I love reading comic books, especially about superheroes. But there are so many comic books in existence, so many plot threads and characters and alternate timelines, it’s hard to figure out where to start. But when it comes to Shadow of the Batgirl by Sarah Kuhn, you don’t need to worry about knowing anything about Batgirl beforehand because you’ll figure it all out right alongside Cassandra Cain.
Cassandra Cain is the daughter of a super-villain and has been trained since birth to kill. But in a shocking moment, Cassandra flees from her life of villainy to figure out who she’s supposed to be. Hiding between the book stacks at the Gotham Public Library, Cassandra learns what a true hero looks like—Batgirl. When Cassandra’s father threatens her world, she has to make a decision: step out of the shadows and fight or give into the voices that tell her she can never be a hero because of her past.
I really enjoyed this graphic novel. Cassandra is an interesting character because she spends most of the book not talking. She doesn’t really know how to talk because of her upbringing, so the way Sarah Kuhn wrote her character’s progression was so interesting. As she learns to speak, she also learns about Batgirl and what it means to be a hero. The heart of this graphic novel is a profound message on what qualifies someone for heroism and that our past doesn’t dictate our future.
The other characters—Jackie, Barbara, Erik—were also wonderful. Jackie is the best character hands down. She owns a noodle shop and acts as a mentor/auntie type character for Cassandra. She also kicks butt! Of course, Barbara is great too because she uses her knowledge and tech expertise to help Cassandra become a hero. I love when books include smart girls in a positive light. The little romance between Cassandra and Erik was adorable, and I love that Erik’s favorite book genres are poetry and romance.
I also love that the main setting of the story is a library. It’s definitely a unique setting for a superhero story, but it’s not just there because the author might love libraries. The library helps Cassandra learn and grow as a character and it puts her in touch with people who can held her out, like Barbara . It’s at the library that Cassandra first learns about Batgirl.
The artwork lends itself well for the story it’s trying to tell. I like the character designs and the color palettes. Since Cassandra doesn’t talk a lot during the story, the artwork really drives the story.
I didn’t know what to expect when I picked up this book, but I knew I wanted to learn more about the other Batgirls that have existed over the years, especially since Cassandra is a person of color. After reading it, though, I can now say that Cassandra Cain is my new favorite Batgirl.