Review: BATGIRL #11 and VOLUME 1 HC

BATGIRL #11
BATGIRL VOL. 1: THE DARKEST REFLECTION
Written by Gail Simone
Art by Ardian Syaf and Vicente Cifuentes
Release Date: July 11, 2012

Batgirl’s first encounter with her newest foe Knightfall continues and it seems the villain’s reach in Gotham City is more than she bargained for. A criminal heiress who spent time in Arkham for gruesomely ensuring she would become one, Knightfall is collecting soldiers in her war against criminality and wants Batgirl as her newest recruit!

This issue continues the dramatic yearlong journey Barbara Gordon has undergone since first re-donning the cowl for The New 52. Healing both physically and psychologically — the latter much slower than the former — from a shattered spine has been no easy matter, but here Babs comes off plainly self-assured. Over the course of eleven issues, we’ve frequently seen her second-guess herself in battle only to beat back every opponent in the end. In fact, the series as a whole has been an interesting look at the process one goes through to take back mobility and former expertise after a devastating trauma. But now, not so much cocky as confidant, our heroine seems to be finding her new normal in that endeavor and it’s really great to see.

This progression is not the only thing that stands out in reading the latest issue and first hardcover collection (of issues 1-6) side-by-side. Batgirl is also a study in justice from a perspective not often exhibited by other members of the Bat-family. The wealth of Bruce Wayne, Dick Grayson and Kate Kane certainly motivates exceptional altruism, but none of them seem to be as cognizant of social inequities the way this middle class, unemployed college graduate is. Babs is a little closer to the ground, so-to-speak, and Simone takes advantage of this fact beautifully — not to preach, but to unassumingly question. From an activist roommate to her current nemesis, Batgirl is surrounded by those who seek to revise the status quo (not the least of whom is Wayne himself), and there are no simple answers to be found.

Ultimately, what this collection does best is highlight all the things that made Batgirl so different from her mentor over the years: her sense of humor, her emotional honesty, and above all, a blinding humanity that shines straight through the cowl. Beautifully rendered by series regulars Syaf and Cifuentes, Babs isn’t the perfect heroine, but her determination and drive is infectious. Her victories are hard won, so when that unique look of joy runs across her face, it’s hard not to smile along.

The Verdict: 8.5/10 (#11);  9.5/10 (Volume 1)

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