Saturday, February 16, 2013

Batgirl Vol. I: The Darkest Reflection

In 2011, DC re-booted (again) its entire line-up of comics. I'm wary of these re-boots, but when I saw that Barbara Gordon has returned to being Batgirl and that Gail Simone is writing the new Batgirl series, I decided to read Batgirl Vol. 1: The Darkest Reflection, which collects issues 1-6.

I knew Simone as the writer of "Double Date," one of the best episodes of Justice League Unlimited, but had not read any of her comics. Simone is well-known for pointing out the stupid things that comics do to female characters, and that was another reason I decided to start with Batgirl as my introduction to the New 52, the name given to the re-boot .

The series begins three years after the Joker shoots Barbara Gordon through the stomach. She lives but is unable to walk. Gordon becomes Oracle, using her computer skills and knowledge to assist other Gotham-based heroes. After regaining her ability to walk, she becomes Batgirl again, and this is where the series begins. We're not told directly how Barbara regains this ability, but there are hints that she received a neural implant at an experimental clinic. Interestingly, the seemingly miraculous nature of her recovery is part of the theme of the first story arc: a villain who calls himself the Mirror is killing people in Gotham who have miraculously escaped death in one way or another. The Mirror believes that they shouldn't have escaped death, and Barbara is on his list.

Barbara is rusty as Batgirl and is still haunted by the shooting. At one point, she freezes when the Mirror points a gun at her stomach, and the consequences are fatal, albeit not to her. Barbara also struggles to be independent of the Bat family, rejecting help from Nightwing (aka Richard Grayson, the first Robin) in taking down the Mirror. Batman and Bruce Wayne also make an appearance in this series, and Bruce, not having seen Barbara for some time, tells her that she was always meant to be Batgirl.

Overall, this volume is well-written and does justice to the character. The only criticism I have of the story is the rather random and sudden appearance of Barbara's mother, who abandoned her as a child. This plot thread seems tacked-on, although I suspect that not everything is as is seems.

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