When Marieke Nijkamp, the #1 New York Times bestselling author was announced to be writing a graphic novel with up and coming illustrator Manuel Preitano about Barbara Gordon’s time as Oracle, fans rejoiced. Barbara Gordon’s tenure as Oracle is treasured among almost every DC Comics fan. The announcement of a new take on this character that would be mystery focused was the icing on the cake. Consistently recognized as a member of the Bat-Family, it can be easy to forget Barbara, or “Babs”, has a plethora of talents and skills she developed on her own. Of these many talents, Barbara has a knack for hacking. To add to that, her gut has never led her astray from justice. Put this all together, and readers everywhere have a socially relevant, moving, and empowering book in The Oracle Code.
After a gunshot wound, Barbara finds herself at a rehabilitation center. Alone, scared, and hurting, Barbara finds herself in a building holding more secrets than long hallways. People are disappearing left and right. And maybe it’s time for the world’s greatest hacker to come out of retirement and solve this puzzle. Or maybe the trauma of her past is causing her to make a mountain out of molehills? The only way to crack that code is to crack open the book.
Throughout the novel, it becomes apparent that not only is the mystery a puzzle but so are the pages themself. Thanks to illustrator Manuel Preitano and colorist Jordie Bellaire, the story is a splash of vibrant colors that bring to life every aspect of the pages. Shapes, or to be more specific puzzle pieces, are seen within panels and pages of the book. This is furthered by the defining line work that sharpens the details of the characters, scenery, and shading. When combined, it creates an inviting environment for readers of all ages.
Marieke Nijkamp may have never worked for DC Comics; however, her first work was a home run. The characterization of Barbara Gordon was not only picture-perfect, showcasing her many strengths and weaknesses in a newfound way, but her relationship with her father was also correspondent to what the mainstream comics have depicted it as. James Gordon, father of Barbara Gordon would do anything to protect his little girl. But sometimes that means being ignorant of her impeccable ability to find the cracks in the walls. Yet at the end of the day, not only do they come through, but better off.
There are many qualities of Barbara Gordon’s life that Nijkamp was able to translate through The Oracle Code, however, the most important characteristic of her that was perfectly relayed over from mainstream comics was her ability to find strength through hardship. Throughout the novel, there is little focus on Barbara’s actual physical therapy. Rather, her battle against fear. Toppled with the mystery about the disappearing children, Barbara is riddled with fear. Fear that she will have to fight against, not to become who she used to be, but to evolve into someone new. Whether or not she can is something only to be uncovered in the pages of the book.
Final Thoughts: The Oracle Code is a phenomenal story of perseverance against hardship, ableism, and fear. It is thanks to the trio of Nijkamp, Preitano, and Bellaire this novel can sink its teeth into readers, almost making it impossible to not turn the pages. Putting this book down for even a second seems inconceivable at times. Despite some brief moments of filler storytelling, the overarching story is so compelling that it should become an instant classic.