So you missed out on the first issue of Batgirl and you didn't pick up the new series? If that's the case then this issue is exactly where you should start. Issue #5 of BATGIRL is the launch of an all-new story arc and serves as the introduction of a brand new adversary: Gretel. Who is this adversary with more multi-colored wigs than Nicki Minaj? All joking aside, Gretel does seem like an interesting enough opponent for Batgirl.
Every time Gretel shows up, someone becomes possessed and begins repeating the number 338. In this issue, Simone briefly hints at the significance of 338, but leaves many questions unanswered. 338 could be tied to the address of a building that is set to be torn down by Bruce Wayne, but the significance of the building itself remains a mystery. By leaving the reader with a lot of questions, Simone almost guarantees their return. There's no question about it, the character we see at the end of the issue will definitely leave many yearning for more. By the end, Batgirl is going up against one of her heroes -- question is, why? What's gotten into him?
I like the integration of Barbara's Mother, but I wonder why after all these years she has made herself known to Barbara. Barbara's reaction is natural of any child with an estranged parent. Clearly she feels abandoned; and that's not childish, that's normal. Why should Barbara sit through a conversation on her Mother's terms? I think it made a lot of sense to have Barbara dismiss the conversation both for her own character and for the continuation of the story. I am still interested in seeing who Barbara's Mother is and what this means for her origin.
When Commissioner Gordon calls on one of his Detectives to deal with Batgirl it feels similar to what's happening in BATWOMAN -- only a lot less interesting. The Commissioner Gordon VS Batgirl stuff has been done before, and here we get to see it again. Sure it will be interesting to see Simone's take, but how different will this be from what we've already seen?
It's pretty difficult to distinguish between Barbara and her mother in some of these panels, save for what they are wearing. I think it would have been nice if the artist had aged her just a little bit.
Replace Bruce Wayne with any rich dude who owns a billion-dollar company and it wouldn't matter. I'm not a big fan of using Batman to buoy a book. I always end up feeling cheated.
The book wasn't bad, but it didn't blow me away either. The villain is interesting, but doesn't feel very threatening; certainly not "sickly sweet and sadistic," as described on the cover. This isn't deep, dark and brooding like Batwoman -- it's a lot more light-hearted. As a result, it's harder to take Babs really seriously as a crime-fighter. She doesn't feel threatening, but she's also a lot less fun than Stephanie Brown. I am hoping that Simone will dig deeper into her character's psychology rather than remaining on the surface of the issues. I am craving depth for Barbara and I don't feel like I am getting it here. When DC decided to make her walk again, I was really hoping they would explore the psychological ramifications of her getting shot, learning how to walk and coping with the decision to fight crime again -- five issues in and I still haven't seen a glimmer of that.