Previously it wasn't important to reading Batgirl, but I just found out the backstory of Proxy, Batgirl's wheelchair-bound sidekick, and it's really fucked up. So, I'm going to share with you.
She used to be Wendy Harris of "Wendy and Marvin" Superfriends fame, imported into Teen Titans a few years ago until tragedy struck in issue #62: their Wonderdog turned out to be some kind of demon that ate Marvin and put Wendy in a coma. At some point Wendy recovered from her coma, but found herself paralyzed and in the pages of Batgirl as Proxy, the Oracle to Batgirl's Batman. Apologies for the Bat-reflexive analogy, Internet.
I'm a relative latecomer to Batgirl, but this is the first issue for me that's directly addressed that event. Personally, I find Proxy in general as bit problematic. Oracle mentoring another talented wheelchair-bound person who's in the position she once found herself in is actually a sound concept, but that Proxy fulfills the same exact purpose as Oracle is more than a little silly. However, Bryan Q. Miller's apparently writing Proxy's subplot as one of recovery, both physical and mental. Which is a thoughtful thing to do, because otherwise the DCU is a place where female brainpower is equated with physical disability, which is stupid beyond words.
More importantly, Miller scripts like someone who's written things other than superhero comic books. In other words, he has faith in Proxy's character-driven subplot, and gives it as much attention as he gives to Batgirl's battle with the sonic-themed supervillain Harmony. By the way, that battle's also really well-done, as Miller writes a good (verbal and combative) back-and-forth between Batgirl and Harmony. Unfortunately, Batgirl's endeavor seems to take a backseat to Proxy's issue, but considering that this issue puts both Batgirl and Proxy in different places, Batgirl #22 may prove the payoff to this issue's setup.
Dustin Nguyen, who we haven't seen since his bravado turn in #18's team-up with Klarion the Witch-Boy, returns to pencil this issue. Batgirl's been juggling a few different (but solid) artists over the past five issues or so, including Ramon Bachs and Pere Pérez, but Nguyen's the best of the bunch in his ability to nail the moody darkness of Gotham at night, the bright daytime where the darkest shadows still loom and, just as importantly, the fight scenes. Frequent artist changes are the bane of superhero comics these days, but with Batgirl's often self-contained issues it just about works.
While I can (almost) take an artist changing every issue or two, DC needs to get its shit together when it comes to letterers. The previous issue had work from David Sharpe that not only seemed very copy-and-paste, but integrated with the art quite poorly. This month we have Carlos M. Mangual performing much better than his predecessor, with a surprisingly wide variety of dynamic SFX fonts that often move with Nguyen's art. Miller writes some incredibly silly sound effects -- not exactly Pak/Van Lente/Cosby levels of silly, but there's a cute comedy to using DAB to punctuate the sound of Barbara Gordon putting a napkin to her mouth. Mangual thankfully gets that comedy, lettering in a tiny DAB with thin lines. If dabbing a napkin makes a sound, then the letters should be remarkably different from the ones that make the CRACK a few pages earlier. Mangual's a keeper, so I hope to see him next month.
My production complaints aside, Batgirl #21 is another solid issue in this underrated series. Sales figures suggest that the book is doing pretty decent, but I feel like they could be better. Batgirl should be put in the hands of every single Buffy the Vampire Slayer reader chomping at the bit for Season 9 to come out.
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