Review: Batgirl #4

Gail Simone shows us she's one of the best writers working today by getting deeper into Barbara Gordon's head.

Iann Robinsonby Iann Robinson

Batgirl #4

Oh I’m sorry, was I worried for a second that Gail Simone’s Batgirl might be going down a bad path? No reason for that worry, kids, because Batgirl #4 shows why Simone is one of the best comic book writers out there. I don’t mean female writer, I mean writer period. The way she’s crafted this whole introduction to Barbara Gordon is killer. Simone has done some really smart work here, the kind of clues and bits of information that generate suspense and keep readers guessing about what comes next. Batgirl #4 just glows with the good times.

I was never huge on the whole Mirror aspect of the story. Point blank, Mirror stinks as a bad guy. A DEA Agent who saw his family killed and now, for reasons murkier than a polluted river, he kills people because they had good things happen to them? It’s like the Punisher with a flashier costume going after other victims because they got to live. It doesn’t compute, even with gifts as sizable as Simone’s the character kept falling flat for me. Then it hit, then I understood that Mirror actually showed just how gifted Gail Simone is.

A story with a lame villain is usually a lame story. Simone avoids that pitfall by kind of admitting Mirror is a crap villain and making him incidental to the goings on. This is just some villain Barbara has to chase down. One that’s stronger, meaner and faster than her. Mirror is an amalgam of all that Batgirl will be facing, so how she beats him becomes more of a test for her than anything to do with the villain. Outside of that, we have the whole Barbara Gordon aspect, which is where Gail Simone really digs in and starts moving her chess pieces around.

Like I said before, there are bits of information flowing through this issue that builds excitement. We still have no idea how Barbara got the use of her legs back, but Simone does give us a clue. She also builds the relationship between Alysia and Barbara as well as introducing a recurring feeling of guilt our heroine must deal with.  Not just guilt over being able to walk again, but guilt over putting that gift at risk by becoming Batgirl. That’s the Gail Simone super touch right there. Take something that could be so easy and give it an added level of depth.  Barbara will constantly be weighing her good actions against the stupidity of risking it all again and the guilt of knowing how many would give anything to walk and not risk it. So much going on in the fractured psyche of Barbara Gordon. It’s all so exciting.

Batgirl’s defeat of Mirror is the shining moment of Batgirl #4. It’s when you finally understand why Mirror as a character doesn’t matter and how Simone has really made this all about Barbara Gordon from the very beginning. Just as one emotional knot unties itself, the one of really committing to Batgirl, a new one comes out at the very end of the issue. It’s a moment that will have massive ramifications for Barbara and Commissioner Gordon.

Again, the art from Ardian Syaf is first rate. I love that this man can draw human forms and face correctly. I also love his panel placement and use of the whole page to dictate the story. Syaf uses the entire space of a page and it helps the movement and action immeasurably.  Simone writes with a forward motion style and it dictates a need for this kind of art. The opening dream sequence is a perfect marriage of art and word. It creates a powerful series of images that leap off the page. Syaf is also good at solid old-fashioned knock-down drag-out fight panels as well. Batgirl #4 is awesome and belongs amongst the current stellar line of Bat Books.