Breaking the Loop in Batgirl 23

By Drew Baumgartner

Batgirl 23

This article contains SPOILERS. If you haven’t read the issue yet, proceed at your own risk!

We all have patterns. We run through them again and again until, one day, we finally see ourselves clearly and choose a different path.

Barbara Gordon, Batgirl

Let’s hear it for the quarter-life crisis. We tend to hear more about the mid-life crisis as either a pitiful or destructive force (usually middle aged men blowing money on a sports car or torpedoing their family life for a young girlfriend), but I think the quarter-life crisis is almost the opposite. As society extends adolescence well beyond the teenage years, and careers now take longer to kickstart than they did in generations past, the “what am I doing with my life?” urgency that kicks in around 25 can add some guiding structure. Maybe I’m biased in that way — my own quarter-life crises forced me to identify concrete goals that eventually sent me back to school — but I think a lot of us fall into a rut in our early 20s that we only later get the perspective to shake us out of. Maybe it’s a dead-end job, or an unfulfilling relationship, or a crummy apartment, or bad eating habits. For Barbara Gordon, that rut is a literal mind loop, preventing her from moving forward with her life.

Like any of us struggling to fix what’s wrong with our lives, Babs doesn’t know exactly what will work. So she tries some different approaches, including meditation — the same thing many people turn to to get them out of a funk. But it doesn’t work, leaving her struggling to come up with anything that can shake her out of this loop. She ultimately settles on the decidedly George Costanza-ian approach of doing the opposite of her instincts:

then maybe wrong is right.

The gambit works, but in doing the opposite of what she would, Babs reveals a great deal about who she is. It’s unfortunate that this is Hope Larson’s last issue on the series, as I found this issue — effectively an extended dream sequence — remarkably insightful. Babs indulges in the fantasy of being strong, but doesn’t magic away other problems, opting instead to use her cunning and compassion as she always has. And that she can be so impulsive reminds us that she isn’t a dispassionate person, just that she actively chooses not to act on her impulses.

Moreover, it emphasizes that change is important to this character. That last point feels like it’s Larson’s way of saying goodbye, but it’s effective. We don’t know what’s next for Babs any more than she does herself, but with the closing words that emphasize how change is good, it’s hard not to feel optimistic about her future, with or without this creative team.

The conversation doesn’t stop there. What do you wanna talk about from this issue?

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