Review: Batgirl #2

Barbara Gordon gets put through the paces, as she really has to earn the right to be Batgirl all over again.

Iann Robinsonby Iann Robinson

Batgirl #2

Gail Simone has really decided to make Barbara Gordon earn her right to be Batgirl again. Over the course of two issues, Simone’s had Batgirl freeze up on the job, a move that resulted in a death, she’s been put up against a brutal new bad guy, had the crap kicked out of her and most of it in the pouring rain. Simone takes great detail in Batgirl #2 to describe how badly Batgirl is getting beaten and how completely aware she is that she might not be able to cut anymore as a caped hero. As much action as Batgirl #2 has, its more a deeper look into the mindset of Barbara Gordon and the emotion of fear. Barbara Gordon is afraid and that’s the real power of the story. Simone shows us, for the first time really, a member of the Bat Family that’s utterly terrified.

I have to applaud Simone’s decision to not toss Barbara back into the arena as a fully functioning hero. It would have been easier to wipe out Barbara’s handicap and have her back in the criminal world doing high kicks and kicking ass. Instead, Simone allows us to watch each painful moment as Barbara readjusts to her new life. We’re involved with the pain of every blow, the terror of every mistake she makes and how that could kill her or somebody else.

Barbara is afraid of Mirror (the villain), afraid that she won’t be able to stop him. She’s also afraid she’ll become crippled again, a thought that has forced her to freeze up on the job. So why would a woman afraid of being crippled again start swinging from rooftops and battling villains. Why would somebody who has earned a new life allow herself to get beaten up and suffer through the pain? We don’t know and that enigma is what makes Barbara Gordon such a multi-layered character.

Batgirl #2 brings a lot of the humanity back to comics. It’s in the same vein as older Spider-Man material where you cared as much for the person as you did the hero.  You root Barbara on, you want to see her succeed and regain that confidence she had as the original Batgirl. It’s that kind of deep-rooted connection with the character that made Barbara Gordon a success as Oracle and drives people to read about her as Batgirl.  

The only misstep here for me is that Simone is coming dangerously close to sacrificing everything else just to give us Barbara’s story. As of issue #2, Mirror is a very one-dimensional villain with a very clichéd reason for committing his crimes. Everything surrounding Barbara Gordon reads like a second thought, a superfluous thing that helps drive readers to the next scene. I have every confidence that Simone’s arc will click all of that into place, but for issue #2 it’s hard to overlook. There is one panel that I’m particularly curious about. A cop tells Commissioner Gordon that Batgirl is back. The panel shows Gordon’s reaction to the news, which gives a nod towards Gordon knowing about his daughter’s double life.

Ardian Syaf does some solid work here. I don’t know whether writer or artist decided to set the actual Batgirl sections in the rain, but it works perfectly. Syaf really communicates the numbing effect a constant rain can have on you. Things are darker, sadder; it allows the natural world to mimic how Barbara is feeling. My only critique is that Syaf’s action can be very stilted. Panels that should be bursting with movement seem frozen, even in small scenes. At times they come off like paintings. That lack of movement becomes distracting as the issue goes on. Overall, Batgirl #2 is a great read. One that brings me even closer to being excited about Barbara Gordon as Batgirl again.