Batgirl #4A comic review article by: Ray Tate
Issue #4 of Batgirl represents the perfect balance between dreamscape, personal life, uniformed vigilance and an ending chapter. Writer Gail Simone opens the story with a mirror image.
Simone flips expectations. Batgirl has been confined to the wheelchair. She's presented as vulnerable and open to suggestion. Barbara Gordon however is standing, in the position of power. Some might interpret this as a reflection of both reality camps in the heal Barbara Gordon dispute, but Simone eschews such simplicity for a truer depiction of a nightmare. She opts to strengthen the story rather than succumb to making statements.
Barbara isn't being presented in a good light in this sequence. Although she rightly points out that Batgirl was loved, and that, not a working spine, was the most important thing, she also works on Batgirl's survivor guilt. She introduces the concept of alienation, how all the other disabled people didn't receive the miracle that Batgirl did and how Batgirl left this community behind.
Adrien Syaf and Vincente Cifuentes aid Simone's wants by imbuing Barbara with an almost fundamentalist fervor. They keep her face in shadows and emphasize sharp lines denoting bone structure, subtly suggesting a presence rather than a person. Even when they inject anger to Batgirl's visage later, they do not duplicate the linework or the evocation. It is still a human being beating up the Mirror at the end.
When Babs awakens from her nightmare, Simone moves her downstairs to spend time with her roommate Alysia. First, congratulations on the production of a comic book set a few days before Christmas coming out on time about a week before Christmas. That would have been unheard of a year ago.
Simone segues from nightmare to personal life, or Batgirl's secret identity if you prefer. It's in this scene that Simone demonstrates her understanding of personality as well as conversation that can be directed into the plotting as well as taken out of context for a sensibly written vignette.
Simone hints at how Barbara was healed, but it's only a hint and it will no doubt generate wide speculation. I see the location -- South Africa -- linked into Batman's scouting mission to uncover David Zavimbi alias Batwing, or perhaps Batman was seeking out possible cutting edge medicine to help Babs and learned of Batwing on the trek. Maybe the location's a mere coincidence, but Babs' "cure" -- thank you for the quotes -- could all be tied up into one very elegant New 52 Universe bow.
The revelation feeds into Babs' need to be close to someone. Because of her pursuit of the Mirror, she estranged herself, or feels she estranged herself, from the Batman Family. Because of her need to prove herself, she no longer feels comfortable with Dinah the Black Canary; her Birds of Prey connections were already established in that the reboot of that book. So, she tells her roommate a secret in order to open up and regrets the move almost immediately. It's a nice moment of mortal normalcy. Of course, Babs isn't normal. She's fantastic.
Batgirl in Flight
Babs clears her head as Batgirl and finds some wonderfully stupid crooks to beat upon. Simone doesn't present these crooks as comedy relief. Instead, she creates realistic criminals savvy enough to use an ap that's geared to detect Batman but not smart enough to recognize a fake fur when they see one. These are low on the totem pole career criminals in and out of jail at a guess for assault and petty theft. Simone very convincingly suggests they could escalate into something worse, if not for Batgirl.
Those Darn Bat People
Batgirl promptly beats the tar out of these guys, and Gotham loves its bats. The government and established law enforcement may hate metahumans and vigilantes, but there's no mistake. Gotham loves its bats.
That's Why We Need a Batgirl
These moments of gratitude gives Batgirl an upbeat attitude, and it's all about balance. Rotten crimes occur in this title. Home invasion in the premiere, a robbery that could have turned ugly in this issue, but Simone makes certain that Batgirl makes a difference. Batgirl is a deterrent against crime.
The incident triggers a realization pertaining to the Mirror. Batgirl employs psychology and her unparalleled eidetic memory to trap the Mirror. She leaves him a note, and even the wording in this is perfect. Batgirl is kind, and when kind people must be cruel, they're very precise in their wording. They don't want to make a mistake or be misread. They don't want to use a semantic that may be misinterpretted as soft. That's why cruelty from a normally kind person cuts the worst.
When Batgirl lures Mirror into the trap, Simone releases Syaf and Cifuentes. Mind you, Simone could have been directing exactly how Batgirl should fight. She comes at the physically stronger Mirror with elbows and knees, just as an experienced martial artist would, but even this is a means to an end.
Batgirl plans something special and merciless to end the Mirror. The scheme exemplifies just how far Babs will go to see justice done and just how cruel this kind person can be.
Ray Tate's first online work appeared in 1994 for Knotted. He has had a short story, "Spider Without a Web," published in 1995 for the magazine evernight and earned a degree in Biology from the University of Pittsburgh. Since 1995, Ray self-published The Pick of the Brown Bag on various usenet groups, where he reviewed comic books, Doctor Who novels, movies and occasionally music. Circa 2000, he contributed his reviews to Silver Bullet Comic Books (later Comics Bulletin) and became its senior reviewer. Ray Tate would like to think that he's young at heart. Of course, we all know better.