Stephanie Brown, AKA Spoiler, strives to wreck the plans of villains and make Gotham safer -- all while working from the shadows. In her mind, superheroes only complicate things, so she’d rather work invisibly while elevating the work of law enforcement, leaving vigilantism as non-existent. But isn’t vigilantism still happening, even if its appearance is suppressed? If a tree falls in the forest and nobody is around to hear it, does it make a sound?
Yes, the answer is quite clear, but self-righteous Stephanie Brown has a chip on her shoulder the size of the Bat-Cave, so she’ll continue on her juvenile crusade which includes regularly vandalizing the Bat-Signal and indulging in long inner monologues until she reaches an end. It’s a departure from the original configuration of the Spoiler character, before the more recent relaunch of the character (in both the Rebirth relaunch as well as the New 52 relaunch) in which she was a proud superhero, serving at different times as Batgirl and Robin, doing what she could to curry Batman’s approval.
Reading this issue, I tried to imagine what it would have been like if it had been published in the 1990s, when my generation was just beginning to sink their teeth into superhero comic books. I would have begged an adult to buy this issue for me, or maybe I would have saved up to get it myself. The stern looking Batman on the cover would have been so enticing. I’d take the book home and crack it open, only to discover that I’d been misled. Batman appears on the cover but not once inside the issue. And the action and strong story I was craving is rivaled by the overly-extensive inner monologue of a character that serves up metaphors faster than one can shout “Holy literary device, Batman!”. Perhaps the cheesy villain and computer hacking cliches would have won me over. Or I would have lost interest in comics and taken up sports. (Perish the thought!) It’s hard to picture this comic existing in a different time and place. (And no, this observation has nothing to do with the protagonist's gender, in case you were wondering. Plenty of fantastic female heroes appeared in 90s DC Comics books, including Dove, Black Canary, Supergirl, etc.)
The lack of a timeless quality means the script by James Tynion IV and Christopher Sebela is fresh and new - but also perhaps missing the je ne sais quois that grants a comic an eternal shelf life. It's a punishing Catch-22.
Carmen Carnero contributes some top-notch artwork - with pencils that are carefully inked by Karl Story, Richard Friend and Carnero. Some pages have a George Perez-like quality to them. Carnero’s layouts, panel distribution and characterization creates a well-paced, solid visual experience. Here’s hoping subsequent issues build towards a stronger book that sets the stage for a new era in the life of Stephanie Brown.