The "Joker War" has been steamrolling its way through the pages of DC Comics in recent weeks, making a profound impact on Gotham City's various heroes and villains in the process. This week, the narrative intersected with the life of Barbara Gordon/Batgirl in a significant way, as she was forced to come face-to-face with The Joker once again. The narrative that ensued from there not only provided an emotional modern development to the polarizing events of The Killing Joke, but ended with Barbara making one of her biggest sacrifices in recent memory. Spoilers for Batgirl #47 below! Only look if you want to know!
The issue opens with Barbara returning home from her date with Jason Bard, only to discover that The Joker has broken into her apartment. The Joker proceeds to unveil a piece of Wayne technology that is tuned to the same frequency as the microchip in her spine, which allowed him to manipulate her body and movement at his will. While torturing Barbara with the device, The Joker begins to taunt Barbara for the ways that she has tried to rebuild her life following his initial attack. Through her internal monologue, Barbara decides that he no longer has power over her, and that she can fight back.
As the issue goes along, The Joker's motivations for breaking into Barbara's apartments becomes clear -- he wants her help to unlock the password to get into Batman's arsenal of computers, which he technically now owns. Barbara gives him the information he wants -- that there is a password, but it's impossible for anybody else to solve. As their altercation goes on, Barbara manages to get her hands on a knife, and uses it to literally cut the implant out of her body.
She then throws a piece of rebar at The Joker, literally stabbing him in the back. The issue ends with the two of them laying on the ground, as The Joker remarks that she "actually [is] the best" of Batman's sidekicks.
The moment is undoubtedly powerful, both for the narrative significance of Barbara reclaiming her agency and her autonomy over her body, and for her removing or damaging the microchip that helps her walk. (And, you know, The Joker bleeding out on the rooftop of her building). It's hard to deny that that chain of events will impact Barbara in the remaining issues of Batgirl and beyond, something that the issue's writer, Cecil Castellucci, definitely acknowledged.
"The thing about Barbara Gordon's implant is that it could be construed as an Achilles heel and is often mishandled," Castellucci writes in a guest post on DC's website. "Or even worse, it gets thought of in an ableist way. But we know that Babs understands that the time with her implant is limited at best. She knows that at any moment it can fritz out. It has before and it will again. And you can damn well believe that she is ready for that. In addition, trauma and being triggered by trauma can render you unable to move. I believe that she has mentally prepared for that fact as well."
"The Joker uses laughter as a weapon to throw everyone off balance. It's all a joke to him. Cold-blooded killing. Torture. Revenge. Nothing has any meaning," Castellucci continues. "But we also know that the thing that strikes to the core of an insecure man is laughter. And women know that the thing a man fears most is being laughed at. So here, we have Barbara turn the Joker's most dastardly weapon onto him. She pulls out her own implant to regain advantage with her own body. And then she laughs at him. It's my hope, that by facing the Joker head on and reclaiming her power, Barbara Gordon finally gets the last laugh."
What do you think of the events of Batgirl #47? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below!