While Barbara and James are taking a tour of the GCPD for her school assignement, cultists attack, releasing Harry X, an inhumanely large human trafficer. During the assault he zeroes in on Barbara, trying to take her hostage. She dons the mock-up of Batman’s costume from the task force room, and beats Harry X.
The rest of the story is a montage of her year as batgirl, and how she left it all behind for a normal life. All up until that fateful night, when the Joker came calling.
From the two issue zeroes I’ve read, I’ve noticed that montages feature extensively. And I like how this book takes the montage, but only applies it to the end. There’s an actual story with a beginning, middle, and end in the first part of this comic. And as far as I’m concerned, it was a really good story.
Harry X was just the right amount of threatening, and vile, to play the role of a minor villain. In the grand scheme of things he was nothing, but when you contrast a hulk like him against a teenage girl, the situation becomes much more grave.
Having Barbara wear the costume they police have put together works well, symbolizing her adopting the mantle of the bat. And while it isn’t entirely explained in the comic itself why she feels the need to wear the cowl, it’s not too hard to infer the meaning. Barbara wears the cowl not so much to hide her identity, but rather she wears it to symbolically don the totem of the bat. To her the bat is the symbol of what she is on the inside. This is emphasized by her realization that Batman is like her, not supernatural, just very smart.
By making this association between Barbara and the bat early on in the book, Simone manages to tie the thematic knot that helps give that scene meaning. Barbara has the skills, but it isn’t until she finds the outwardly expression of those skills that she is fully able to access them.
As origin stories go, I loved this one. It didn’t waste time on the training, rather it focused on the defining moment of the character, something I feel more origin stories need to focus on. Given the constant reboots of superhero franchises, I think it’s important to realize that the training isn’t what makes the character, it’s the moment where they adopt their true persona. In this way, it’s certainly possible to retell an origin story multiple times, without drying the well on it.
The last four pages of the book are a bit more formulaic, and attempt to cram a lot of material in not too much time. Personally I could have done without them, and certain parts do raise some questions. Such as, if she gave up the superhero life, why exactly did she decide to come back after she healed from her injury? I’ll have to reread the first issues, but for now that part is a little confusing. Though, ending it with the Joker standing at the door works so well to tie this issue in to the very first issue of this series. Overall, a well put together story, and something I can see myself coming back to more than once.
From the reviews I read, this is one of the bat titles that gets dumped on more often than not. Personally I’m still a pretty big fan. Barbara’s story provides some necessary levity to the bat mythos, and the snippets of her personality we get this issue definitely help it in my rankings.