This review contains spoilers.
Batman: Arkham Knight: Batgirl and Harley Quinn Special #1 features two digital first stories. Both are written by Tim Seeley with pencils by Matthew Clark and colors by Rob Schwager. The first story, “Batgirl Begins,” features inks by Wade Von Grawbadger while the second story, “Caged Animals,” is inked by Sean Parsons. In this issue, we learn the origins of Batgirl and Harley Quinn in the Arkham-verse.
The cover by Clark and Rod Reis is great. I love the design of Batgirl in the Arkham games so it’s great to see it in comic book form. And Harley Quinn’s intrusive dialogue makes this a classic comic cover.
The issue begins with Barbara working in a library while a suspicious person wants to check out a ridiculous amount of books on moths. In dialogue, Barbara reveals that the library hired her to convert their old files into digital ones. This is a small detail but I do like that there is a reason for her to work in a library with her skill set.
Barbara meets with Commissioner Gordon who reveals that the Mayor is trying to squash rumors that Batman is supernatural by wasting tax payer money on building a Batsuit. They plan to show it off in City Hall the next night. However, during the presentation, Killer Moth attacks. Barbara puts on the Batsuit and rescues Commissioner Gordon while Batman takes down Killer Moth. The first story ends with Batman telling Batgirl to never do this again.
This is a really fun story. Barbara gets to show off her skills and this is an interesting origin. I kind of wish that Barbara had made the suit but it’s still fun and I like seeing Killer Moth in this continuity.
The second story starts with Batgirl, in her actual outfit, confronting Killer Croc. Batman is able to take Croc down before yelling at Batgirl again. I like how much Batman is against Batgirl fighting crime. For one, it makes Barbara admirable that she isn’t interesting in being a sidekick but just wants to help people. Also, it makes Bruce less of an idiot. He does everything he can to stop Barbara but it is not his decision to make. That is something that has always been hard for Bruce to deal with and I like that this issue drives that point home.
At Arkham, Dr. Harleen Quinzel tries to get Joker transferred so he can escape but is denied. Joker is upset because Batman, Robin and Batgirl are stopping crime and he isn’t out there to kill them. Harleen suggests that he could plan crimes and she could execute the plans as Harley Quinn.
I like that the Joker has already won over Harley. While that is an interesting story, it isn’t one that we need to see here. For both Barbara and Harley, their motivations are already in place. This issue just takes them the extra step to putting on their respective costumes and I think that was a great decision.
Barbara goes to a traveling circus in Gotham Square where Harley Quinn attacks. I love the detail of putting Harley in her costume from Batman: Assault on Arkham. It’s a nice touch. Batgirl is able to stop Harley Quinn with no major injuries or fatalities. Batman commends her for this before Batgirl tells him that she does what she does for Gotham. He inspired her to help people but she doesn’t need or want his approval. Barbara’s motivation has nothing to do with thrill seeking or trying to deal with some tragedy. She just wants to help people. This is what makes Barbara such an admirable character. She is a good person.
The issue ends with Harley and Joker planning more crimes cementing their relationship.
I love this issue. Creating a parallel between Batgirl and Harley Quinn is actually interesting. I never thought about it before but they are really similar people. They’re inspired by a larger than life character to fight for what they believe in whether it’s helping people or love. Where they differ is that Barbara is able define to herself outside of Batman while Harley becomes lost in the Joker. The art is solid with cool action with various villains. I highly recommend buying this issue especially if you’re a fan of these games.