|"The School of Night"|
|Batman, Incorporated: Leviathan Strikes!|
|December 21, 2011|
|Written by||Grant Morrison|
|Cover by||Chris Burnham and Nathan Fairburn|
|Interior Art by||Cameron Stewart|
|Colored by||Nathan Fairbairn|
|Lettering by||Sal Cipriano|
|Edited by||Mike Marts|
|Previous Issue||Batgirl #22|
|Next Issue||Batgirl #23|
"Fitting in was the first hurdle, but I like to think I overcame all obstacles." - Stephanie Brown
In this giant-sized one-shot spinning out of Batman Incorporated, Batman realizes to his horror that he's been outwitted as the true identity of Leviathan continues to elude him. Is his deadly adversary an old foe with a grudge to settle, a new face of evil or something completely different?
Summary of Stephness: Following her adventures with Squire in London (Batgirl #22) and furthering the setup in Batman: The Return and Batman Incorporated #6, Steph finds herself with her neck literally in a noose during an evil midnight secret cermony at St. Hadrian's Finishing School for Girls, thinking that Batman was right about the shenanigans at the School.
Flashing back to last month, we see Steph entering Evil Schoolgirl Assassin Academy, while Bruce is disguised as a janitor. Steph enters under her own name, handling criticism from the teachers for her posture, and surprise attacks from her classmates in the locker rooms - with guns! Fortunately, Steph's training is more than able to handle such paltry schemes, and she reflects on her history with Batman, Black Canary, Tim, and as Robin. Unfortunately, one of the teachers catches her unaware, and she finds herself waiting for detention with another student, who tells her about other students. Steph plays dumb about the Batfamily, and hears the administrators talking about her father, the Cluemaster (though they think he's dead).
During handgun training, the instructor tells Steph she could be an Elite, according to Miss Hexley, but that associating with the girl she was talking to earlier, Jolisa Windsor, wouldn't help her upward mobility. Steph reflects that most of the girls will end up as trophy wives/bodyguards to the rich and corrupt.
At night, Batgirl sets up the school for confrontation, giving her options when it all goes down. During the day, she impresses the teachers, and receives an invitation to join the Elite in the tower. That night, the Son of Pyg, who starts to initiate Steph and Jolisa, heads in nooses, to be suicide assassins. However, it is a trap! Pyg plans to torture them into revealing which is a spy, but Steph strikes first, using the weapons disguised as fashion accessories to make her escape to the roof. She changes into her uniform, and ziplines herself and Jolisa to the grounds. Chaining the doors shut, she tells her classmate that her job is not to run away, but to spoil the whole operation.
Batman reveals himself as the gardener, and pursues the leaders of the school, telling Steph "Outstanding work," and telling her to meet him in the headmistress's office when she's done. Surprised for a moment, Steph realizes that Batman only leaves someone he has faith in to complete their job. "These girls were trained by some of the most dangerous men and women in the world. Me? I was trained by the actual most dangerous men and women in the world, and I didn't come here to learn...I came to teach."
Steph finishes her job, then crashes through the window to defeat the headmistress, who is facing off against Batman.
Behind the Scenes: While this is sorta-kinda in New 52 continuity, it's listed here because Morrison wrote it mostly before the reboot was finalized, and apparently didn't want to have to figure out what to do with Stephanie post-change. Only the first half of the comic features Steph, and the rest doesn't matter that much unless you closely followed the Incorporated/Morrison Batman run. It fits neatly after Batgirl #22 in pre-n52 continuity, as it was apparently intended to be #9 for Morrison's series: http://comicsalliance.com/batgirl-stephanie-brown-batman-incorporated-leviathan-strikes/. Additionally, there was a last minute change from trying to fit the issue into the n52, to simply publishing it as the last part of the post-Crisis continuity, after the artist had already started to draw the issue with Steph as Spoiler, necessitating redrawing. Chris Burham also drew an unused cover for Batman, Inc. #9 featuring Batgirl.
One of the writers and designers on the n52 Batgirl series relaunch of 2014, Cameron Stewart, was the artist for the Stephanie story. While working on the book, he interacted for the first time with Steph's fan base: http://www.comicsbeat.com/stephanie-brown-is-back-and-cameron-stewart-is-learning-all-about-her/. He'd actually already touched Steph's story when he provided the cover for Batman: The 12 Cent Adventure, but apparently wasn't involved in that event enough to know about the character.
Sadly, though Stewart was apparently impressed at fan love for Steph, he didn't take his experience to heart, as since he was asked to take over the new Batgirl with Barbara Gordon in the cowl, he never mentioned Steph in interviews without taking the chance to antagonize and denigrate both Steph and her fans.
In Batman and Robin Eternal #17, Harper Row infiltrates St. Hadrian's, the exact same school that Steph infiltrates here, and mentions that she shouldn't tell Steph she's doing this.