There are no villains and superheroes in this comic, just human beings trying to survive a disaster that could wipe out everything they know. Batgirl #25 is set during Zero Year after the Riddler cut off the power from Gotham. It is about Barbara Gordon and her little brother James trying to survive and avoid dying in the big storm that is about to reach Gotham and destroy their house. Marguerite Bennett uses this bleak setting to show some of the reasons why Barbara eventually becomes Batgirl. She hasn’t finished her martial arts training or even met Batman, but she has the intelligence and determination that help define Batgirl. Bennett gives Barbara a nice character arc while contrasting her to the Gothamites around her. She emphasizes Barbara’s relationship with her immediate family and also her extended family, the people of Gotham. Batgirl #25 is a dark, relational drama with some good art from regular Batgirl artist Fernando Pasarin. He and inker Jonathan Glapion bring the powerless, rainy city of Gotham to life, especially in their single page spreads.
In Batgirl #25, Marguerite Bennett imitates Gail Simone and uses caption boxes to reveal Barbara’s inner thoughts and observations about what is going on around her. These caption boxes can clutter up a page sometimes, but they allow Bennett to develop Barbara’s character in the space of a single issue and contrast her with the more mature Barbara in the current Batgirl series. Barbara is much more frightened and naive in Batgirl #25, and she has every right to be. Gotham is a horrible mess with looting and violence happening everywhere. Bennett and the artists do a good job of showing how much Barbara looks up to her dad as a hero. For example, there is a scene where she puts on his police flak jackets which shows how much she cares about him and also foreshadows her later putting on a costume. However, as the story progresses and her situation gets worse, she slowly decides to become a hero herself. There is nothing epic or groundbreaking, but Barbara takes small steps towards becoming the woman she will be in the future. And this change is mirrored in Bennett’s caption boxes as Barbara goes from thinking about disaster scenarios and just protecting her family to thinking about helping the people around her and maybe even saving Gotham.
From the beginning of the comic, Fernando Pasarin’s art captures the insanity that is Zero Year Gotham. His first page contains four striking panels: one of a gun barrel, one of a gas station sign with high prices, another of a looted convenience store, and the other of an old radio. In a single page, he shows the extent that ordinary people will go to survive in crisis situations. This theme is the major source of conflict in Batgirl #25 as Barbara tries to keep her humanity while keeping her family safe. This issue also showcases Jonathan Glapion’s amazing inking abilities as he helps create the effect of a downpour in the pages of a comic book. The beating rain and water in general creates a continuous physical obstacle that Barbara and the people of Gotham must overcome. Pasarin, Glapion, and colorist Blond create a world full of creaky roofs, leaky foundations, and despairing people that eventually become the catalyst for Barbara Gordon’s future exploits as a superhero.
Returning to a hero’s origins has been a common theme in recent comics (the current “Secret Origin” Iron Man storyline, 2012’s Zero Month, “Zero Year” itself), but Marguerite Bennett puts a fresh spin on Batgirl’s early days by focusing on her life long before she put on a cape and mask. The plot of Batgirl #25 isn’t a thrilling superhero adventure, but it doesn’t have to be. The mixture of Bennett’s writing and Pasarin’s art reveal how the seeds of heroism are planted in Barbara’s mind as she grows up during such a dark, dangerous time. Barbara might not have the fighting skills yet, but she is resourceful, intelligent, and cares about the people of Gotham. Batgirl #25 captures these aspects of her character in both word and action.