It's about what Batgirl's not that makes the current issue a five-star book. In the New 52, Barbara Gordon is the blood daughter of Commissioner Gordon. That wasn't always the case. In the Post-Crisis continuity, largely because of the events in Batman: Year One, Barbara became the adopted daughter of the Gordons. That incarnation was in fact the Gordons' niece. Her biological mother died in a car crash. That unnecessary adjustment no longer exists.
The Mother That Came In From the Cold
Writer Gail Simone hinted at restoring the Gordon bloodline. This time around she emphasizes the return. Barbara Gordon's mother left Jim Gordon and their daughter. Jim Gordon never remarried. So Sara Essen is out. More evidence that Year One simply no longer exists. Barbara has a brother in this cosmos, and she had one in the pre-Crisis as well. The weakest link is Year One.
What I feared from Barbara's meeting with her mother does not come to pass. I expected some kind of Lifetime movie tearjerker, or worse some histrionic filled Oscar wannabe. Simone once again takes the smart path, depending on the nuances within the characterization. Babs is confused, angry, but like many people, she contains her feelings, letting them simmer beneath the surface of pleasantness. Unlike normal people, Babs possesses an outlet, and this is where the story actually begins.
Straighten Up and Fly Right…Nah
While blowing off steam as Batgirl, Babs encounters some old friendemies. Simone simultaneously establishes continuity — Batgirl has been around since the Falcones firmly planted roots. Simone also uses the criminals in a crackerjack introduction to the new story introducing Gretel, who looks a lot like the Black Widow in negative and behaves like Emma Frost. Gretel's operating method however differs from the Widow's, and while you have an idea what's going on, you can't quite put your finger on the entirety. The crime clan appear to be innocent, and the whole exercise seems to be just that. A test, but a lethal one.
Hanging By a Thread
Within this dry run, Simone once again reinforces Batgirl's reasons for laying her life on the line for innocent Gothamites, and in case you're wondering, this is the second instance of mind control involving the Batman titles. The first occurred in Birds of Prey, which Batgirl will soon join. The menace in Birds of Prey employs a method of hiding in plain sight similar to that of the Court of Owls in Batman. My Crossover-Sense is tingling.
Simone in addition displays the dangers associated with crimefighting. This includes scenes with Batgirl being badly beaten by Gretel as well as Babs' father forced to investigate Batgirl's activities. It's unlikely that Gordon fails to see his daughter behind the mask. He's simply going by the book but confident that his daughter will outwit the police. What he doesn't know is that he assigned the detective that hates Batgirl the most to the case.
Calvin Klein's Poster Child
Adrian Syaf and Vicente Cifuentes contribute their consistently remarkable artwork for Batgirl. The battle scenes in particular ring true. Every blow Batgirl receives looks painful. Every block however looks professional.
The art team also create a fascinating visual dynamic between Babs and her mom. They illustrate a similarity in appearance but a distance between them that's in every illusion of movement and expression.
This issue also gives Syaf and Cifuentes the opportunity to render Bruce Wayne, and as you can see, it's a stellar interpretation.
His inscrutable look in this scene is just perfect. It encapsulates his feelings about being a coiled spring ready to strike but restrained by his secret identity. His faith in Batgirl is quite touching. He respects her enough to let her deal with the situation, let her save him from exposure.
Batgirl's narration reveals more tidbits of information. Batgirl "owes" Batman. For what I wonder? As I mused in a previous review, I'm thinking Batman had a direct or fiscal hand in the healing of Batgirl.
Batgirl shares the history with Batman and Robin. The healing of Batgirl forces Batman and Robin to share their paternal and fraternal love for her. The new Batman continuity with its links to comic book history is being written right here. In many ways Batgirl is the keystone book in the Batman Family titles.
Ray Tate's first online work appeared in 1994 for Knotted. He has had a short story, "Spider Without a Web," published in 1995 for the magazine evernight and earned a degree in Biology from the University of Pittsburgh. Since 1995, Ray self-published The Pick of the Brown Bag on various usenet groups, where he reviewed comic books, Doctor Who novels, movies and occasionally music. Circa 2000, he contributed his reviews to Silver Bullet Comic Books (later Comics Bulletin) and became its senior reviewer. Ray Tate would like to think that he's young at heart. Of course, we all know better.