Batgirl’s origins are revealed as Barbara Gordon beats a cult leader into submission and gets her first up close and personal encounter with the Batman. More after the jump!
Previously in Batgirl: After a brief misunderstanding, Batgirl, Batwoman, and Detective McKenna take on Knightfall and her gang. Unbeknownst to Barbara Gordon, her psychotic brother James is helping Knightfall to have her vision recognized. This ends in Batgirl being shanked prison style.
BATGIRL’S FIRST CITIZEN’S ARREST
Barbara Gordon narrates her first criminal take-down when a vicious cult leader, named Harry X, breaks free and attempts to take her as a hostage. Sporting some imitation Bat-gear, she uses all her crime fighting knowledge and physical prowess to take out Harry, and save both a cop and her little brother in the process. Batman shows up in time to see her take out the perpetrator and compliments her on a job well done. There’s a bit of narrative on her time as Batgirl and then her choice to finish school instead of continuing to be Batgirl. It all ends on a very bittersweet note, with Batgirl stating, “Sometimes, the darkness finds you.”
Gail Simone’s writing has always been top notch, and this particular book is no different. Batgirl’s plucky voice is retained throughout, sobering up at just the right moments and letting loose at others. She also gives hints to James Jr.’s psyche without bashing the reader over the head with the information. What was originally looking to be a ‘meh’ story, took a very dark turn in its final panels. It was a very fitting and jarring ‘twist’ to end the book on, really driving home just how much Barbara has had to overcome in order to become Batgirl once again. In just that last page, a mere four panels, Simone reminds the audience of just how sinister Gotham can be.
While Batgirl has never really been shown to be a damsel in distress, even when she was at her lowest, this issue drives home the fact that even before she took up the mantle, Barbara was still a force to be reckoned with. She saved her brother, an injured police officer and herself, all while incapacitating the attacker and coming out swinging. In general, Barbara is a likeable character but in this issue we see her human side, back when she was still sweet and young, not yet tinged with a hint of cynicism. It’s always refreshing to see the Bat Family at their most human and vulnerable.
PRETTY GLASS, PRETTY SUIT
Ed Benes’ work in this issue is very solid, bright enough to match Batgirl’s personality, but enough shading to remind the reader of Gotham’s darkness and all that entails. The panel transitions easily from page to page. The art has a strong real-world base that makes images visually appealing to the eye instead of forcing the reader to do an unnecessary double take. If there were any complaints at all, the red-tint over each of the panels was a little distracting, making all the characters look pink and ruddy. It might have been an artistic choice to enhance the color of the Gordon children’s hair, but it really wasn’t that necessary.
There are two spots in this book that are visually very striking. The first is a wide panel of Barbara looking through a window to get a closer look at a mock-up of the Batman suit. Drawn from the other side and looking in at her, the reader sees a wide-eyed and innocent Barbara looking with her face pressed up against the glass like a little kid at a toy store. The portrait is very pretty, and the lines to mark the reflection of the glass itself only enhance her features instead of subtract from them.
The second is a series of panels where Barbara dons a makeshift Batman suit created by the police to better dissect who or what Batman might be. In it, she’s fighting Harry X while narrating how her training has prepared her for this moment. While the fight itself is visually interesting to look at, it’s Barbara dressed in a precursor to what will eventually become the Batgirl suit. This is essentially the first time in her life that she’s wearing a Bat uniform and it’s at least enough to bring a smile to the reader’s face.
BOTTOM LINE: GIVE IT A LOOK
I really enjoyed this book on a second and third read-through. Gail Simone has so far done a stellar job on this series and hasn’t disappointed on this issue either. The art continues to enhance and work with the story, instead of against it. This was a very good addition to the Batgirl series and its ending, while a little heart-breaking, really tied together this zero-issue to the rest of the Batgirl mythos. I recommend that one at least gives it a look.