by Marguerite Bennett, Fernando Pasarin and Jonathan Glapion
Gail Simone is off this issue, leaving writing duties to Marguerite Bennett as the series takes a sidestep from the ongoing plot. Pegged as a Zero Year tie-in issue, the events of Batgirl #25 take place six years prior to the current storyline. Unlike some past tie-in issues that barely relate to an event, this entire issue adopts that setting, placing Barbara in the middle of a Gotham on the verge of destruction. Bennett made waves with her writing on Batman earlier this year, giving readers an interesting story in the title’s second annual issue since the start of the New 52. Similar to that story, this features a well plotted issue that begins to weaken the longer it runs.
In the setting of Zero Year, Gotham has been turned over as The Riddler has cut power in the city just before it is hit by a massive storm, the likes of which its citizens have never experienced. Civilians resort to instinctive tactics and as the issue opens, readers are met with familiar visuals and plot. Barbara must protect all that she holds dear, most notably her younger brother, as her father is called into duty. As he exits, there is a brief exchange where Barbara makes light of her father’s use of seemingly Old West language. It is a great sequence that better highlights the parallels of this situation with that of an era filled with outlaws and corruption and the town’s sheriff.
As the city begins to crumble, all of what Barbara has known begins to wash away. This is both figurative and literal. First she is forced to evacuate her home, and as the story continues, she is pushed further and further outside of her comfort zone, each time what she leaves behind is destroyed. The internal monologue that Barbara adopts in the issue sounds like her, but it is almost too on the nose. The more the issue progresses the more the narration feels overwritten and too calculated. What starts off as great allegories for the emergence of a child into adulthood and the transformation of Barbara into Batgirl, turns into scene after scene of parallels that are far too obvious to be effective. Even the introduction of an unknown character quickly feels as though it is only done to act as a catalyst, and his purpose is as transparent and interchangeable as the other elements of Batgirl #25.
Pasarin does well with the story’s art. He captures the scale of the devastation well and puts together some impressively well-sequenced panels. All in all, though, his art has as many moments of formulaic tendency as does the story, including a flashback panel that adopts the overexposed coloring to accentuate the nostalgia Barbara experiences recalling a simpler life. In other moments of the city turning on itself, the panels could be from any other apocalyptic issue set in a city. That ends up being the biggest problem with this issue. Bennett and Pasarin tell a decent story, and very little of the issue could be viewed as substandard. Unfortunately, there is also very little here that feels new or unique. It may be interesting to pair the devastation of Gotham due to the events of Zero Year with the birth of Batgirl, but this allegorical metamorphosis could be applied in so many other stories. As a result, the issue has little impact.
It also must be said that, though not a fault of the creative team, this is the second interruption to the ongoing arc in Batgirl. An arc that is born out of an incredibly strong moment and one that is dealing with identity and family, these sidesteps are deflating any impact that the storyline may have for readers following along monthly. In that vein, had Bennett managed to accent Barbara’s relationship to James Jr. a bit more in this issue as it puts her in a role of protecting him amidst the chaos, there may have been a bit more resonance with this issues events as readers return to the arc next month. As it stands, this is a mediocre issue with that does not accomplish enough to warrant the departure from the current story in the title.