Near the end of DC’s New 52 period, Cameron Stewart, Brenden Fletcher, and Babs Tarr relaunched Batgirl in a run that broke from the publisher’s house style of serious, grim comics. Their run proved to be the beginning of the return of lighter, relationship-driven stories to DC’s line. To read its arc now feels like reading the first arc of a Rebirth run.
The Rebirth vibe stems from the book’s focus on identity in its various forms. Overtly, this arc sees an unknown party challenge Barbara Gordon’s legitimacy as the true Batgirl. It asks questions about the ways in which people sacrifice who they are for social media likes and fleeting popularity. But more fundamentally, Batgirl’s creative team redefine’s Barbara’s identity. They refocus the character by giving her a new context and new goal: being her own person and working on her thesis.
This change focuses Gordon on looking forward. It lets the book be hopeful—even when her identity is under attack—and strips away the context of victim from Barbara. Barbara’s body, mind, and character are not weaknesses in the ways they have been in the past. When she must face her darkest moments, it is to move away from the negative impulses that stem from fear and anger.
When the first marketing cycles for this run of Batgirl began, Tarr’s redesign of Gordon’s costume immediately gained popularity for their practical, stylish details. That redesign is indicative of the book’s visual style. It is sleek, practical, and stylish. Excessiveness signals ill intention in this world—that goes back to its themes of identity and the loss thereof that comes with popularity for its own sake.
This take on Batgirl is clever and skillfully executed. If you are paying attention, you can see the moving parts of its central mystery come together from the very beginning; whether or not you do, though, the arc is satisfying and engaging. While individual issues are solid, the arc as a whole adds up to more than the sum of its parts. If you’re a fan of Batgirl (or interested at all in the character), this is a great place to jump in.
- Batgirl, Vol. 1: Batgirl of Burnside (#35-40)
Writer: Cameron Stewart, Brenden Fletcher | Artist: Babs Tarr (Batgirl 35-40), Irene Koh (Secret Origins 10) | Breakdowns: Cameron Stewart | Colorist: Maris Wicks (Batgirl 35-40), Hi-Fi (Secret Origins 10) | Letterer: Jared K. Fletcher | Covers: Cameron Stewart (Batgirl 35-40), Bryan Hitch (Secret Origins 10)