Batgirl #14 (DC Comics)
We had to get here eventually. We used to talk about Batgirl all the time, even before this whole Living Myth Magazine and God of Comics things got started. I remember going to elementary school and talking Batgirl, but I looked at Barbara Gordon as a secondary character at best until the Killing Joke. I was a kid. Forgive me.
Thing is, Oracle was much more interesting as a character to me than another Bat-sidekick. I was looking into injury and recovery when Sword of Azrael came out (I was as much an insomniac than as I am now), and I thought there was something interesting about this incredibly athletic person being forced to fall back on their mind in the wake of injury.
I liked that her superpower was her mind, her intellect, her skill with computers. The internet was still becoming a thing back then and not many people knew much about it or suspected what it would become, but the writers behind Barbara were predicting the way things would turn out. I discovered some of my favorite sociologists because of this character (hi, Alexander Bard and Jan Söderqvist~!).
There was also the question of her trauma. Long before post-traumatic stress disorder became a thing that people were talking about, Barbara had it. The better writers at DC Comics were able to work that into her stories and show how she was coping with her damage and living past it. There was a lot to like and Oracle became one of my favorite characters. I followed her appearances everywhere I could.
As I got older I started meeting people that couldn’t walk for one reason or another. Some of them knew about Oracle; some of them didn’t. All of them liked her or liked the fact that she existed. It was something to start conversations or friendships with.
Then Gail Simone happened.
Oracle went from being a b-list character to an a-list player, the person that the Justice League called on when they needed help. She formed her own team, the Birds of Prey, and even got her own (borderline unwatchable) television show. I devoured all of the things.
A new Batgirl showed up in No Man’s Land and a part of that story was dedicated to how Barbara dealt with someone taking on her old identity. She mentored the third Batgirl, and then the fourth. She had an awesome rapport with Steph Brown that was prematurely ended in favor of the grimdark narrative that was the nu52, undoing thirty years of history to put her back in the cowl and get her out of the chair.
I didn’t like it for a number of reasons; I don’t like stories that go backward and retcon things – it shows laziness and a lack of awareness, I think, on the part of the writers or editors that make those decisions. A few factors kept me interested, though: the first was that Gail Simone was returning to write, the second was a conversation I had with a friend, and a third was something I observed all on my own.
Gail is obvious and she wrote the best of the nu52 comics, so we’ll leave that where it is. The conversation with my friend went on about how there was more at stake for Barbara under the cowl, that if she was discovered she would ruin not only herself but her father. I could get behind that. The last one, the observation, was that as Barbara goes, so goes DC Comics as a whole.
She was a part of the goofy sixties and seventies. Her solo adventures started getting more involved and operatic in the eighties, then Oracle and the darkness that followed happened in the nineties. She returned to opera as a survivor and a genius in the early aughts, where DC started flirting with intelligent stories that concentrated on strong friendships overcoming corruption and evil. She went dark for the nu52, but was one of the first characters to go light as Rebirth approached.
Barbara Gordon, for some reason, is the herald of what the DC Universe will be at any given time.
That alone is reason to pay attention to her, but then you add in the writing of Hope Larson as she delves into the lore of the character, cutting right to the quick and showing who Barbara is in relation to the people around her and why she matters. Hope is a writer who brings out the best Barbara has to offer in the modern world, a worthy successor to the earlier works done by Gail, and she’s quietly writing one of the better titles DC is currently publishing.
Given how good DC Comics is at this point, that is saying something.
Currently, she’s digging into the ties between Barbara and Dick Grayson and trying to see what lies at the core of their bond. Is it just an old crush forged into something more by Bruce-instilled loyalty? Is there anything more there? Odds are, yes, yes there is, but Hope is going to figure out how far that bond goes. If you like Barbara or Dick Grayson at all, you owe it to yourself to be reading this comic.
I chose the Dan Mora cover for our header because I love Dan Mora and the man needs to be working on more comics, The interior is being handled by the team of Inaki Miranda and Eva de la Cruz, and the two of them compliment one another nicely. Inaki does details that run almost as deeply as her shadows, and Eva does some interesting things with light sources that work well for this story.