'Batgirl' #32 is the best kind of fan service

[Editor’s note: Every Sunday, Robot 6 contributors discuss “The best in comics from the last seven days” — from news and announcements to a great comic that came out to something cool creators or fans have done.]

She was not Birds Of Prey's first writer, and probably won't be its last, but Gail Simone has become associated pretty closely with the character of Barbara Gordon, and specifically Barbara's identity as the omniscient info-broker Oracle. One might even say that only Simone could have returned Babs to her original role as Batgirl, as part of the New 52 relaunch. Since then, Simone has quietly made Batgirl into one of the more engaging Bat-books, spending as much time on her relationships as on her crimefighting.

This week's issue (penciled by Fernando Pasarin, inked by Jonathan Glapion, colored by Blond) is a fine example. All those relationships collide when hardcore vigilante Knightfall decides she doesn't like "common criminal scum" (and Babs' boyfriend) Ricky Gutierrez suing ex-Commissioner Gordon. Meanwhile, Babs herself gets recruited by an old college roommate (now part of a super-secret spy outfit, of course) that wants to bring Knightfall down. All this while Batgirl has to deal with the current Batman Eternal status quo, in which snotty cops can (and do) refuse to arrest the Bat-crew's various foes.

Everything comes to a head around the middle of page 18, when Babs decides she needs to call in her most trusted ally. If you were paying attention at the beginning of the last paragraph, you can probably guess who -- and in that spirit, even if you were spoiled by the advance solicitations (like I was), you might still get a goofy kick out of who else shows up, on page 20. It's a nod to Bat-history in more ways than one, and it expands Babs' circle of associates in a pleasantly unexpected way.

Otherwise, the issue is nice and methodical. Proceeding episodically, Simone sets up each scene as building on the last, letting the reader experience Babs' increasing emotional burden. Pasarin and Glapion's work is similarly straightforward, especially with Babs' moment of truth on page 18. They portray Gotham realistically without overwhelming the reader with those details, and they have consistently drawn Batgirl/Barbara as athletic and capable without being unrealistically so. Knightfall describes Batgirl as "balletic," and these artists bring that to life.

Last week, in response to a shareholder who called the company's portrayal of women "embarrassing," DC Entertainment president Diane Nelson talked about "heighten[ing] the presence of female storytellers and creators" in comics and "bring[ing] the female characters to light more," but acknowledged that DC had "more work to do." The company could start by producing more series like Batgirl.

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