By: Gail Simone (writer), Ardian Syaf (penciller), Vicente Cifuentes (inker), Ulises Arreola (colorist)

The Story: How Barbara got her groove back.

The Review: Barbara Gordon, back on her feet.  Yes, it seems an outrage, a spit in the eyes of the wheelchair-bound everywhere, but we should take a step back and really examine the idea for what it is.  No one denies there are plenty of people who overcome their disabilities and become all the greater for it, but I think we—and they—can all be honest enough to admit that at the end of the day, it would be a joy if they could have the full ability of their bodies again.

That’s the story Simone wants to tell here, and we can trust her to do it both well and with great sensitivity.  No one, as Women in Refrigerators evidenced, hated how Babs got paralyzed in the first place more than Simone, and no one has done more to elevate Babs’ status after the dreadful incident, to the point she became even more intriguing wearing the mask of the oracle than that of the bat.  So if this story must be told, let’s at least praise the editorial gods Simone has the job.

If the previews haven’t given it away already, rest easy in the fact that the past doesn’t get abandoned.  Yes, the fateful night Babs opened the door to a clown in a Tommy Bahama shirt happened.  Yes, she indeed had to put her vigilante days (not to mention her days of doing the twist) to rest because of it.  And although we have little idea how she gets from that point to kicking butt with actual kicks again, Simone makes it clear Babs paid her dues to get there.

In fact, even swinging into action again, it’s not all fun and games for her.  The satisfaction she gets from putting the beatdown on sickos (“I’ve got upper arm strength like a mother at this point.”) doesn’t conceal her awareness of how rusty she’s become in the interim, both physically and mentally.  This woman has steered clear from the thick of battle for a long time; getting back in there after she’s already paid for it dearly once definitely wreaks havoc with her game.

And once out in the field, whatever lowballs come her way, she’ll have to deal with it alone.  Simone goes out of her way to stress Babs’ independence, both in costume and out.  Besides the new getup and gear, she also finds some new digs and even a potential compadre, activist, power-hugging night owl that she is.  Only she alone could’ve worked past her disability the way she did, and only she alone can do the soul-searching necessary to truly get back on her feet.

But she’ll have a hard time of it, what with an intense, caped crusader jerking her around—one who’s not Batman.  Simone probably writes some of the best villains in the biz, and the Mirror has all the signs of becoming one: a twisted, possibly justly-motivated, agenda and hit list; few boundaries where killing is concerned (stuffing a garden hose into a man’s mouth to drown him seems fairly hardcore); and a distinctive voice (“You…killed my partner.”  “Yes.  Sorry.”).

Syaf brings a beautifully active look to the issue, using dynamic panel shots (love the close-up on a lady cop getting her head crushed under the Mirror’s boot, the barrels of his pistols smoking above her) and rich detail to give the title an immediately gripping sense of depth, made even deeper with Cifuentes’ lush inks and Arreola’s vibrant colors.

Conclusion: Come to this title with no prejudices, and the smart writing and luscious art will soon worm its way into your heart.  Barbara Gordon may just earn her bat again, if Simone capitalizes on her momentum here.

Grade: B+

– Minhquan Nguyen

Some Musings: – With her oversized earrings, short crop of black hair, and sunglasses, Babs’ roomie bears a striking resemblance to Jubilee, doesn’t she?