Writer: Gail Simone
Pencils: Ardian Syaf
Inks: Vincente Cifuentes
Colors: Ulises Arreola
Letters: Dave Sharpe
Cover artist: Adam Hughes
Editor: Bobbie Chase
Publisher: DC Comics
Price: $2.99 US
Batgirl has proven to be one of the more controversial entries in DC’s New 52 initiative, as it reverted the super-hero publisher’s most prominent disabled character back to full function and health. Honestly, I understand why so many were disappointed with the decision to make Barbara Gordon Batgirl again, because I think the character blossomed as Oracle, the wheelchair-bound hacker to the super-heroes. I welcomed the notion of a disabled heroine as well. I have a brother with cerebral palsy whose mobility is dependent on an electric wheelchair. However, when this title was announced with its controversial change for the title character’s status quo, I was nevertheless interested because it’s penned by Gail Simone. Aside from John Ostrander and the late Kim Yale, who came up with the Oracle concept in Suicide Squad more than two decades ago, no other writer has done more to develop the character of Barbara Gordon or knows her better than Simone. This first issue sets the stage for the series, reintroduces the audience to Barbara Gordon and introduces it to her new supporting cast and a cool new villain. There’s nothing particularly novel or extraordinary about this comic book, but it’s solid genre fare that succeeds as an intriguing starting point to appeal to new and old readers alike.
It’s been a little more than three years since the Joker shot Barbara Gordon through the spine, robbing her of her legs, but she’s recovered. And now that she has the use of legs again, she picks up where she left off, donning the cape and cowl of Batgirl again to do what she can to protect the innocent. There’s just one problem: things aren’t back to normal. Whereas once she was a fearless crusader like her mentor, now she’s a young woman who struggles with post-traumatic stress while still endeavoring to do what she can so others don’t suffer as she did. Little does she know that she’ll soon encounter a man who will stop at nothing to kill those he feels aren’t worthy of the lives they lead.
Ardian Syaf has been a go-to guy for DC Comics for a couple of years now, and he’s definitely a capable super-hero artist. But he’s also young, and he’s still developing as an artist. While the story unfolds in the art fairly clearly, there are some minor inconsistencies to be found as well, especially when it comes to Syaf’s depiction of the title character. Sometimes his art exhibits the influence of George Perez, and other panels put me in mind of the style of Sal Buscema. Syaf is clearly an artist who loves comics and comic art, but it seems to me he’s still finding his own approach, still trying to find his own style. He shows a lot of promise, and his standard approach to the work doesn’t interfere with the story. It’s nothing to get excited about, but it’s not a detriment to the comic either.
The Mirror is a chilling antagonist, apparently driven to kill those who’ve survived normally fatal incidents by sheer chance. He sets out to right the wrongs of fate, so to speak. It’s a cool motivation, and I like his shtick of killing his victims in a manner consistent with the death they avoided in the first place. The only thing that makes him a super-villain is his garb. Other than that, he’s a serial killer, the kind of threat that would fit into an episode of Criminal Minds or some other law-enforcement procedural with ease. I realize that a comic book featuring a costumed crime-fighter tends to call for an antagonist that wears a cape and skin-tight clothes as well. Furthermore, this super-hero relaunch campaign of DC’s would also demand the creators follow certain conventions of the genre. Still, I can’t help but think the Mirror would be even more interesting and compelling if he didn’t sport a costume.
In this story, Barbara moves out of her dad’s place after her recent recovery, heads to a new apartment and meets her new roommate. The scene is a utilitarian one. It introduces her new friend in a succinct, clear way, and the narration establishes how the new situation shouldn’t interfere too much with the title character’s nocturnal adventures. Other snippets from the script throughout the comic book also tell the audience how Batgirl will operate, and we’re shown how she’ll get around Gotham. It’s all functional for the series, but it’s a double-edged sword. While it establishes an accessible tone for the first issue, which is even more important given this comic’s inclusion in a line-wide relaunch, it also makes for a sometimes clunky script, feeling like the writer is taking care of required business as opposed to focusing on character and plot.
Simone fulfilled the promise I expected of her with this introductory issue, as she doesn’t just restore Barbara Gordon to her costumed role. Instead, she uses the change in her status quo as the beginning of a new path in characterization. The writer has recognizes that maintaining Barbara’s time as a disabled person only to restore her mobility opens the door to new possibilities in how she relates to others, how she conducts herself and how she acts in her super-hero guise. Oracle was always seen as incredibly brave, carrying on the good fight in the face of a devastating injury. As Batgirl, now she struggles with fear, finding herself potentially immobilized in a completely different way. That’s what I enjoyed about this comic book and what will get me to come back for the second issue. 7/10
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