The Oracle Code

DC Comics. Mar. 2020. 208p. pap. $16.99. ISBN 9781401290665.
Gr 6 Up–An accident devastates a superhero but can’t crush her spirit. Before, Barbara Gordon was an elite hacker. But when an attempt to help her father, police commissioner Gordon, with an armed robbery goes wrong, Babs is shot, leaving her paralyzed below the waist and unsure how to reawaken her curiosity and sense of daring. She enrolls at the Arkham Center for Independence (ACI), where patients with disabilities are rehabilitated. Though Babs finds the ACI ominous and director Dr. Maxwell unsettling, she stays at the behest of her father and finally rekindles her determination as she realizes that students are going missing and her mistrust of the institute may be more than paranoia. In this fast-paced and thoughtfully crafted mystery, Nijkamp gives comic book lovers a refreshing take on Barbara Gordon’s journey to becoming Oracle (the persona that in the late 1980s replaced Batgirl as Barbara Gordon’s alter ego). While Babs copes with post-traumatic stress disorder, and some doubt her abilities now that she’s in a wheelchair, she realizes that though her life looks different, that doesn’t mean that the future she envisioned for herself has to change. She’s a winning and deeply relatable protagonist, though her friends are more thinly developed and function more as plot devices. Shadowy illustrations evoke film noir and set the perfect tone for Babs’s escapades; imagery of puzzle pieces represent her growing understanding of what’s really going on at the institute, as well as in her own heart.
VERDICT This strong and empowering addition to DC’s growing line of origin stories will resonate with superhero fans while also enticing newcomers.

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