Waiting for the Trade – Batgirl

Waiting for the Trade
by Bill Miller
 
Batgirl New 52 Vol. 1
– The Darkest Reflection
by Gail Simone, Ardian
Syaf and Vicente Cifuentes
collects Batgirl 1 – 6
 
Why I Bought This: I
always liked Batgirl best of the core Batman characters dating back to the Adam
West series. Since I mostly enjoyed the first three New 52 books I sampled, and
with Barbara Gordon finally returned to that role, this my next pick-up from
that line.
 
 
The Plot: Barbara
Gordon has regained the use of her legs and decides to resume her career as
Batgirl only to come across a new costumed serial killer known as Mirror.
 

Chapter 1 – A mystery man drowns an old guy with a garden
hose then scratches his victim’s name off a list that also includes the name of
“Barbara Gordon.” We see Batgirl on patrol and she comes across a home invasion
that she subsequently breaks up in a short but intense fight. We see Barbara
having nightmares of Joker shooting her and putting her in a wheelchair in The Killing Joke. When she wakes we get
a flashback of her recovery and moving out of her father’s house. This leads to
her getting an apartment with a new female roommate, who is something of a
political activist. At the hospital police are interrogating the gang leader
Batgirl took down the night before when the mysterious costumed man from the
opening arrives. He guns down some cops causing Barbara to head over there when
she hears about it through her police connections. Batgirl arrives just as our
killer storms the gang leader’s room but when he pulls a gun on her she again
flashes back to Killing Joke and
freezes. This allows the killer to dispose of the gang leader much to the
horror of the one surviving police officer in the room.
 
 
Chapter 2 – The
killer makes his escape and Barbara pursues him in a rooftop battle that she
ultimately loses (and barely survives from falling to her death). At the
hospital surviving cop Detective McKenna tells Comm. Gordon her belief that
Batgirl is partly responsible for the gang leader’s death. Batgirl tracks the
killer to a cemetery where he reveals his name as Mirror. He kicks her ass
again but she is able to steal his list off him during the fight before he
retreats because the entire Gotham PD are on the way. That night Barbara goes
home and her roommate sees her covered in bruises and assumes Barbara has domestic
violence victim problems, although Barbara is able to talk her out of it. The
next day Barabara goes on a date with her physical therapist. Then we get a
montage of Barbara doing detective work until she is able to piece together who
Mirror is and find his hideout. His story is he was a federal agent/war hero
whose family burned to death in a car accident while he watched. This has made
him conclude that “miracles are simply God laughing at us” and so he kills anyone
who has received a miracle, particularly surviving a near death experience by
killing them in the way they should have died the first time. He reveals to
Barbara he has planted a bomb on a train to get to his next victim who survived
falling on train tracks once.
 
 
Chapter 3 – Batgirl boards the train and tries to outthink
Mirror since by changing the circumstances of how his victim would die but he
still detonates the bomb. Later she liberates her bat-cycle from the police
impound (she had to leave it outside the hospital when she chased Mirror on the
rooftops) and encounters Nightwing. They flirt by fighting as she convinces him
she needs to prove herself that she can solve this case on her own.
 
 
Chapter 4 – Barbara is having nightmares about being back in
the wheelchair. Barbara and her roommate decorate for Christmas leading Barbara
to reveal her best and worst Christmas. The former is one year ago when her
father got an experimental clinic in South Africa to accept her which is what
got her out of the wheelchair, whereas the latter is when her mother walked on
her and Comm. Gordon when she was 12. On patrol Batgirl breaks up a mugging.
She then laves a noet for Mirror on the grave of his family. Needless to say he
is not pleased to receive it and accepts Batgirl’s invitation to go fight in an
abandoned hall of mirrors. There fight is pretty physical and it looks like
Mirror is going to win and until Barbara forces him to confront the loss of his
family giving her an opening to KO him and send him to Arkham. That night
Barbara’s mother shows up at her apartment.
 
 
Chapter 5 – Batgirl is on patrol when she stumbles across a
carjacking. What is weird is the carjackers are upper level mobsters who never
get their hands dirty in public. It gets even weirder when Barbara stops three
of them only for the head mobster to kill his three sons and the jump off a
bridge in a suicide attempt. Batgirl catches him on her bat-cable only for a girl
with green hair to show up and attack her. The villain seems to have low grade
invulnerability as none of Batgirl’s blows phase her. Eventually the villain
just wanders off claiming to be “out of time” and Batgirl has to let her go so
she can finish saving the mob boss who is now mumbling the numbers “338”
uncontrollably. We then get a flashback to last issue’s cliffhanger with
Barbara’s mom. They go for a walk with mom announcing her intention to move
back to Gotham and hoping to start anew but Barbara
isn’t very receptive to the idea. At Gotham PD Detective McKenna is reinstated
(she was on mandatory psychological bereavement leave due to the death of her
partner by Mirror) and is assigned the bridge case which opened this chapter;
she’s happy for the assignment since she’s been investigating Batgril on her
own time anyway. Batgirl is pondering the meaning of 338, and comes across a
news story on protests of a historical building that the Wayne Foundation plans
to demolish at that address number. As Bruce is on his way to the site his
chauffer gets possessed and deliberately crashes their car and our mystery
villainess again shows up. She now has pink hair and using the name Gretel.
Batgirl takes down the chauffer so Gretel possess Bruce instead.
 
 
Chapter 6 – Batgirl is forced to fight Bruce and this causes
her flashback to some her early days training with him and then him visiting
her in the hospital after Killing Joke as
she worries this fight might be a bit too much too soon after her recovery
considering who Bruce really is. The fight ends up in Crime Alley (the sight of
the murder of Bruce’s parents) and that enables Barbara talk him free of the
mind control. He gives her his approval as Batgirl and plans to hold a press
conference tomorrow. We get Gretel’s origin: she was an investigative
journalist who went digging into a connection between the mob and the wealthy
elite and got shot and left for dead for her troubles. The bullet she took to
the head both cut off her pain centers and gave telepathic powers that enable
her to get men to do what she suggests. Barbara is able to investigate based on
something Gretel said during the last fight and discovers her identity. Gretel
finishes off the mobster from chapter 5 (who is the same one that shot her way
back when) off panel, while Barbara and Bruce set a trap with Bruce to be a
decoy at the press conference so that Batgirl can take down Gretel. At the
press conference Gretel possesses all of the male cops and has them open fire
on Bruce. Batgirl takes down the cops long enough for Bruce to escape and
change clothes. Detective McKenna attempts to arrest Batgirl but Batman arrives
and is like ‘uh, no.’ The two heroes confront Gretel and Batgirl tries to talk
her into surrendering out of sympathy for her tragic origin. Gretel forces a
fight and when she loses wishes for suicide rather than being powerless at the
hands of men again but Batgirl saves her anyway then turns her over to McKenna
while pondering if she could have turned out the same as Gretel if not for the
love of her father and Batman.
 
 
Critical Thoughts: Good
stuff all around. Both new villains have great origins and make good foils for
Barbara. They are both victims of terrible events so that you have empathy for
them but yet the story never shies away from showing they are mass murders and
why the need to be stopped. Mirror in particular makes a great first foe as he
is physically superior to Barbara and his schtick gives her intellectual
openings to try to overcome that, while also playing against her own fears that
getting back into the costume is tempting fate after being in the wheelchair
for so long. Even the minor villains are well-written. That home invasion scene
has a terrifying subtext where they tell their victims what they plan to do to
them but the reader doesn’t hear it, we only see the victims’ horrified reaction
to their plan.
 
 
Reading
about Batgirl in general proves interesting because there aren’t a lot of
non-powered solo females out there. Marvel’s Silver Sable is the only other one
who come to mind of the top of my head and she uses guns, which is a short cut
Barbara doesn’t have. Even when fighting muggers and gangs we see Barbara has
to use leverage and tactics because she is not as strong as they are. Overall
this book has a nice sense of realism. Barbara  knows how dangerous boarding a train with a
bomb on it is. She struggles to save cilvilians. She worries about the strain
on her spine in the more physical scenes. Best of all is her interior
monologue: it’s really written, let’s us know what she’s thinking and feeling
both in the action scenes and the detective scenes. Which is another good
touch, we see Barbara do the work on panel to solve these crimes. It’s very
much a case of showing and not telling us that Barbara is smart, when they
could easily take the shortcut that she used to be Oracle and she had a big
database and bam the clue is solved.
 
 
This book also introduces a good, well-written supporting
cast. It’s a good mix of new characters like the roommate, Barbara’s mother and
Detective McKenna with established characters like her father and sticking the
other Bat-heroes on the periphery. There isn’t a civilian character here that I
wouldn’t mind seeing again in future volumes and how their stories intertwine
with Barbara’s character arc.
 
 
Grade A. Overall
this is a real solid book with good writing that extends to the hero, her
supporting cast and the villains. This is a series I will definitely continue
to buy in trade.