One of the refreshing things about picking up “Batgirl” #1 was knowing that there was no controversy connected to the comic.
I kid, of course.
I think it’s safe to say that everyone working on the “Batgirl” comic knew about the tempest in a teapot that erupted over the news that Barbara Gordon was shifting from the wheelchair-bound Oracle back into the legs-working Batgirl costume once more. It’s hard to avoid that conversation when it comes to even mentioning the title, really.
And so, to Gail Simone’s credit, she manages to simultaneously acknowledge the change, and set it aside for the time being. We learn that she’s walking again due to “a miracle,” but at least for now it’s not the central focus of the comic. At the same time, Simone uses Barbara’s monologue to touch on some other points connected to it; the reaction from her new roommate to the idea of a wheelchair is noted in a way that tries to help illuminate, and we also see that this version of Barbara is still not 100% back to normal when it comes to getting over the events of “The Killing Joke” that first put her in the chair. Will it be enough to appease people who were up in arms over this change? Probably not. But it’s also the first issue in a longer series and I suspect, like most controversies, time will tell.
But with all of that out of the way, here’s the bigger question: how is the comic?
It’s entertaining, but it feels like Simone and Ardian Syaf have to spend too much time setting up the new status quo for the character to really get the comic moving forward. Sure, we have the introduction of a new villain (that looks to be another creepy Simone creation), and we see Batgirl in action on two separate occasions. And I’m glad to see that Barbara gets a life outside of just being a superhero, once more. But it feels like “Batgirl” #1 has barely gotten moving full steam ahead when we get to the cliffhanger.
Syaf’s pencils are a mixed bag here. There are some pages that look great, especially the first couple. The Mirror’s initial attack is expressive and eerie despite being in broad daylight, and the joy on Barbara’s face as she becomes Batgirl again is a blast. But other pages feel a little cluttered and too busy, especially the scene in the hospital. There’s a certain trick in getting lots of panels on a single page without shrinking everyone down, and these don’t feel like they’re quite there yet.
As for that earlier mentioned cliffhanger? Half of it makes me quite eager to see what happens next, as we delve into Barbara’s head. The other half, with the reaction from a bystander? I have to admit it feels a little cliche for superhero comics; here’s hoping the book doesn’t quickly go down the “misunderstood hero” road. Still, the parts that do work are strong enough to make me want to read a second issue. I’ll miss the character of Oracle, but I’m willing to learn to love this latest Batgirl, too.