Expanded from a Brontoforumus post I wrote yesterday. Spoilers follow.
I haven't been reading Batgirl ('cept one issue a couple months ago). I don't really know Alysia Yeoh. I knew enough to know she was who everybody was figuring would be the trans character.
But y'know, coming into it as a new reader, I think Simone really nailed it. It's the wonderful little moment of "this is a big deal to this character but it doesn't really change anything". It's that peculiar mix of something that really matters and simultaneously doesn't matter at all.
That's Simone's strength: these little human moments.
I've been on the other end of an "I have something to tell you" coming-out moment a handful of times in my life. It's just like that. The moment of "I'm glad you're comfortable telling me, but from where I'm sitting it doesn't change a thing." Or, in some cases, "Well Jesus, dude, I knew that within five minutes of meeting you" or "Yeah, I just assume every woman on the Internet is physiologically male." It's something that's so big and so small, all at once.
And superhero secret identities as a metaphor for the closet is hardly a new idea, but I've rarely seen an actual superhero comic commit to it so fully and unambiguously. Alysia reveals her secret to Barbara, but Barbara doesn't reveal her secret to Alysia -- and indeed, while her brother and her mother know, she hasn't told her own father. Subtle it ain't, but deft and nuanced it is. Simone takes on a great tradition here, what the masks and the cowls really say about people -- and it bears remembering that superheroes are rooted in the American Jewish tradition. Taking on an assumed name, hiding your identity from all but a trusted few -- the experience of the oppressed outsider is deeply encoded in the DNA of the superhero. Simone pays homage to that heritage here, in a way that never distracts and always serves the story.
As for that story, as for the rest of the book -- well, it's more of the "Barbara's brother is a sociopathic serial killer" arc that I don't care much for. I think Gail does a fantastic job with it but it is so very much not my cup of tea.
She's promised things are going to get lighter in the coming months, but next month's cover has a super-creepy new version of the Ventriloquist on it and I'm not holding my breath.
Still, I expect I'll be along for the ride for a little while to come, at least. Even if the big stories don't interest me, the little ones do -- and there are few other writers working in mainstream superhero comics right now who are Gail Simone's equal at those.