If nothing else, Batgirl: Year One is a nice tribute to the bygone Chuck Dixon Birds of Prey years. There's a lot of cute "nudge-nudge-wink-wink" moments here, like the newly-christened Batgirl teaming up with Black Canary, or the "revelation" of how Jason Bard became crippled and started his own detective agency. Unfortunately, in our new "One Year Later" universe, it's a lot of sound and fury ultimately influencing nothing, but for hardcore Batgirl fans, I'm sure it's a nice touch. Batgirl: Year One is a solid story with good art, and serves as an admirable sequel to Robin: Year One; at the same time, I found it something of a light read, leaving many of the more serious Batgirl questions unanswered.
Barbara Gordon, tired of not being taken seriously by her adoptive father, dresses as Batgirl for a costume party interupted by the Killer Moth, whom she momentarily defeats. Keeping the costume, Batgirl is confronted by Batman and Robin; Batman tries to dissuade her from her choice. When Jim Gordon is kidnapped by a mob boss trying to frame Killer Moth and his new partner Firefly, Batgirl teams up with Black Canary to stop them. She later works with Robin, and after defeating the Moth and Firefly herself, is finally accepted by Batman.
Dixon, with co-writer Scott Beatty, writes a nice Batgirl here, somewhat in line with his portrayal of Oracle. There's an "oracle" theme, somewhat heavy-handed, throughout the book, and we get as many glimpses of the hero that Batgirl will become as we do questions about Barbara's choices--she thinks it's unlikely that there will ever be a "Congresswoman Gordon," though apparently that's back in continuity now. And though she shares a kiss with Dick Grayson in the story, the muddled path of that love affair becomes no more clear, either. Where Dixon succeeds is in showing the path of Barbara Gordon from the beginning to the end of the story, and how the role of Batgirl goes from being a lark to a mission--the use of Barbara's shoes, which start out as high heels and end up as climbing boots is a particularly effective silent indicator. Of course, there's also a requisite appearance by the image of the Joker, where Barbara indicates she's "not afraid" of what might come next--the foreshadowing, again, is remarkably heavy-handed, but ultimately that's what "year one" stories are all about.
Though the story has Batgirl's name on the masthead, there's much about Batman in this book that I felt went unsatisfactorily unexplored. As is usually the case these days, Batman initially tries to convince Barbara to give up her Batgirl role; the parallels to Batman's conversations with the Spoiler are perhaps intentional, though the reason that Batman accepts Batgirl when he later denied Spoiler are never entirely clear. And, perhaps for space reasons, Batman's revelation of his identity to Batgirl (and his reasons for doing so), are also mostly glossed-past. As is the fact that Barbara Gordon is Jim Gordon's niece, a fact that couldn't have been lost on Batman, but his feelings about betraying Gordon's trust are never truly explored. That Jim Gordon is aware of his adoptive daughter's nocturnal activities is preserved here, and works well with the progress of the story overall.
[Contains complete covers.]
I'm on to read Nightwing: Year One now, and then ... ? I'm on the road to Villains United, but I'm not sure if I should read Nightwing: Mobbed Up before that story or after, and whether I should read The Flash: Rogue War before or after. I'll report back and let you know.