A look into the action-packed origin of the original Batgirl, Barbara Gordon! This volume collects the 9-issue miniseries that uncovered Gordon’s transformation from average citizen into costumed super-heroine.
Honestly, I still miss Batman: The Animated Series. I grew up watching that show, and it blew my mind on a regular basis – it was dark, smart, edgy, and oh so very, very good. Thanks to Batman: TAS I developed a life-long love of animated Batman – from Batman Beyond to the more recent animated movies, such as Batman: Under the Red Hood - so you can imagine how my ears perked when I heard one of the directors who works on Legend of Korra mention in an interview how she wished Batgirl: Year One (the comic) could become the next animated Batman movie or TV series. So of course, there was nothing for it after that – I had to read it! And I’m so very glad that I did, because I really, really enjoyed this story.
Batgirl: Year One is a delight in many ways, but the way it treats its leading lady is what truly won my heart. Barbara is fiercely smart, but time and time again the people around her fail to take her seriously – because she’s a girl, because she’s beautiful, or even because she’s short. The ways Barbara finds herself patted on the head and told to be a good little girl, how she’s shunted out of the way, treated as if she can’t take care of herself, or condescendingly told to go home – oh, did it ever ring true, because it’s something I’ve seen, heard, and felt in my own life. I think pretty much every girl has probably experienced this at one point or another, that unconscious condescension of being called “just a girl” or a “good little girl.” God knows I’ve had to grit my teeth – or daydream about punching someone – more than a time or two, so watching Barbara take it in the teeth and then face it head on just made me absolutely love her – and oh could I relate! I loved Barbara’s courage, her determination, but more than anything else I absolutely loved how she was unsure of herself every step of the way. Even as she fought battles and won, even as she mastered new skills and survived hair raising situations, that small inner voice dogged her every move, that voice we all have in our heads, asking us if we’re really good enough, tough enough, smart enough to do this. That, I think, is the most important battle Barbara faces in this story, and watching her wrestle with and finally defeat the enemy of her own self-doubt was wonderful.
I also really, really liked how Barbara’s path to donning the Bat costume wasn’t a straight or narrow one – it all just kind of happened, and then snowballed. She had no mentor or Sensei guiding her on her way – though she did try her best to find one – and her struggle was all the harder for it. All in all, I just really loved how Barbara didn’t set out to wear the costume, but once she tried it on, she slowly discovered how well it fit her – and even that she was worthy of it. It was a fantastic origin story.
As for villain of the piece – he was fine. The Joker he was not, but as a first foe for Batgirl to face, he served his purpose. I did however very much enjoy how Batman and Robin – and even Alfred – flitted around the edges of this story without ever taking center stage or stealing the spotlight. This is Batgirl’s story, no doubt about it, and it’s a good one.
So yes, I did very much enjoy this series. It felt absolutely right, in spirit and tone, and I loved the opportunity to get to know the original Batgirl. So hey, Warner Bros, let’s do this thing – an animated movie of Batgirl: Year One would be pretty freaking fantastic. And if and when that Comic-con premiere rolls around, I will most definitely stake out a spot in line.
Byrt Grade: A
As Levar Burton used to say – you don’t have to take my word for it…
This is a brilliantly told story in every way. It’s funny, yet serious when it needs to be, and Babs’ characterization is solid. She’s strong and wildly intelligent, yet she hasn’t really found her place in the world…I loved it, and would place it high on my recommended reading for anyone getting into DC Graphic Novels or who cut their teeth on Batman: The Animated Series.
I really like that the short librarian is able to overcome everything and be the superhero she wants to be, despite Batman’s seemingly indifference, if not hostility.