A Review of Batgirl, Issue 0

This month, DC Comics took a break from the recently concluded inaugural story arcs of the New 52 and finished the relaunch’s first year with an issue number 0 for each continuing title. Honestly, I had sort of disregarded these issues because they were advertised as essentially being a re-visit of the origin stories of the different characters, and, as important as this can be to new readers, I’m really over the trend of telling a hero’s origin story for the millionth time.

Out of curiosity, though, I picked up the 0 issue of Batgirl over the weekend, just because its one of the three or four titles to which I’m fiercely loyal. Ever since Gail Simone has been at the helm writing the Batgirl story arcs, the title has been nothing short of phenomenal, and I should have expected nothing less from issue 0.

I should mention that spoilers follow.

The issue picks up with Barbara Gordon as a high school student taking advantage of her father’s position as commissioner to conduct interviews around the Gotham police station, her little brother in tow. Simone does an excellent job of hinting at the early stages of development in the character of the brother, which had already been revealed at some level earlier in the year…just enough to round out the realism of this issue without over-taking Barbara as the main character. Of course, a serial killer is in the police station, and his gang of thugs attempt to break him free by bombing the station and attacking full out with big weapons. In the melee, Barbara is left to fend off the killer by herself, motivated by the desire to protect her brother. In the process, she dons a mock-up costume of Batman, and finds herself freed and unencumbered to use her self-defense skills with violent precision against their attacker…earning praise from Batman himself in the end.

What’s fascinating about this issue is Barbara’s description of her officially joining the Bat family as the best year of her life. Several panels briefly outline some of the adventures she took with Batman and Robin over that year, fighting villains and defending Gotham from those that would over-take it with evil. She describes, in flashback sequence, the darkness into which they ran, and, in a particularly moving line, describes the three of them as “twisted moths,” unable to stay away from that darkness.

Eventually, Barbara chose to leave it, but speaks of missing the adrenaline rush that she experienced during her crime-fighting adventures. Still, she chooses to devote herself to her studies in an attempt to better the world without stepping into the darkness…until, at the end of the issue, the darkness finds her again, and we are brought full-circle to the events preceding issue 1 a year ago.

This issue develops Barbara Gordon’s character thoroughly. We see her acting upon her desire to do good for others, displaying the nature of a hero in using her abilities for good rather than evil. What’s most interesting, though, is her humanity. Part of what motivated her to adopt the guise of the Batgirl was selfish…the rush of excitement. This led her to voluntarily step into darkness and evil that others would not face in order to beat it back, until she could no longer take it. When, however, she is forced to confront this evil again in the end, she rises to the challenge, again in order to protect others as much as to prove to herself that she can.

Batgirl issue 0 gives us the backstory of what makes Barbara Gordon a hero, complete with the very normal shortcomings that she must overcome in order to serve others. I love the character even more than I did before, and I’m so glad that I paused to take this one off the shelf this weekend.

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