Batgirl has spent the last few issues facing off against an A.I. version of Oracle brought to life by Lex Luthor. This month that battle reaches its ending at last as Batgirl is finally ready to attempt to outwit the thing she created.
Every time I think about this arc –and this issue in particular– I heave a deep sigh. I came into this story excited to see some kind of conversation about who Barbara Gordon was, is, and can be. I guess at the end of all this I got an answer to who she can be, but it wasn’t the answer I was hoping for. My hope for this arc was that it become a love letter to everything Oracle was to Babs and her being encouraged by the realization that she is still that same woman. Unfortunately it was nothing like that. The story was too confused, and never seemed to know what to say about them, and in this issue it stopped trying altogether.
The first half of this issue is focused on a cat and mouse chase between Oracle and Batgirl. Barbara’s whole thought process in this book is to do the opposite of what she would normally do, and outthink Oracle that way. No more is she thinking of her relationship to Oracle or generally about Oracle in any way other than as an adversary to beat. The chase itself is fairly entertaining with a few funny lines and ah ha moments. It actually made me wish this whole issue had taken place in the last one. The idea of Babs being contrary to herself fits better with what she said at the end of issue #40 and I think the momentum would have been a lot better if most of the last issue had simply been skipped.
Batgirl and Oracle’s ultimate confrontation takes up the latter half of the book. It comes at the end of the chase when Oracle is holding some of Babs’ friends hostage and she has to step in. This is where things really starts to fall to pieces for me. Barbara is still trying to do the opposite of what she would do, but everything else makes little sense. She says Oracle wouldn’t hurt anyone because she’s running off the Oracle Chair and it wouldn’t hurt anyone, but Oracle has taken hostages she’s controlling, threatening the entire city, and later drops Bard off a roof. Then just about everything with Jason is contrary to what we saw last issue. He’s helping Batgirl, betraying Oracle, fighting alongside Batgirl, and even willing to “forgive her” if she lets him fall because he wants her to be a hero. So what happened to him hating her? Being willing to do anything to take her down? Unable to forgive her for what she did to him? Are we forgetting about all that now because he spent some time with a psycho robot? His change of heart simply doesn’t make sense to me, like much of the decisions made this arc.
Babs does win in the end. Kind of. She blows up a building and Oracle and suspects Oracle got away, but doesn’t seem to be interested in figuring out if Oracle really did get away or not. Instead, Barbara decides that it’s a good thing to try to be and act different than she has previously. To prove that she’s changed she makes a decision about how to relate to a character I wasn’t that big a fan of.
She kisses Jason Bard. I’m still not totally caught up on this series, but to me this seems like a bad idea. She didn’t like this guy leading up to this and all of a sudden after a traumatic fight she’s just decided that yes he’s worth another chance? And let’s go all in on this? I feel like this is a decision that needed a lot more time put into it than just this one issue. It feels like Castellucci changed Bard’s tone this issue specifically to show him in a better light to Babs during the final confrontation, so that her decision for them to kiss would feel right, and instead it all feels rushed and frustrating. I wish she’d taken more time to develop this either through this arc or develop Babs’ changing feelings towards Bard in later issues as she continues to attempt to be a person who says “yes” to things instead of rushing to put it all together like this.
She kisses Jason Bard. I’m still not totally caught up on this series, but to me this seems like a bad idea. She didn’t like this guy leading up to this and all of a sudden after a traumatic fight she’s just decided that yes he’s worth another chance? And let’s go all in on this? I feel like this is a decision that needed a lot more time put into it than just this one issue.
It feels like Castellucci changed Bard’s tone this issue specifically to show him in a better light to Babs during the final confrontation, so that her decision for them to kiss would feel right, and instead it all feels rushed and frustrating. I wish she’d taken more time to develop this either through this arc or develop Babs’ changing feelings towards Bard in later issues as she continues to attempt to be a person who says “yes” to things instead of rushing to put it all together like this.
While I’m not totally opposed to the idea of Barbara changing things around or trying to live life a little freer from always planning, I feel like it’s a plot point that should have built more over this arc. If this is where Castellucci was planning to take her, then build that from the start instead of having issue after issue of inconsistent ideas. It makes this decision feel rushed, and from a personal standpoint I don’t see why Babs herself would change when her whole execution of ‘being opposite’ was to beat a bad guy. I just wish we’d had a little more time with her exploring this idea, but it’s highly possible we’ll see her grappling with the idea of if this was a good or bad decision next issue.
Carmine Di Giandomenico’s art is still one of the strongest parts about this book. I continue to love the way he highlights the technological aspect of Oracle, with little moments where we get to see her through a robotic lense. The page where Batgirl examines Frankie and the other hostages through a magnifying lense is very cool, and has the most unsettling Oracle expression so far, displaying just how far gone the A.I. really is. Her toothy smile and the fact that she’s hidden herself behind these hostages to puppet them is unnerving and just the kind of robot apocalypse type horror to creep me out.
Speaking of Oracle’s expressions, Giandomenico does a great job showing her growing exasperation and fury with Batgirl through the cat and mouse chase, and into the final fight. Both her facial expressions and body language show just how frustrated this chase is making her, as she grimaces, yells, and furiously destroys the various decoys Batgirl has left in her place. It’s nice to see her progression here in the cat and mouse game, because while it’s fun to see Babs start to win, it’s equally fun to see Oracle freaking out more and more.
This issue felt about as unsatisfying as the rest of the arc did. Sure it was a fun cat and mouse chase, but in the end that’s all the arc really was, Babs being chased by Oracle issue after issue in one way or another. It never really forced her to come face to face with who Oracle is, or was, or what this interpretation could be. Castellucci tried, but her ideas never really landed or seemed to move coherently from one issue to the next. This issue didn’t even try to resolve the Babs vs Oracle issue in any way beyond getting Oracle out of the way to move onto other things.
- You’ve been with this arc since the beginning
- Inconsistent storytelling doesn’t bother you
- You’re interested in Barbara purposefully being contrary to who she is
As an arc Oracle Rising never really found its stride or its theme. It floundered from issue to issue trying different themes and ideas, and landed this time on changing Barbara’s personality. Additionally, instead of attempting to resolve the relationship between Batgirl and Oracle the story focused on Barbara and Bard’s relationship, totally backtracking everything Jason Bard did last issue to do so. I’ve sad an awful lot about what I wanted it to be, and what it wasn’t so I’ll leave you all with this, for something with so much promise, I’m just sad it all felt so wasted.
DISCLAIMER: DC Comics provided Batman News with a copy of this comic for the purpose of this review.