While the last few issues have had to play something of a balancing act between working in Year of the Villain tie-in moments and showing us the new creative team’s take on Batgirl and her cast, this issue mostly succeeds in tightening the focus on our titular character. There are a few bits toward the end of the issue the feel a little awkward, but we’ll get there. Let’s focus on the good first, of which there is quite a bit!
Right off the bat, this issue brings to the forefront the idea of how important Oracle is to Barbara, not just as an identity, but as a symbol. Oracle represents Barbara’s perseverance, her determination to remain a force for good following the worst night of her life. Having that stripped from her without her knowing must be heartbreaking, something we finally get to see her grapple with here. In many ways, this picks up on some of the stronger emotional (and narrative) threads of Batgirl and the Birds of Prey (RIP, you beautiful series). It’s nice to see some of that continuity acknowledged and elaborated upon.
The action sequence that opens the issue is some wild stuff. It gave me a bit of whiplash when it started, making me think I’d missed an issue somewhere, but in a fun way. I didn’t feel cheated at all at the reveal, because it tied in nicely with Oracle’s mutual feelings of grief. I’m so looking forward to when this series finally gets Oracle and Batgirl face to face.
The majority of this issue, however, focuses on Barbara’s personal life. Reeling from the realization that she may have lost Oracle forever, she’s somewhat floundering at work. While I’m still not wild about Alejo as a character (though that’s clearly the point), Barbara’s coworkers continue to be fleshed out in fun ways. The field trip to Burnside offers up an opportunity to see the softer side of Jason Bard in the clearest manner yet.
I’ve had my qualms with the portrayal of Jason turning over a new leaf, but there’s just something about the way Carmine Di Giandomenico draws Bard that makes it feel so sincere. Maybe it’s the non-threatening body language, or the way he kind of leans toward Barbara at times, as though he genuinely wants to know what’s going on in her head. There’s a warmth to Jason in the last few issues that feels so apparent that we almost don’t need Frankie to comment on it here, although any excuse to see more of the old Burnside crew is more than welcome.
The scenes of Barbara remembering her many adventures in Burnside were a nice touch, with the action sort of woven into the background. Also, kudos to Jordie Bellaire for the very Batgirl-appropriate coloring on those flashbacks.
Where the issue kind of falters is in its final pages, where the Year of the Villain stuff rears up again. Out of context, it just kind of feels odd, not to mention divorced from much of the rest of the issue. We go from a lovely scene of Babs calling her dad to trying to break up a fight between some regular folks. It’s not a bad scene, it just feels like something of a forced problem that belongs in a different issue.
Still, the build-up toward the meeting between Batgirl and Oracle has reached a new violent high. I’m very much looking forward to seeing how this all plays out, hopefully with a bit less of an intrusion from the tie-in elements.