NEW 52 REVIEW: Batgirl #1
The reset button for Batgirl begins NOW. The original Batgirl is back in action but is she ready to face down her demons? Take the jump and learn more about DC Comics Batgirl #1.
Will The Real Batgirl Please Stand Up?
Previously: Originally Barbara Gordon, the daughter of Gotham City’s Police Commissioner Jim Gordon, took on the guise of Batgirl. After suffering a crippling spinal injury at the hands of The Joker, Batgirl hung up the bat gear and began to help with crime fighting from behind the scenes, as the all-seeing, all-knowing Oracle. After a few years and costume modifications, Cassandra Cain stepped into the Batgirl spandex and waged a silent assault on Gotham’s criminal element. Cain’s personal issues took precedent, and she stepped out of the role and effectively, disappeared almost completely from the DCU for several years. Most recently, Batgirl was former Spoiler and Robin Stephanie Brown. For two years, writer Bryan Q Miller plotted a fan-favorite series that allowed Brown to let go of much of her personal pain and insecurities, and blossom into an upbeat superhero, more than worthy of the Batgirl name. Then…after the changes introduced at the conclusion of Flashpoint, everything old becomes new again.
Ripe For Reboot
The character of Batgirl is a perfect example of why DC Comics has chosen to undertake a line-wide reboot. Unless you’re a regular DC reader, accurately identifying the woman beneath the mask was a difficult prospect. Convoluted character histories are not uncommon within the superhero community. Perhaps no other segment of mainstream comics has had as much turnover as the Bat Family. Reminds me of my days in the call center industry.
The original Batgirl is back in business, and it appears that large segments of her previously disclosed history remain intact. The Joker still shot her, wounding her grievously. The difference in today’s DCU is that after 3 years of recovery, Barbara eventually overcame her crippling injury. Unfortunately, the emotional trauma of the experience still permeates. The first group of criminals we see her confronting is a sadistic foursome of baddies who specialize in home invasion, an area of sensitivity for Barbara. She ends up saving the day, but a revealing internal monologue lets the reader share in her trepidation. Batgirl is quick to assess her own performance as she subdues her quarry. Her upper-body strength is in peak form, thanks to 3 years of relying on her upper body to propel her through life when she still suffered from her spinal injury. However, she is awash in fear and some of her maneuvers are understandably rusty. As is the case with most of us who are intensely self-critical, she’s acknowledging shortcomings that are not clearly evident to the rest of us who just witnessed her dole out a large portion of ass whupping.
Simone’s Barbara Gordon Is A Complex Character
Writer Gail Simone has a long history with Barbara Gordon, writing her for several years on Birds of Prey. It is her respect of the character that helped quell some of the reluctant Batgirl fan base. While not a high-selling title, Bryan Q Miller’s Batgirl maintained a loyal and outspoken readership in the low 20,000-per month range. More controversy flowed from the fact that Barbara had been dealt a rough hand through her injury and didn’t let her handicap stop her from fighting crime. Arguably, her role as Oracle aided the citizens of Gotham far more than she ever could have accomplished as another costumed vigilante. This first issue gives the reader a firm indication that Simone is not prepared to whitewash Gordon’s entire history within the DCU.
As I mentioned earlier, The Killing Joke happened. She was paralyzed, but this time it was for 3 years rather than the rest of her life (presumably). The psychological ramifications of that incident have shaped Barbara into the character we see today. Rather than going for a ‘quick fix’ and dismissing the unsavory moments of Barbara’s life, Simone constructs a smart and believable path of reform that Batgirl will need to struggle through. Characterization and dialogue are regular attributes of Simone’s creative output. Coupled with her obvious love of the character, many fans are beginning to feel that the Batgirl reboot is in very capable hands.
The main villain in the story is not a part of the home invasion gang. By point of contrast, the main baddie actually shows up at the hospital where one of the recuperating gang members is housed, attempting to claim his life. It appears that the story’s pivotal criminal, The Mirror, has a short list of people that have somehow ‘cheated death’ and should have died. For whatever reason, they didn’t, so The Mirror is here to remedy them from the malady of living.
It’s quite early to be able to tell if this villain is going to prove worthy of his place as the inaugural bad guy for the new Batgirl. I trust Simone to reveal additional characterization that will improve my initial opinions, but so far, The Mirror is the least interesting aspect of the story. However, several other supporting characters appear to be shaping up quite nicely, including a new roommate and of course, Barbara’s relationship with her father.
Ardian Syaf’s art is dynamic and does a great job in making sure readers navigate through multiple scene changes and story development in just 20 pages. Some of his perspective shots are unique and his depiction of Batgirl is especially strong.
BOTTOM LINE: Essential for Batgirl, Oracle and Simone Fans. Strongly Recommended For The Rest.
To summarize, Barbara Gordon is back as Batgirl, but healing is a lengthy process. She’s been through a lot and we’re sure to see her continue to face her demons. I have to imagine that Simone is keeping a confrontation with The Joker in her back pocket. While that is certainly a match-up for the ages, we’ll need to give The Mirror some more time to grow on us. In the meanwhile, it’s great to see Batgirl still smiling and enjoying herself at times within the story. Just how much she’ll have to smile about after the conclusion of this cliffhanger remains to be seen. Batgirl #1 earns 4 out of 5 stars.