ORACLE: YEAR ONE (and John Ostrander)
This post consists of 6 pages (5 full pages and two halves of two different pages) from an 18-page story from The Batman Chronicles #5 (and a cover), called "Oracle--Year One: Born of Hope", written by John Ostrander and Kim Yale.
The story is supposed to take place after the events of The Killing Joke, where former Batgirl Barbara Gordon was shot by the Joker and her legs paralysed.
(I am cringing at that exchange rate on the price, btw. I'm glad they've done away with it now.)
The story starts off with Barbara in her hospital bed and Batman creeping in the window. Barbara is narrating, talking about how idiotic it was for her, Barbara Gordon, daughter of the police commissioner, in charge of running a huge library, and Batgirl, to open the door. She recounts the shooting, but it's interesting to note that she says she doesn't remember much after falling on the floor, and hearing herself scream and her Dad shout, except for waking up in the hospital. Something I like about this comic is that while it covers what happened to Babs in The Killing Joke, it doesn't directly reference the exact art and panels from TKJ. In fact, every panel that describes those events is constructed entirely from her point of view in the room.
(Note the light from the Gotham clock tower shining on the wall.)
Bruce obviously cares, he feels guilty, but what good is that to her at this time? In some ways I think that maybe this scene sums up part of the dynamic between Bruce and Babs in later stories as well. She and Bruce are a lot alike in some ways, and there's this sense that Babs get taken for granted occasionally (as Batgirl, and later on at various points as Oracle, the biggest example to my knowledge being War Games). But at the same time, they do care about each other, and I think Babs's urge to lash out at him here* says something about the nature of their relationship. I think one is more likely to say hurtful things, the kind of things you're not entirely sure you mean but you want or need to say anyway, to someone who is close enough to you that you know you won't lose that relationship entirely. Like siblings/family or longstanding friendships that you know will last past an exchange like that.
*Referring mostly to the "was it me?" line there. The rest of it, her talking about demeaning it is to supposedly only be worth what she is in relation to Batman, is totally fair to say, IMO, because I don't know if he would have really thought about how it would feel to be in that position.
Anyway, when she gets out of the hospital, the media is everywhere. She has the nerve-wracking and awkward experience of moving from her wheelchair to the seat inside a car for the first time, all in front of cameras and journalists. She talks about how simple things like that were things she'd just taken for granted in the past, and she and her dad talk about how if she hadn't been the Commissioner's daughter this wouldn't have happened, how he'd always refused security or bodyguards, etc. She goes into physical and emotional therapy, has to accept that she won't walk again, but she feels defenseless, like she has no sense of self, and feels like her life is over.
She talks about how awesome and liberating the Internet was, that it became such a real "place" for her that she started to get back a sense of identity and felt happier. One day her dad starts talking about a woman named Ashley Mavis Powell, who is laundering money somehow with computers (and looks like Cruella DeVille). Babs investigates a bit and finds out that Mavis Powell is also a child abuser, and one of her net friends warns her to be careful, but Babs starts to go after her anyway.
One day Babs decides to venture outside (as her dad was encouraging her to do so), and she finds herself frightened and panicked by traffic and the task of crossing the street. Some woman comes up behind her and Babs is all "I'll do it myself! I don't need help!" But it turns out the woman is Mavis Powell herself, and she pushes Babs out into the street! Babs is back to feeling like a helpless victim all over again, and asks her net friends if they have any suggestions for self-defense for someone who is in a wheelchair. A helpful someone named "Matches" makes arrangements for her to receive training from Richard Dragon in the park. She goes through the training, and it continues to help her in regaining her sense of self.
Then she has a dream.
As Oracle, Babs sends Mavis Powell a "I'm gonna get you, nyah, nyah" message, and you can imagine how well that goes over with Cruella Ashley Mavis Powell (who, by the way, calls herself "Interface" and has a kind of power to telepathically connect with computers, kinda like what Babs had when she was infected with Brainiac). Now that Oracle has made contact with Interface, she traps her mind "in a logic trap--endlessly repeating the same circuit over and over again at the speed of thought, unable to break free..."
I love that second-to-last panel of Babs saying "this is Oracle." I love it when she threatens people via talking into her headset! ♥
And that, my dears, is that. It's really a great story, and I encourage you to get it and read the whole thing. There are two other smaller stories in the same comic, one about Jim Gordon as a newbie on the force in Gotham, and one about Alfred and young Bruce, before Martha and Thomas were killed (which manages to simultaneously be insanely cute and rather a weird reflection on Bruce's parents at the same time).
I'd also like to bring up something you may have already seen 'round the comics blogosphere, but writer John Ostrander has been battling with glaucoma, is apparently in danger of losing his eyesight, and is struggling to pay the medical costs. A website's been set up (www.comix4sight.com) with a longer explanation of the situation, but there's a online donation drive and an auction in August. Any money leftover is to be donated to the Hero Initiative.