Batgirl #14: Joker? She Hardly Knows Her!

Barbara Gordon's life as she knows it is over, because the Clown Prince of Crime is gunning for her.

Andy Hunsakerby Andy Hunsaker

Batgirl #14

Here we go.

For a while now, Gail Simone's Batgirl has been solid, but not all that exciting. That's all changing now with Death of the Family, the tie-in storyline to Scott Snyder's Batman that has the Joker coming back and targeting every member of the Bat-family with a vengeance. Barbara Gordon, as we all know, has a particular issue with the Clown Prince of Crime, as The Killing Joke is one of the only things from the old DCU that's carried over to the New 52 – and she's got some lingering issues with the man who paralyzed her for years.

In Batgirl #14, It seems the Joker has taken Babs' newly un-estranged mother while she was on the phone with her, and before she can do anything, she gets another call from a teasing tormenter with a disguised voice, claiming "three very unkind men" are on their way to her door – echoing the events of The Killing Joke, only this time, she'll be greeting them with Batgirl force instead of letting them shoot her in the spine. As she faces her traumatic flashbacks by fighting them off – sans pants, no less – her roommate Alysia comes back in time for the aftermath. In time for Barbara to realize there is no such thing as a normal life for her, and that she has to cut Alysia out of her life for her own safety – especially since it seems as though the Joker knows her secret identity. She'll never be safe again.

All that's left is to find out whether or not the trauma is still raw enough to drive her over the edge – whether or not her boiling rage is enough to get her to cross the line that Bat-folk never cross – and the gruesome things that the Joker is doing to her mother at the roller rink might just do it. She wants to do it.

There's a twisty turn toward the end that I won't give away, but events sync up to add an extra layer of creepy to Barbara's life. The art from Ed Benes and Daniel Sampere is strong, dark and powerful – their version of the Joker and his faceless-face doesn't have quite the same jagged, visceral energy that Greg Capullo's does over in Batman, but it's still freaky enough to chill.

Here's where Simone shines – dealing with twisted people. The shinola is hitting the fan, business has picked up, and when the Joker's involved, the stakes are always at their highest and we never know how things are going to shake out. That's going to make every book Death of the Family touches something you need to read. Batgirl #14 is no exception.