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.

BATGIRL #1
Writer: Gail Simone
Penciller: Ardian Syaf
Inker: Vicente Cifuentes
Colors: Ulises Arreola
Letters: Dave Sharpe
Cover: Adam Hughes
Cover Price: $2.99
Publisher: DC Comics

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.

Mediocre Villainy

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.

Rating: ★★★★☆

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About Author

A San Diego native, Mike has comics in his blood and has attended the San Diego Comic Con every year since 1982. His comic interests are as varied as his crimes against humanity, but he tends to lean heavily towards things rooted in dystopian themes. His favorite comic series is Warren Ellis’ and Darick Robertson’s Transmetropolitan. Spider Jerusalem is the best character ever devised. Mike realizes those statements will alienate a good portion of his potential audience, but those are the facts. You are unlikely to find a single collector with a better Transmetropolitan art portfolio than the one he has in his possession. He is an Assistant Editor for the upcoming Transmetropolitan Charity Book. He also occasionally freelances for various other comics websites, which he promotes through his homepage (www.comickarma.com), Twitter and other inherently intrusive forms of social media. Mike firmly believes that the best writers come from the UK. This could be because he’s of Irish descent; not so much based on physical geography as the fact that the Irish like to drink heavily.

26 Comments

  1. I agree with pretty much every statement in this review; The Mirror underwhelmed me significantly, but basically every other element of this story was spot on. Hopefully Gail will manage to make The Mirror a worthwhile villain, but I am excited for this era of Batgirl.

    I’m also quite intrigued to see where things go with her new roommate

    • I hope the roommate’s name isn’t on The Mirror’s ‘to do list.’ That would be cheap. But I agree, the roommate situation has story potential. It’s well-trodden ground, but so is the premise of a vigilante in a bat costume fighting crime in Gotham City.

  2. I guess DC acomplished one thing Marvel couldnt. Create buzz w/o killing off a major character. My local comic shop has a facebook page that generaly only the shop owner and his employees post on. This week people who dont normally post anything on his page are now posting their personal reviews of every new DC book thats out. Whether the book is good or bad people are all a buzz over this for now. Hopefully in a year people are still talking and generating conversations about whatever they maybe reading.

    • To be fair, DC has done more than it’s fair share of killing. In terms of other ‘gimmicks’ employed by The Big 2v starting over at #1 issues is arguably just another short-sighted approach at chasing a quick buck. We’ll have to see how things develop over the next few months, won’t we?

  3. I’m torn. I was _reaaaaally_ excited for the return of BatBabs, but…. I’m not sure I’m okay with the way we got there. I mean, what prevented her from “recovering in 3 years” in the normal DCU? Apparently the DCnU isn’t wheelchair friendly, and necessitates such medical miracles? (I’m being a bit snarky, but I’m serious.) Why couldn’t this “miracle” happen before Cassandra ninja’d up the Batsuit? Especially in a world with Dr. Midnight/Mid-Nite/Midnite (McNeider/Chapel/Cross), and Cyborg and Green Lanterns and..etc… I _understand_ that it’s a trivial bit of continuity upon which I am hung up, but I’m still hung up on it nonetheless. This, to me, has been the problem with the big “relaunch”: the little bits ‘n’ pieces are kinda distracting me from the overarching “Everything Is Shiny & New!” aspect.

    • I couldn’t agree with you more. Brian Q Miller’s Batgir book was one of my top 5 books from DC. My understanding was that Babs was never ‘healed’ because she played a very important role as a virtual spokesperson for the handicapped. This new change to the status quo is a pretty quick about face. Simone will be walking a tightrope with this radified origin, but I think she’s already well aware of this fact.

    • There was nothing keeping Barbara from regaining the ability to walk in the DCU, except for the fact that the writers didn’t want her to walk. Cyborg could have at least fashions some robotic leg braces that let her walk. But it’s the writer’s whim, the bullet from the Joker could have been written to have hit her just an inch shy of the spine and thus keep her out of the chair in the first place. It’s just a new twist to this new universe that instead of being irreparably paralyzed, she was able to recover. I like it, much like I liked the reboot of the Star Trek series, it isn’t just a plain wipe of what’s become. In those 3 years that she was recovering, did they mention whether she was Oracle in this new DCnU? I can’t remember but I don’t think they made that clear. I kinda doubt it though, I mean she mentioned that she pored over her father’s file while he wasn’t home and the fact that she has to share a small place with a roommate makes me think she can’t afford high tech gadgetry or that she’d have found the information out on the Brisby Killers through her computer prowess. But then again, where’d she get the Bike? I’d really like to see more of this though, I want to see in this DCnU the Bat Family dynamic. How does she interact with Batman and how, with these new changes, will that all play together.

  4. I’m sorry, but I’m still just appalled that one of the strongest female characters of the last twenty years has regressed to being BatGIRL! How old is Barbara now that she should willingly refer to herself as a mere girl? How long has she been a superhero compared to Batwoman? Is she going to ride around on a motorcycle with frilly pink lace around the trim like Yvonne Craig did? I’m sure Gail Simone will do the best job she can, but the whole thing is still very saddening to me.

    • Everyone seems to be somewhat regressed in age, I’m sure it’s just tweaking the ages more than making some comment about her not being a Woman or something. She’ll kick plenty of ass as Batgirl. It’s more just a return to form, she’s back to who she was, in a world where her spine healed (through massive amounts of physical therapy, I’m sure) and she’s getting back in the game as the same superhero identity that she was beforehand. I mean she was Batgirl for 22 years before being shot in the spine, and well she’s been Oracle for 23 years now, so hey, I guess we’re going back to the basics again. And now if she gets paralyzed again, I’d say it would be ridiculous, but really after an injury like that, fighting crime and putting herself in that much danger, it would be more easily fractured again I’d think. I dunno though.

  5. Pretty good. 3 and a half stars, but given Simone’s track record, I’ll probably give this a full 6 issue try-out. This may be the new underground hit of the nDCU in a few months. Pardon the pun, but I think this book’s got legs, if they let it run. I saw some potential in Mirror, especially when he casually blows of that cops face, but he could just as easily fade into a pale reflection of his potential.

      • Yeah, agreed. I think he wasn’t given the majority of the face time in the book because if they want to build him up they need to spend some time on a slow build I think. It’s either that or do the tried and true and do a flashback and show how he’s been around for a long time doing something, or he has ties to your hero (or their father) that goes way back. Like a childhood friend, y’know. We’ll see. I’d like to see what he keeps flashing at people though. Does that sound as bad to anyone else as it does now that I’m reading it? hmm….

  6. I am also a bit conflicted between having the best Batgirl back and losing the awesome character of Oracle. Simone is one of my favorite writers, so I’m on board for now.

    I think the Mirror is quite intriguing actually. How does he know these people cheated death? Did he aim the gun at the spot the Joker hit on purpose? Does he know that everything changed? He could be the most interesting part of this book.

  7. I’m kind of disappointed. She was perhaps the most visible example of a physically disabled superhero SURPRISE! She’s all better. I guess any disabled kids who had been looking up to her will just have to deal. I’m sure the stories will be great, but still… kinda sad.

    • I guess any disabled kids who had been looking up to her will just have to deal.

      Mmm… It’s a valid point, but I still don’t believe that kids read comics much anymore, and if they do, they really don’t look up to the heroes the way they used to. It’s pretty much all adolescent power fantasies these days. As much as I am troubled by Barbara Gordon’s return to full mobility, I understand why they felt the need to do it. Change is inevitable, after all, and at least they’ve shown that they want to do it right, having the whole experience be meaningful (at least for now) for Babs and her papa.

    • Many of us are conflicted over Barbara’s recovery. I’m sure it was a difficult decision for the ‘powers that be.’ Oracle is an amazing character who’s exploits have been captured in hundreds of comics over the last 20 years. We still have all those great stories to illustrate that disabled and handicapped can be incongruous.

  8. Yeah, I guess my greatest fear is that some writer will want to write more Oracle stories, and he’ll find a way to paralyze her AGAIN. Nothing could worse than having her repeatedly injured like this. It smacks of the “women in refrigerators” problem. Once is good story, twice is torture. Charles Xavier anyone?

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