It must be me! I love Gail Simone’s work with this character in Birds of Prey, but to me, seeing Barbara Gordon as Batgirl is still just a step back for the character. Oracle was one of the neatest ideas DC had, and yet the idea of an information broker powering the Justice League just can’t compete against the idea that some people remember a red-haired Batgirl from the 1960’s TV show. That type of thinking just drives me crazy.
Simone goes out of her way to create a couple new Gotham villains in the classic Batman mold. Mirror is a widowed father out to punish others who have “miracle” survival stories. He thinks that surviving is a curse and that it is not fair that some get to live while his family died. That’s a classic warped bad guy’s back-story, PLUS he’s got a mirror on his chest! That’s a great logo/identifier. I think the guy certainly has potential to show up again in later Bat-books.
The second villain is Gretel, another villain who has been through a traumatic experience and is taking it out on the world. The Gotham underworld gets some of the blame, but when Gretel targets Bruce Wayne, it is easier to see just how crazy she is.
Simone’s two opening villains are both obvious contrasts to Barbara Gordon. Where she overcame the trauma of Joker’s assault (The Killing Joke still happened in the new 52), these new villains have never been able to move on. Simone works extremely hard to create a new status quo, supporting cast, and tone for Barbara Gordon, but I just can’t buy it. There are references to Barbara’s brother, so evidently Scott Snyder’s Dark Mirror story might still sort of count, but good luck figuring out how that continuity works.
The violence is as brutal as all the other new 52 books, ensuring that I can’t let my 8 year old daughter read a comic starring Batgirl. Ardian Syaf has that Joe Bennett DC-house style down pat, but it just isn’t for me. I can appreciate elements of the costume design like Batgirl’s armor plated gauntlets and Mirror’s chest piece, but faces and bodies sometimes get a bit lumpy during action scenes. I will say that Nightwing’s new costume seems to be one of the few positive redesigns in the new 52. I like that red on black look.