I love a good origin story. I love delving into a character’s psychological motivations, key formative experiences and learning what would lead someone to take up the role of superhero. If you also share these desirable qualities in an origin story, that’s just what writer Gail Simone delivered in ‘Batgirl’ #0.
‘Batgirl’ #0 is set in the time period of Barbara Gordon’s early college years. The story begins as Barbara convinces her father, Police Commissioner James Gordon, to allow her to visit the Gotham Police Department to do research for a school project. Accompanied by her younger brother, James Jr., Barbara begins to interview officers, all the while looking to find information on the new “batman” that had recently begun making himself known around the streets of Gotham. As one might expect, things don’t stay safe for long around the GCPD. Barbara and James are taken hostage by a violent and sadistic criminal attempting to escape police custody and Barbara soon takes her first irreparable steps on the path to becoming Batgirl. The story includes Barbara’s first encounter with Batman and provides an overview of how her future is impacted by and shaped by him. This zero issue also continues to position James as a sinister figure through both behavioral clues and foreshadowing in a way that’s quite intriguing. The story ends with a tantalizing glimpse into Barbara’s early years as Batgirl, a time when she put the cape and mask down and a day when darkness came knocking at her door in the form of a certain sinister smiling face.
Through her always interesting and revealing monologue, we’re shown how the young Barbara (not yet Batgirl) not only sees herself, but how others see her and how the two both perspectives mirror one another and diverge. The tone of both the dialogue with other characters and internal monologue is markedly different from the “present day” issues. This Barbara of issue zero seemed realistically younger and less experienced than the Barbara/Batgirl of the other New 52 issues, a detail I though was a nice touch. Simone masterfully constructs an intense, driven young woman belonging to a family who “…can’t stay away from the darkness.” I loved Barbara’s journey in this issue as she uses her skills and finds her strength. The issue begins with her contemplating her father as a Lancelot type figure to Gotham and ends with her giving one of the best lines I’ve read in a comic: “I became my own White Knight.”
Ed Benes’ art was sharp and kinetic. He conveyed a youthful exuberance in Barbara, yet also showed her intense, mature determination as she faced down the criminal at the police department. One particular picture I loved is a part of a montage toward the end of the issue that showed Batgirl swinging through the air on a Batline. Her face show exactly the “this-is-awesome-but-holy-cow-what-have-I-gotten-myself-into?!?” look I imagine a person would actually have when first experiencing such a situation.
‘Batgirl’ #0 is, without a doubt, an insightful look into the beginning of what turned Barbara Gordon into Batgirl. The issue is nicely paced and the art is very well done indeed. Barbara’s early days are also, in and of themselves, an interesting story that I hope is explored further at some point in the not distant future.
Writer: Gail Simone
Pencils and Inks: Ed Benes