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

The Story: Just because they headbutt each other doesn’t mean they’re not in love.

The Review: Of all the major continuity changes the new DCU brought with it, possibly none of them has incited more outcry and upset than the restoration of Barbara Gordon’s legs.  Which, I must say, strikes me as particularly funny, since in almost any real-word circumstance, we’d all consider this a miracle to write home about.

In fact, Simone spends most of this issue trying to convince you of exactly that.  She has Batgirl state flatly, “…he doesn’t think anyone should believe in miracles.  He says miracles are a lie—just a cruel prank.  He’s wrong.  I know he’s wrong.  How do I know?  Because I’m living one.”  Her repetition comes across a little defensive, perhaps because she’s not just reassuring herself, but she’s trying to assure us as well.

It seems Simone even crafted Black Mirror for the sheer purpose of challenging Babs’ hopeful outlook on life, resulting in a weirdly simple-minded villain.  Maybe if it had taken longer to figure out his M.O., the plot would have had more time to stew and we’d take him more seriously.  But discovering his game so early on pretty much lays his whole deal bare, sapping the suspense, and making it simply a matter of waiting for Batgirl to outwit him, sooner or later.

Probably the lease convincing point of the issue is where Babs thinks she’s got the leg up (so to speak) on Mirror by taking hold of who she’s deduced as the villain’s latest target, a man who had narrowly missed death by falling on the subway tracks.  She yells, “I nearly fell that night.  It was a miracle that I didn’t, yeah? …You think I’m supposed to die by falling! …If I’m holding this guy, then you can’t kill him without breaking your vow to your family. Checkmate, pal.”  The bravado just seems forced and the deductions stretched, so the scene feels rather flat.

Much more satisfying are the scenes between her and Nightwing, the great teen romance of the DCU.  Their banter smoothly switches between playful and sincere, and you can see why, for all of Dick’s myriad romances over the years, he always returns to Babs.  Again, though, Simone displays an uncharacteristic habit of pointing out the obvious: “Two kids flirting in a way only a handful of people on Earth can match.”  Like Dick’s praise of his own abilities in Nightwing #1, Babs’ sum-up of their relationship comes across awkward and not a little bit cocky.

Otherwise, the chemistry they generate really sails, going beyond mere animal attraction into much deeper territory.  As Oracle, Babs never tolerated pity or handholding from others, and it stands to reason she won’t take that kind of thing now that she can stand on her own two feet.  After a bit of lashing out, they each make it clear in the end that both act out of “lo—care about you,” making their parting peaceful but no less bittersweet.

The team of Syaf and Cifuentes has made Batgirl, if not the most inspired title on the stands, at least one of the most lavish and dynamic.  Check out that early double-splash of Batgirl atop a speeding bullet train, doves scattering in its wake.  Dramatically, the characters tend to have blank expressions, but overall, the script’s underlying emotions peek through.  Arreola’s colors often taken on unnecessary, distracting glows, but otherwise support the lush tone of the issue.

Conclusion: The A-story still hasn’t sold itself, but the character work with the titular star and the interplay with her supporting cast and guest star almost make up for it.

Grade: B

– Minhquan Nguyen

Some Musings: – Let praise be given where it’s deserved: Syaf manages to make Nightwing’s acrobatics look death-defying and convincing in ways Eddy Barrows somehow lacks on Dick’s own title.

– I actually find it a wasted opportunity that the cops took in Batgirl’s bike and left it in a holding facility rather than reverse-engineer the tech.  Pity.

Grade

Conclusion