New 52 Review: Batgirl #1

Batgirl #1

I urge you, when opening the rebooted Batgirl #1, to give it five pages. I say this because it takes five pages for you to really settle into just how good the issue is. The controversy surrounding the return of Barbara Gordon as Batgirl has been a monster, but the always spectacular writing skills of Gail Simone should cut the nay-sayers off at the knees. Unlike the other 52 issues, which seem to be all into the dog and pony show of “It’s all new!! Look how new it is”, Simone writes a more human story, one centering on Barbara Gordon as she adjusts to her new life and kicks a lot of ass.

The details surrounding how Barbara regained use of her legs are sketchy but I think Simone did that on purpose. The Killing Joke did happen and Barbara did lose the ability to walk. However, something described by Barbara as a “miracle” took place and now she can walk, even battle bad guys. Batgirl #1 opens with a new villain named Mirror, who acts as a reaper of vengeance, even carrying a little list of folks who need to die because they escaped justice somehow. Of course, Barbara’s name is on that list and thus the plot thickens. Meanwhile, Barbara is enjoying her new nightlife as well as moving into a new apartment with an uber-fabulous artist roommate. Everything seems to be going Barbara’s way until she has to face Mirror, and her own human frailties cost a human life. It’s a tragic end that you never see coming.

As always, Gail Simone’s knack for writing dialog is off the scale. So many comic authors use speech as way to move plot points, but Simone sees the beauty in language and allows her pen to write accordingly. The way she creates acidic hatred for the first group of bad guys Batgirl encounters is perfect, because she uses our own feelings of helplessness. When Batgirl come crashing through the window she’s not just saving the helpless couple, she’s saving us. It’s a powerful moment that sets the stage for the rest of the book. The only thing I really wanted was for her to shed more light on the “miracle” that allowed Barbara to walk again.

There’s no mention of Oracle here, though Barbara does allude to being a computer savant. I have no clue if Oracle never existed in this world but, according to Simone, the whole Killing Joke matter took place three years ago, hardly enough time for Barbara Gordon to become the central hub of the DC Universe. Those waiting for a return of Oracle may have a very long wait to contend with. Simone left a few other juicy bits for later issues. We haven’t seen Batman yet and there’s no mention of the other two Batgirls or Nightwing. I think Simone wanted to keep this issue all about Barbara and celebrate the triumphant return of the classic first lady of Gotham.

Art wise Ardian Syaf’s stuff is rock solid. The action work is impeccable as are the gorgeous splash pages. I love how Syaf changes his art style for different aspects of the story. The work is light and airy during the day with Barbara Gordon. It becomes darker, more steeped in shadow and dark colors when she’s Batgirl and, for the flashbacks, Syaf actually draws the work grainy, like an old movie camera playing. Syaf’s light touch works very well with Simone’s word play. Batgirl #1 proves once again how good Gail Simone is and, having read a lions share of the new 52’s this week, there’s a lot these folks can learn from a storyteller like her.