FEAR AND THE BATGIRL
Perhaps the most controversial decision DC made when they decided to go with the “new 52” project was to reinstate Barbara Gordon as Batgirl. As a long time fan of Barbara and her alter ego for the last 20 years, Oracle. I was skeptical, but if give it to.
Issue #1 puts us with Batgirl on her first day back from the debilitating events of “The Killing Joke”. As such we are introduced to a much younger Barbara, eager to prove her abilities after three years in a wheel chair. Her vibrant and flirtatious attitude is surprisingly reminiscent of the previous Batgirl, Stephanie Brown.
The Mirror, is a new villain who exudes a great balance of menace and mystery. His ruthlessness is clear from the start, and even though Simone telegraphs the specific nature of the conflict that he has with Barbara a little too clearly, he is still a compelling figure that I want to learn more about.
The Art, by Ardain Syaf, and inking by Vicente Cifuentes, has a great modern feel, and while it is neither super dark or particularly striking (like for example Batwoman). It still makes the unique world of Gotham come alive. The colors are vivid without being too cartoon like.
The Bike, that Batgirl uses is, thankfully, both realistic, and not overly girly. It is a far cry from the ridiculousness of Steph Browns’ “Tube” Bike and then later the “mini” Tank.
The Story, No matter how Simone approached it, this was a losing battle. The transition is too great to have the first 24 pages feel like anything more than the basic framework that it is. However, taking the time to build a strong and stable, if not very interesting, foundation is key to building a great story.
This issue is all about fear and uncertainty, and in many ways is a reflection of the “New 52” itself. In many ways Barbara is the most “normal” of the DC Superheroes. Yes, she has fantastic tools at her disposal, but in this issue we see that it is not her resources or her abilities that keep her from achieving all that she is capable of, but in fact it is her fear. Through this we see the true genius of the villain, called the Mirror, because in the end this is not going to be a battle where Batgirl overcomes a cloaked advisory, but of Barbara over coming the cracked and distorted image of herself.
In the same way it is the New 52’s task not to create super powerful new stories, the stories have always been there, but instead to forge a new cohesive image from it’s fractured past.