Batgirl #1 is by far one of the most anticipated releases of September and of DC's new 52. The issue has been a topic of contention due to the controversial decision to remove Barbara Gordon from her wheelchair and have her walk again. The question remains, though, is this a good idea? Will the story live up to fan expectations? Will the story justify changing 20 years of comic continuity? Spoilers below.
This is a solid issue. Everything from the pacing of the comic to the art by Ardian Syaf is pretty fantastic. The story opens with what fans will quickly learn to be Batgirl's new villain. This new adversary calls himself 'The Mirror,' and carries a list with him. As the caped adversary eradicates his enemies, he crosses them one by one off of his list. Readers should note that Barbara's name is also on the list, and that his methods for killing his enemies in essence "mirror" events that took place at some point in their lives. For example, in the first scene, 'The Mirror' goes after an elderly man and former sailor who survived the sinking of a "transport ship" while twenty-seven of his crew-mates died. The man is outside watering his plants with the hose, 'The Mirror' take the hose and drowns that man -- essentially mimicking the death of those drowned sailors. 'The Mirror's' methods for eradicating his victims adds a very creepy and interesting dynamic to the character.
Barbara Gordon is back as Batgirl and she's swinging across the panels in this issue kicking ass and reveling in how good "feeling a creep crumble under [her] feet" feels." As fun and energetic and light-hearted this issue is, it just doesn't feel like Barbara Gordon. At least not entirely.
Barbara is gaining her independence here, pushing away from her father (Commissioner Gordon) and moving out of the house and onto her own. It's an interesting new way of seeing Barbara Gordon, dealing with the realities of rent "she can almost afford" in possibly not the best neighborhood. Hey, I can relate to that. Her new roommate is quirky and likeable and will probably be too flighty to notice that Babs is spending many late nights out of the house. The villain in the series is also very interesting, and I really like that for the majority of the comic you can't really see his face.
Like I said above, if you read Birds of Prey and if you recall the way Barbara Gordon is generally written as Oracle, you probably won't recognize her here. This Barbara is more light-hearted, free spirited and smiley than Oracle ever was. That's not necessarily a bad thing, it's just hard to believe that this is Barbara Gordon. The story is set three years after the Killing Joke meaning the years that Barbara spent as Oracle have essentially become obsolete. That sort of makes me sad. There was a level of intelligence and maturity in Barbara's dialogue before that you don't get here, and it's almost uncomfortable to read at times. I imagine that the reader will watch Babs grow and mature throughout the course of this series -- or at least that's the hope.
If you pick up this issue hoping to get a straight answer about how Barbara is out of the wheelchair and back in a cape and cowl then you are wasting your time. Gail Simone is no dummy, and she wants you to come back next month for issue #2. Simone gives readers just enough to keep them guessing about how Gordon is able to walk again by alluding just enough without giving away any major details. However, one clue she does give us is the fact that while the physical scars might be healed, the emotional scars from that fateful encounter with the Joker are still there. Additionally, any questions about Batgirl's possible "cybernetic suit" are answered in this issue. An interesting take on this classic character, I admit I am interested in seeing where the Simone, Syaf and Cifuentes creative team take the character.