Thursday Comic

Batgirl: Year One - Scott Beatty, Chuck Dixon, Marcos Martin, et al.

You'd think that having the police commissioner as your father would help with a career in law enforcement, but Barbara Gordon finds that her overprotective dad only gets in the way of what she wants to do. Even Gotham City's freaky superheroes won't pay any attention to her talents - at least, until one Halloween when the bat-costumed Babs crosses paths with Killer Moth, a man who wants to be to Gotham's underworld what Batman is to its law abiding citizens.

So you may have noticed that Oracle, a.k.a. Barbara Gordon, formerly Batgirl, is my favourite superhero. That "formerly Batgirl" bit is, of course, one of the many cool things about the character, but I have to say that for me the emphasis is kind of on the formerly. This backwards-looking book, then, could almost be aimed at me, as throughout Batgirl: Year One, a lot of common criticisms of Babs' Batgirl are retroactively countered (isn't she just a cheap knock-off of the main Bat? Why isn't she Batwoman?) Which is nice... if also kind of cheating.

More effective are the nods to her future - the references to oracles are a little heavy-handed, but nifty all the same, and while having Black Canary (seen above, THOK-ing) beam into the story from a space station may set a stark contrast to the brutal realism of Batman: Year One, it's the (somewhat rocky) start to a friendship that will come to underpin Birds of Prey, my superhero comic of choice. Elsewhere, a couple of casual comments about the Joker take on a chilling significance in the wider context.

Probably the strongest thing about the book is the art: bold, colourful and rather cartoony - reminiscent of Bruce Timm's animated character designs. It sets a distinctively Batgirl-ish tone to the book, and probably does more to convey the character of the young Barbara Gordon than the internal monologue that crowds each panel. The story itself has its strong and its weak points, but it does the job: neatly defining Barbara Gordon's adventure-seeking Batgirl, while also quietly scattering the seeds that will grow into a mighty Oracle.

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