The Joker’s return to Gotham City is sure to have some serious repercussions for certain members of the Bat Family. Of them all, perhaps none are as serious as Barbara Gordon’s reaction to the Clown Prince of Crime’s new reign of terror. As all Batgirl fans know, The Joker paralyzed Barbara in Alan Moore’s classic graphic novel, The Killing Joke. With this, her life was changed forever. For a time, Barbara was confined to a wheelchair, until undergoing experimental medical treatment to restore her mobility and returning to her crime fighting role as Batgirl. Even though she has triumphed over the seemingly impossible, Barbara must still deal with the post-traumatic fear of the one man who nearly destroyed her life and her will forever… The Joker!

Since the beginning of this series, writer Gail Simone never failed to remind the reader of the daily struggle Barbara Gordon faced because of The Joker. While physically healed, Barbara is still quite emotionally crippled. In many ways, this is really the story Barbara Gordon fans have been waiting for since her return to her Batgirl identity. From the way Barbara reacts to a phone call from a mysterious stranger to the surprise appearance of three familiar men in her apartment, Barbara’s gut-wrenching trauma is palpable and very well-handled. She reverts from a quivering, helpless mess to a pillar of strength and bravery and back again, before displaying the most badass act of aggression we’ve ever seen from her. It’s fascinating to watch her struggle to resist the temptation to give in to revenge, while remembering who she is and what she stands for. Barbara also is forced to make a decision that affects her personal life in a very significant way, as we begin to learn what her psychopathic brother, James Gordon Jr., has planned for her. Again, I have nothing but praise for Gail Simone in her handling of Barbara. No one knows this character better than Simone. Period.

Artists Ed Benes and Daniel Sampere deliver some amazing work, elevating an already compelling story to another level. Benes is one of those artists who makes you look forward to reading a comic, just knowing you’re always in for a treat. The Joker’s newly reattached face has never looked creepier than it does here.

In short, this is the best issue of the series to date, bar none. It should be quite entertaining to see how Batgirl deals with one of the greatest challenges of her life and how it affects those around her. Easily, a 10/10.

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