Spoiler Alert! I have waited a week to give everyone time to read it. I am going to openly discuss all that went down in Batgirl #19. No holds barred. Full disclosure. I must say it is a complete joy to have Gail Simone back as the storyteller! I already have my pull list stocked with The Movement! Obviously the geekosphere has been abuzz with this breakthrough issue. So many things came to the surface and sadly just as much was pushed under to be revealed in the future.
First of all, the revelation that her roommate, Alysia, is transgender was quickly addressed in the first few pages. I thought this was a brilliant way to share the information as it related to her possible relationship with James and all of the secrets that Barbara was sharing . I appreciate that there has been so much progress made in comics this year regarding LGBT characters and I realize that sometimes it has to be a headline event (Northstar's wedding, Alan Scott's relationship). However, it was so much more natural to have it exposed as just two roommates trying to rebuild a fragile relationship. It seemed so real, which is pretty remarkable when one of the characters is back in body armor and a cape in the next few pages.
I found the opening scene chilling as Babs relived the memory of the movies she and James watched as a children. The fact that he was bothered by the technique of the maniac killer who looked like a cross between Jason and Phantom of the Opera was brilliant. It would have been much too predictable to have him watch in rapt fascination. No, Simone turned and showed even more pathology in his psyche by demonstrating his inability to watch because it was "sloppy". I would have liked to see a bit more of James's twisted youth, but I have to admit it was a refreshing surprise to have the story move along and come to a satisfying climax.
I gotta say, I loved that we finally got so much out of one issue. With all of the complex story arcs that have lasted several issues, this moved at a remarkable pace. Babs has had a rather harrowing few weeks. The Death of the Family shattered her support system in ways that I could not have imagined. I was still raw from the fact the it was never revealed to the Bat Family that Bruce had not shared all their secrets with the Joker. Then the tragic death of Damien came so quickly after the Joker story arc, it was hard to digest. Obviously, if it was hard for me, think how Batgirl was reeling?
The climax scene with Mrs. Gordon, James and Barbara was a turning point that had been hinted out in the media in the preceding weeks but I think it still caught most readers by surprise. I was frustrated by my lack of insight into the relationships between Mother - Daughter - Son. The sudden transformation from victim to aggressor by Mrs. Gordon was just the beginning of the surprises. And although, I think some would have been surprised to see Barbara rescued by her mother, in some way it would have maintained Barbara's ethical hardline. Saved by Mom, they both weep over James dead body just as The Commissioner shows up to reconcile with his ex-wife. The sun rises on a new happy day. End scene.
No. It had to be Barbara who saw the writing on the wall. James was not fixable. Only death lay in his future, his or other innocent victims. As is typical in the DC Universe, James falls to his death, with no recoverable body. She broke from the code of Batman and moved to her own rulebook. I felt like the Barbara Gordon who would be Oracle move forever into the pages of DC lore. She will never return to the chair, but I wonder if we won't see a demented James masterminding murders from his own wheelchair with a patch over his eye and a team of lackeys. Batgirl established herself as a more definitive, self-directed hero. The Family is dead. She moves forward alone. No Batman, no Commissioner. She will set her own course and I anxiously await sharing in that adventure. Lead on, Ms. Simone. Lead on!