Batgirl at Super Hero High is the third in a series of YA prose books set in the DC Super Hero Girls universe following Wonder Woman at Super Hero High and Supergirl at Super Hero High. Author Lisa Yee has set a high bar with the first two books where she has managed to flush out this version of the DC Universe with an even greater eye to detail than what we typically see in the comic book series or the cartoon (that’s one of the advantages of prose!), while creating a compelling super hero narrative that drops a ton of Easter Eggs relating to the original source material. Not only that, but Batgirl is one of the most beloved characters in DC Comics history—particularly the Barbara Gordon version of Batgirl who is the lead of this novel. Even with all that to live up to, Batgirl at Super Hero High soars. While this book makes more sense if you are familiar with events of the first two titles, it can also stand on its own as a great one-off story.
A warning before we dive a little deeper into this review—there are mild spoilers for the plot of Batgirl at Super Hero High to follow.
Barbara Gordon has been an important part of the DC Super Hero Girls prose universe since the very first book working as the school’s tech wizard whenever she is called upon. In Supergirl at Super Hero High she became best friends with the new girl, Kara Zor-El (a nice nod to their standing friendship throughout comics’ history), who encouraged her to suss out her own identity as a super hero and now she is finally off on her own journey of self-discovery.
While Batgirl is enthused to be offered a chance to study at the prestigious Super Hero High her father, Commissioner Gordon—who also a teacher at the school—is not as supportive as she would like him to be. Rather, he goes out of his way to encourage Barbara to explore more technology-based paths of study for fear of her safety becoming seriously jeopardized fighting villains. In previous books, author Lisa Yee has explored familial relationships between the eponymous character and their parents, although there has always been a heavier focus on the relationships between mother and daughter. It’s nice to explore the father/daughter bond shared by the Gordons in Batgirl at Super Hero High and highlight a family dynamic that is not often seen all-ages stories.
Fans of the comics will know that James Gordon is one of the greatest fathers in the DCU and, true to form, despite the fact that he has serious doubts, Barbara is allowed to attend Super Hero High and become Batgirl. This is an ongoing point of conflict between father and daughter that causes both characters to come to a compromise and focus on how much they love each other.
While studying at Super Hero High, Batgirl quickly becomes the favorite of Doc Magnus (a great Easter Egg here: Doc Magnus is the creator of the Metal Men!), who is the science and technology teacher and dives head first into her studies. Some new supporting characters come into prominence along with Batgirl over the course of this book including Adam Strange (Easter Egg: a super hero scientist who lives on the planet Rann), Big Barda (one of the New Gods, from Apokolips), Catwoman and Arrowette (sometimes referred to as Artemis in her onscreen incarnations). By highlighting different characters than in the first book, Yee continues to effortlessly expand the world.
Not only is Batgirl honing her super hero skills—which is particularly tough as she is not a “super” —but she is still called upon to act as tech wizard while principal Amanda Waller struggles to find her a replacement, is invited by to participate in TechTalkTV (a tech-based competition reality show), and even rescues an adorable baby bat named Batty. She tackles all of these tasks with as much aplomb and grace as she can manage, yet is soon overwhelmed by the weight of trying to live up to the expectations of those of who surround her. There is an important lesson here for young readers of Batgirl at Super Hero High to seek out balance and only commit to a responsible number of tasks.
There is another Easter Egg Yee has included in Batgirl’s commitments: She volunteers at the library and enjoys stacking books. Batman ‘66 fans eat your heart out!
While Batgirl enjoys success in nearly all of her endeavors, it does not win her friends or influence the popular girls at school (Frost, Star Sapphire, Cheetah), and adds even more stress to her relationship with her father when Batgirl decides to move into the dormitories. It is there that she helps Harley Quinn develop HarleyGrams—tiny holograms of Harley that pop up on your computer to entertain you … and hack your tech!
The remainder of Batgirl at Super Hero High is a detective yarn, featuring Batgirl and her compatriots following clues and deducing who hacked the HarleyGram program that she wrote. What is utterly wonderful about this is that all Batfamily characters are detectives. Solving mysteries and using their specific set of skills and intelligence in order to save the day is what they do. Mysteries are solved by using good old fashioned intelligence, not super powers, and this is the advantage Batgirl has over every other student at Super Hero High…and probably a few of the teachers as well! Additionally, the powerful message of the importance of your mind is nice to see highlighted in a story aimed at a younger reading audiences.
Fans of the current Rebirth series BATGIRL AND THE BIRDS OF PREY should be pleased to know that this version of Batgirl is a big fan of the Birds of Prey rock band in yet another deftly included Easter Egg.
Lisa Yee has knocked this third novel out of the park and into the stratosphere. Batgirl at Super Hero High is about a girl who tries her very best not to disappoint anyone. She plays to her strength, she cares for her family and she gets really good grades wrapped up in the trappings of a super hero origin. It is sure to delight readers of all ages and would make a particularly delightful gift for some of the younger readers in your life who are looking for more Batgirl!