I’ve always loved Barbara Gordon as I grew up reading her exploits as Batgirl in old back issues of Batman Family where she’d team up with Robin. When she was shot by Joker and crippled in Alan Moore’s The Killing Joke, I was severely disappointed. However, the Oracle information broker identity she established despite her disability really appealed to me, as my father grew up with polio and has had to walk with crutches or use a wheelchair since childhood, yet lets nothing stop him. So I had a mixed reaction to hearing Barbara would be recovering and stepping out the wheelchair to become Batgirl and I know I’m not the only fan to have trepidations about this. However, fans need not fear: Batgirl #1 is pretty excellent. And while I love Cassandra Cain and Stephanie Brown and their tenures as Batgirl, I gotta say it’s great to have the original back.
Batgirl is on the prowl once more, and I felt almost as thrilled as Barbara herself to see her back in action. Babs is every bit a dark crusader as Batman as she stops a brutal home invasion and attempted murder by a group of masked criminals. Talking tough, Batgirl is both excited to be taking on crooks and mindful that she is in a high risk situation. Meanwhile, a strange killer called the Mirror is making his mark in Gotham with a hit list that includes Barbara Gordon’s name.
Throughout the entire issue, no explanation is given for the “miracle” that restored Babs’ ability to walk. It’s a reason to tune in next issue, but I feel a little cheated that it’s been held back for now. Barbara’s change from Oracle to Batgirl is something I definitely want to find out about, but it’s almost glossed over completely with the Babs Batgirl being in perfect form. Not that I want to see Babs going through physical therapy, but the transition is just a little too seamless.
Babs’ past as Oracle still lingers however, as she still has a wheelchair lift in her van. There are some cool aspects Simone touches upon, such as Babs having tremendous arm strength from using her wheelchair for so long (apparently three years)—essentially “walking” with her arms. Not to mention that Barbara is still haunted by the fateful night she was shot by the Joker and the resulting life changing injury. In fact, Babs’ trauma is a big part of the book. Is she really ready to go back to swinging on rooftops and facing down villains with guns, or will her past prevent her from being the crimefighter she used to be?
Unlike Batwing, Batman does not show up in a cameo to give Batgirl sage advice or any other kind of support. I liked this, as the Barbara Gordon Batgirl worked outside of the “Bat-Family” during her formative years and always had an independent spirit. Babs works on increasing her independence in this issue, moving out from her father Commissioner James Gordon’s place and getting an apartment with an eccentric roommate.
Gail Simone has written a fantastic Batgirl tale which I enjoyed tremendously. Babs is tough as nails as Batgirl, yet sweet to the people in her life as Barbara—and despite being able to walk, she’s mentally still recovering from the Joker’s bullet. It all makes for an interesting story, though again, I’d like to see a little bit of how Barbara got to this point. The Mirror also makes for an intriguing villain, and it will be interesting to see how Batgirl deals with him.
The art is quite nice. Ardian Syaf’s pencils and Vicente Cifuentes’ inks make Barbara look fantastic as Batgirl, very alive, vibrant and beautiful. She looks younger (I’ve heard she is supposed to be 22 at the time of Batgirl #1) yet still very capable. Jim Gordon looks a bit younger for that matter also. Batgirl’s new costume looks almost more armored than Batman’s new costume, but still sleek and retaining classic elements of the original.
Batgirl is a solid re-debut of Barbara Gordon as Batgirl, and an all around great book and my favorite for the week right behind Action Comics #1. The cliffhanger is intense, and I really want to see how Babs works on overcoming the mental trauma of her injury along with how she overcame the physical aspects of it. It’s really refreshing to see Barbara young, vital and whole fighting crime again, and I look forward to seeing if she’s really ready to be Batgirl again. I’m definitely putting Batgirl on my pull list and you should check it out too. Unfortunately, Batgirl is another comic that is currently sold out at Super-Fly and orders for the book sold out nationwide (is this starting to sound familiar?) but like Action Comics and Justice League, a second printing has been ordered, so hang in there for that. Whenever you check out Batgirl, I’m sure you’ll agree: it’s great to have Barbara Gordon back in a bat suit.