Other than a penchant for capes and black masks and a talent for getting on Batman's nerves Batgirl and Catwoman might not seem to have much in common. But in at least one sense, they fight on the same side: both were among the earliest female superheroes. It's easy to imagine the influence these two powerful female role models must have wielded over their young audience. Now, the heroic contributions of Batgirl and Catwoman are celebrated in two separate retrospectives. From DC Comics, there's Batgirl: Year One, in which we learn how the feisty daughter of Commissioner Gordon Batman's begrudging pal in the fight against crime became, almost by accident, a superhero in her own right. The book, written by Scott Beatty and Chuck Dixon and illustrated by Marcos Martin and Alvaro Lopez, is a prime example of the classic superhero comic: the writing is strong and witty, but contains just enough cheese to satisfy, and the artwork is rich, brightly colored and impeccably drawn. It's a great, fun read, and would make a nice replacement for a Sweet Valley High title on any girl's bookshelf. Less a graphic novel than a coffee table book is Catwoman: The Visual Guide to the Femme Fatale (DK, $19.99, 64 pages, ISBN 0756603838), by Scott Beatty. Written with obvious love for the medium and its exclamation-point-ridden language, the book is a celebration of the various incarnations of Selina Kyle, a.k.a. Catwoman, from spurned secretary to jewel thief in furry suit to, well, Michelle Pfeiffer in lickable latex. Some great fight scenes and images of the uneasy romance between Catwoman and Batman are also included, reproduced in color panels.

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