It is also out of respect for Gail Simone's wishes that critics not spoil the centerpiece of this issue that I'm staying mum on much of the story. So I shan't discuss in detail nor show scans of what is - as I write this - quickly becoming known on Twitter and the blogosphere as "the big scene". A scene Simone has reportedly wanted to write into a Barbara Gordon story for over ten years. I will say this much - it was worth the wait and is something every Batgirl fan has longed to see, even if we never realized it until we saw it.
The rest of the issue beyond "the scene" is developed with equal care. A framing device showcases The Joker discussing his plans in Arkham sometime before the events of Death Of The Family. Simone's take on The Joker is a perfect compromise between the dark, demented serial killer of modern-day Bat-books and Steve Englehart's humorous Harlequin of Hate. This Joker goes about his business, seemingly unaware or uncaring of how his every action disturbs all around him, endeavoring to sound oh-so reasonable as he describes the journal he's written in blood and apologizes for the sloppy hand-writing.
Speaking of handwriting, I'd like to single out letterer Dave Sharpe for praise. Letterers often have a thankless job in the comic industry and even I, as a critic, rarely notice the font or set of the words I'm reading unless there is something horribly wrong. But Sharpe's lettering is exceptional, with the letters to The Joker's words having a disjointed, physical edge to them. Indeed, and forgive me this bad pun worthy of The Joker himself, they look Sharpe enough to cut yourself on.
The rest of the art team deserves high praise as well. Daniel Sampere, who penciled the conclusions of both Batgirl #14 and the recent Batgirl Annual is finally given an entire issue to work on solo. He does not disappoint. Colorist Ulises Arreola picks a perfect palette for everything. Even inker Vicente Cifuntes, whom I condemned last month for overly-outlining the physical characters relative to the backgrounds, does a fine job this time around.
I do not know if I'll be sticking with this book after Gail Simone leaves. Reading a book about Barbara Gordon without Gail Simone now seems to be like reading The Sandman without Neil Gaiman. If you're of a similar mindset, send a polite letter to DC Comics letting them know of your intentions. Then buy this issue. Buy a copy of this one and the last for a friend. Let them see the glory that is Gail Simone's Batgirl while there is still a chance!