Gail Simone has been writing Barbara Gordon for the better part of a decade and it’s hard to imagine a world where Gail isn’t the person dictating Barbara’s future. Thanks to today’s issue of Batgirl: Future’s End #1, we’ll get to see what Barbara’s tomorrow would have held under the prolific writer’s purview. In her final issue of Batgirl, Gail has pulled together every element we love about Barbara Gordon and Batgirl to create a jarring, yet true-to-form vision of what the future holds for our favorite red-headed renegade.
Caution: Spoilers and salty language below.
Two years after the events of the current Batgirl arc, Barbara Gordon has found happiness on her wedding day. GCPD’s Steven Harris has made an honest woman of Barbara, but the marriage is to be short lived. Babs’ mentally unstable brother James appears like Guns ‘n’ Roses’ “November Rain” to cast a pall on the ceremonies. In a truly memorable comic book moment, James makes Steven prove his love for Barbara in the most fucked up way possible by forcing him to commit suicide, jumping off the roof of the GCPD. Confronted with tragedy more times than she can count, the DCU’s strongest survivor is confronted with a rage she can’t walk away from.
Flash forward to the 5 years later of Future’s End and there’s not one, not two, but three Batgirls, and yes friends, they are the Batgirls we’ve all been clamoring for. Stephanie Brown and Cassandra Cain are back in Bat, and they’ve brought along twelve-year old Tiffany Fox, the daughter of Wayne Enterprises CEO Lucius Fox and sister to hero Batwing. The League of Batgirls are Barbara’s new Birds of Prey and they make one hell of a team. Stephanie serves as mouthpiece and leader while Cassandra provides the muscle. Tiffany is still too young to get into the physical confrontations, but she’s tapped as a Bat thanks to her brilliant brain. While the League of Bat-ladies is taking out a group of gun runners, we learn that their boss is the same bad-ass that brought Barbara to the brink of barbarianism.
Gordon lets the girls do most of her dirty work as she is now known to the underworld of Gotham as La Bête Noir, The Black Beast. (Editor’s Note: A reader on Twitter noted this name could also be a knowing homage to original Batgirl Betty Kane. Thanks @lookupwards)Complete with Bane-inspired mask and some intimidating physicality, The Beast came to exist after Barbara systematically took down Gotham’s greatest threats from inside their organizations. The Riddler, Penguin, Mr. Freeze, Mad Hatter and even dear old Anarchy all have a place in Ms. Gordon’s trophy case. As she gained knowledge and skill while taking out the likes of Edward Nigma and Oswald Cobblepot, she eventually ends up at the feet of one of Batman’s greatest enemies, Bane.
Becoming a soldier in Bane’s training camp, Babs quickly becomes the back breaker’s most favored protégé. Trust us, the symbolism is not lost on Simone, nor is it lost on Bane. Bane looks at Gordon as an equal and believes she desires his death, but Barbara reveals a far bleaker truth, she wants to actually BE Bane. In these scenes, Barbara alludes to having three fathers, Jim Gordon, Batman, and now Bane. It’s because of this violently formed bond that Bane offers her the opportunity to partake in the Venom that makes Bane the hulking behemoth he is. Before returning to Gotham, Gordon considers killing Bane. The heroine instead chooses to become the Black Beast and return to Gotham.
The final battle between Bane and Barbara is one the great culminations of a writer’s intentions. Everything from Barbara’s poignant goodbye to the Batgirls to Bane’s psychologically abusive verbal assault during their fight brings themes and fears that Simone has been working through since her Birds of Prey run. Does Barbara want back in the chair? Did the death of her husband push her to the point of wanting to go die herself? Did she hunt for the challenge that would end her? Umm, this is Barbara Gordon, fuck no she didn’t.
While I’m going to hold back the last few twists, the books last 5 pages are a sincere love letter to every fan of Batgirl. Whether you love Stephanie Brown, Cassandra Cain, or the original Batgirl herself, Barbara Gordon, Gail Simone gets to say goodbye using Barbara as her voice. Thanks to a great standalone issue that any fan can pick up and enjoy, you’ll get to say goodbye in a fun and heartfelt way.
Gail, sincerely, from the bottom of my Barbara Gordon-loving heart, thank you for every amazing issue that you filled with life, love, courage and honesty. You gave us a completely formed individual with hopes, fears and humanity. Barbara Gordon may move on, but it’s sure as hell going to be hard on the rest of us.