One of the titles I picked up from DC Comics’ New 52 launch was Batgirl. At first, I was only going to read Batwoman, you know, because she’s a lesbian (I know, I know) but then a friend suggested that I also read Catwoman. So I was reading two DC titles when prior to that I had read none. Batwoman has been damned impressive (I’ll review once the first arc has finished) and Catwoman has been disappointing. I was satisfied that I would only read Batwoman, despite my mild interest in the Batman line as a whole.
Please smile at me all the time, Batwoman.
What changed things was my introduction to Gail Simone, the writer of Batgirl. A good friend of mine, Mr. Sean Ian Mills, is a fan of hers and has had nothing but good things to say about her writing. I then read a book of superhero short stories, Masked, in which she had submitted a story called “Thug”. After that story, I was hooked. She took an evil henchman character (Sean, you need to read this book) and really humanized him, gave him purpose, motive, and qualities that really made the reader relate to him. I became a Gail Simone believer that day.
Of Secret Six fame.
As such, when I found out that Gail Simone was writing Batgirl, I knew I had to start reading. And boy, am I glad that I did!
Apparently, pre-New 52, Barbara Gordon had been shot by the Joker and lost the use of her legs. She became Oracle, a wheelchair-bound hacker(?) who supplied information to Batman and friends. Forgive me in advance for my lack of pre-New 52 information. It all comes from the profiles I’ve collected in Arkham City. In any case, in the new 52, she has regained the use of her legs! And you know what any sane person would do after being wheelchair-bound for as long as she was (years? maybe?)? You got it: she dons the Batgirl costume and goes out to save the day once more!
A lot seems to have changed in Barbara Gordon's life.
What I’m enjoying about Batgirl was actually what I’d been worried about. As a new reader to anything DC, I was concerned about continuity that I wouldn’t understand. That’s why the New 52 was as appealing to me as it was. Unfortunately, the Bat franchise didn’t get as full a reboot as some of the other titles, so there’s history there that is still relevant to the events in the current line-up. However, Ms. Simone’s mastery of storytelling has been such that if at any point a new reader (me) wouldn’t know what Batgirl was referring to, she immediately follows up with a flashback or a recap to fill us in. At no point have I felt that because I’d spent the last 27 years as a Marvel fan, I was missing out. I don’t ever feel as though I’m on the outside of some large-scale inside joke. Kudos to you, Ms. Simone!
Thanks for the recap!
So, Batgirl’s first adventure is to beat up the Brisby Killers, a bunch of punks who pick people’s names out of phone books to terrorize and eventually kill them. Fortunately for the Ortegas, Batgirl and her recently functioning legs comes in to save the day. And save it she does, but not without a few close calls, enough to make her worry that this might be too soon for her. After all, she’d been paralyzed from the waist down for three years. A brief flashback/nightmare brings us up to speed: she was wounded by the Joker and then three years later, a miracle that isn’t specifically identified brings her the ability to walk again. Hooray for Barbara and her father, Gotham Police Commissioner Gordon, and for the citizens of Gotham City.
Elsewhere, a mysterious figure is tracking down people who should have died but miraculously survived. On that list is one Barbara Gordon. Dun dun dunnnnnnnn.
Barbara is moving out of her father’s house and in with someone she doesn’t know (which, honestly, seems like a bad idea in Gotham, but apparently a new pair of legs makes her feel pretty bold). She and her roommate (unnamed as of issue one) bond for a few moments, while the above-mentioned mysterious figure visits one of the remaining Brisby Killers, who is hospitalized after his fight with Batgirl. Fortunately, Batgirl arrives to save the Killer, though a police officer and the Brisby Killer are killed in the skirmish, all because Batgirl freezes. Turns out, she’s gun-phobic after her encounter with the Joker. Thus, an enmity between Batgirl and the police is established. Oh the irony.
Issue two opens with Batgirl pursuing our mysterious villain in the pouring rain. She also mentally pours out her fears as she battles a foe that believes is way too powerful for her. She’s definitely having second thoughts about her vigilante activities as the villain kicks her ass all over Gotham. At the hospital, Commissioner Gordon arrives to assess the situation and notes that Batgirl is back after her hiatus.
This is where my absence from DC is noticed. Has Batgirl not been active the entire time Barbara was injured? As such, does he not note the coincidence that his daughter has just regained use of her legs at the same time that Batgirl has returned? Moving on.
You'd think that with working legs, she'd want to, you know, WALK more.
At the Gotham Cemetary, Batgirl the villain again and he finally reveals his name: Mirror. His cape is made of mirrors that allows the person who looks into it to really see themselves. Or something. They fight again, Batgirl laments her inferior strength compared to his, but she is also a pickpocket who gets Mirror’s list of those who escaped death. This enrages Mirror, of course, who takes the list back and then flees the scene.
Barbara decides to go home, all beat up, and then almost gets beaten to death by her roommate (who’s name is apparently Alysia Yeoh) armed with a baseball bat. Despite the sketchy way that Barbara arrived, Alysia grudgingly accepts her “I promise, nothing untoward is happening to me” non-explanation and then lends her a dress. I, for one, do not believe for a second that Alysia owns a dress, but what do I know?
Ah, then there’s a date. Barbara has been seeing her physical therapist, who assures Barbara that she shouldn’t feel guilty for having her legs. Also, they are not being inappropriate because with the use of her legs comes a lack of need of his services. Hooray, they can date! Discretely, it seems.
Batgirl finds Mirror’s lair and finds out that he’s a crazed former federal agent who lost his family in a car crash. This made him go crazy with guilt about his own survival (GASP! A parallel to Barbara’s own guilt for having her legs back!). He is now trying to restore balance by killing the people who have had miraculous recoveries. Interestingly, Batgirl and Barbara Gordon are on that list.
It's a game of wits and Batgirl's choice is to... hide.
Mirror knew that Batgirl would find his hideout and has prepared a trap. On a train in Gotham, a man who survived falling on train tracks is on a train that has been rigged with explosives. Mirror is going to let a train kill him the way it was supposed to! What will Barbara do?
We’ll find out next post, readers! Same Bat time, same Bat channel! Two more issues to review before this story of irony, redemption, and hopefully a little bit of lesbian action ends.