs Gordon Batgirl need this issue of Batman Adventures like they need water. It's a matter of survival. Dan Slott writes a tale that's equal to his Justice League Adventures story introducing the engaging All-Star.
Mr. Slott touches on every element that makes Batgirl cool. The resourceful, daring Dark Knight Damsel displays her talent for disguise and gymnastics. She hits hard with her fighting prowess. She exhibits her resilience and courage. She reveals behind her puckish wit determination and devastating intellect.
Unlike Batman's other family members, Babs' abilities are natural and self-developed. This was as well the case with the pre-Crisis Batgirl. Possessing a photographic memory and astutely clever, Babs sculpted her body and earned a brown belt in karate. She never intended to become a crimefighter but did so out of social conscience.
In the animated series, Batgirl was thrust into the arena due to concern for her father Commissioner Gordon. She was willing to take a bullet for him. She displayed her detective abilities when entering Carl Grissom's robotics laboratory. She became Batgirl when Batman went underground as her father was wrongly imprisoned.
Afterward Babs learned the ropes of becoming a crimefighter on her own. Batman was content to let her pursue justice in her own way until she fell for Dick Grayson. Dick's secret identity impeded his chance for happiness so Batman did the only thing he believed he could do. He revealed to Babs that he was Bruce Wayne. He had already deduced that she was Batgirl. Now, he believed Dick could be happy since both he and Babs led double-lives. They would have no secrets. Ironically, this moment served to push Nightwing in the opposite direction. Nightwing broke away, temporarily, from the Batman family, and Batgirl became Batman's trusted partner.
Mr. Slott shows the bond between Babs and Bats to be equal to that of Mulder and Scully. They don't need to speak in order to understand each other. One look is all it takes. Rick Burchett who also leaves the reader speechless after witnessing animated style fight scenes with a grittier edge, conveys the partnership with the crime fighters' body language.
These powerful scenes occur as Batgirl is caught in a trap that could have been used on Batman. Mr. Slott leaves you guessing as to how Babs will escape from the trap, and her escape is one of the great ones even when held up against the huge body of Houdinis performed in the pre-Crisis. Furthermore, every action she takes makes sense and plays fair with the reader. The moment when everybody realizes that the plan has gone awry is a moment where you hear Shirley Walker's triumphant musical score: ba-da-da-da!
The backup vignette by Ty Templeton further remarks on the relationship between Babs and Bats. Mr. Templeton conceives of a brilliant, uncontrived means to place Batman in a win, lose or die situation that demands he put his trust in the still untested, from his point of view, Batgirl. He's still unwilling to do so until he looks into Babs' determined blue eyes.
The short does in five pages what an entire year's worth of post-Crisis stories cannot do. The short makes Batman heroic, human and mortal. It forges a believable alliance between he and Batgirl, and it instills a sense of wonder in the reader: how will she do it?
The artwork again coveys easily the emotions of the characters. It captures the look of the previous incarnations of the animated series. Compare this to the mutating version of the Dark Knight seen in continuity books. When not stiff, he's ugly. In fact the only thing that startles artistically in "The First Time" is the change in costume. Seeing their prototype uniforms again--the gray bodysuit for Babs and the yellow circle around the Bat symbol for Batman--makes you realize how much better they look now.
I expect greatness from Batman Adventures. This issues exceeds my expectations.
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