Friday, November 19, 2010


I could have made any post #50, since none of them are rated in ascending or descending order. But I may as well choose as my #50 another #50.

BATGIRL #50, by Dylan Horrocks and Rick Leonardi, happily qualifies by both my selection-terms: it's both a fight of good duration and one with symbolic resonance for the central character and the "Batman Family" of which she's a member.

The basic setup: Cassandra Cain is raised by her natural father David Cain to become a supreme assassin. As the issue's opening pages clarify, Cain did so with training-methods that most would call child abuse, but as a result Cassandra became a martial artist, superior in some respects even to Batman. Batman (for whom David Cain was formerly a martial-arts mentor for a time) rescues Cassandra and through an involved set of circumstances, Cassandra became the new Batgirl. As a child of martial (rather than marital) abuse, Batgirl becomes the poster child for the slogan: "whatever does not kill me makes me stronger." Nevertheless, tensions do develop between Batgirl and her "new father" Batman, some of which have roots in Cassandra's ambivalent relationship to her real father.

BATGIRL #50 brings out those tensions by exposing both heroes to "Soul," a drug designed to cause victims to lose control of their inhibitions, eventuating in a long and grueling Bat-fight that only ends when Batgirl works through her "issues" and her better self surfaces. The final page makes it unclear as to whether Batman was fully exposed to the drug as was Batgirl: when he implies that he may have prolonged the fight to help Cassandra work things out, Barbara Gordon asks him if the whole fight was some sort of "screwed up therapy session." Clearly, it is to Batman, and probably to the authors as well.

Next week I'll address the greater subject of "superhero trauma" in a concluding post to top off this series (and maybe the blog as well), because said trauma, and the concept of stylized violence in art generally, bear closely upon my reasons for doing the blog at all.

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