DC Ink is knocking it out of the park with their original graphic novels for the YA audience! The next two coming up star Oracle and The Bat himself.
Marieke Nijkamp, whose book, This Is Where It Ends is still one of the most intense books I’ve ever read, brings her intensity to a creepy mystery in the Bat-Family universe. The Oracle Code centers on Barbara Gordon, (later known as Batgirl), hacker and daredevil daughter of Gotham’s own James Gordon. Deftly creating her own entry in the DC Otherworlds universe by having Barbara’s gunshot paralysis occur while witnessing a police chase a suspect – as opposed to being shot, point blank, by the Joker, as was established in the 1988 graphic novel, Batman: The Killing Joke – we get a younger, Barbara whose personality is still in adolescent flux, and will be formed by the events she experiences in The Oracle Code. Barbara enters the Arkham Center for Independence, delivered by her father, to learn how to navigate her new normal and undergo physical, mental, and emotional rehabilitation. Barbara is slow to come around, and we feel her anger and her despondence as powerfully as we feel her sense of loss. When she meets a fellow patient who insists her brother is also at Arkham, Barbara thinks, at first, that the girl is dealing with her own loss: until her gut tells her otherwise. Barbara opens up her own investigation, which could put her at even greater risk.
I loved The Oracle Code. Big shoutout to one of my favorite colorists, Jordie Bellaire, for creating a somber, almost sinister mood with Manuel Preitano’s fantastic artwork. The story builds as we wonder who’s reliable and who isn’t, and Barbara doesn’t escape judgement here, either. Seeing Barbara reclaim her agency is an incredible thing; readers will appreciate her frustration as she is blown off and questioned time and again. Another home run for DC Ink and for Marieke Nijkamp.
DC Superhero Girls writer and illustrator Shea Fontana and Marcelo Di Chiara turn their powers to a pre-Batman Bruce Wayne in Batman: Overdrive! Bruce Wayne, angry and struggling to come to terms with his parents’ deaths, turns his skills to detective work and automotive work: he decides to rebuild his dad’s first car. There’s an interesting new spin on his origin with Catwoman as the teen Bruce makes two new friends; Selina Kyle and Mateo Diaz, and we see young Bruce laying the foundation for the man who will become Batman.
Overdrive gives us a Bruce Wayne fraught with conflict. Alfred isn’t in his confidence yet; he pushes back and argues with him at every turn. He’s working through his anger and learning to trust here, and framed within the story of his father’s car, Batman: Overdrive is a solid Batman origin story. This skews toward a slightly younger audience in both writing and artwork; middle schoolers will enjoy this as much as a teen audience. Frustration with parents and a strong desire for freedom will resonate with all readers.