Author: Marieke Nijkamp
Illustrator: Manuel Preitano
Colourists: Jordie Bellaire with Manuel Preitano
Letterer: Clayton Cowles
The Oracle Code is the latest addition to DC’s Young Adult graphic novel collection from #1 New York Times bestselling author Marieke Nijkamp and artist Manuel Preitano. Aimed primarily at YA readers, along with those new to the character, The Oracle Code brings to life an intriguing reimagining of DC superhero Barbara Gordon.
Following a shooting that has left her paralysed, Barabara finds herself recuperating at rehabilitation clinic, The Arkham Center for Independence. Struggling to come to terms with her current situation, Barbara turns her attention elsewhere as patients mysteriously start to go missing and strange sounds come from the walls at night. Is this a puzzle that needs solving, or merely a means of coping with her trauma?
Steering away from Oracle’s origins in 1988’s Batman: The Killing Joke, The Oracle Code carves a new path for hacker Barbara Gordon, as opposed to exploring the more well known superhero, Batgirl. Driven by her inner monologue, this Barbara is very different to her main DC Universe counterpart; she’s angry and confused, but also so strong willed and stubborn, and won’t give up until she’s solved the puzzle. Her journey is emotional and raw, but truly empowering, particularly as she begins the novel with the belief that the chair is her prison.
Much like fellow YA novel Batman: Nightwalker, this intriguing mystery is gripping from start to finish and it really didn’t take me long to read the entire book. The book is well paced and kept me guessing throughout, with just enough clues sprinkled into the tale to hook you in, particularly laying the foundations in Jena’s creepy bedtime stories. The book also featured empowering themes of inner strength, acceptance and inclusion, along with a positive representation of disability; with the key message that disabled people aren’t “broken” and don’t need fixing.
The art from Preitano and Eisner Award-winning colorist Jordie Bellaire is particularly detailed and emotive, especially the characters facial features and hair. The distinctive gothic visuals used in the interludes cleverly weave in Jenna’s story and wonderfully bring it to life. The colours used at night, predominantly a pink and blue palette, very much reminded me of Brian K. Vaughan’s fantastic mystery novel, Paper Girls. I also really loved all the little DC (and Star Trek!) Easter Eggs placed in the frames, mainly on Barbara’s friend’s t-shirts, but also in a poster and a super cute robin toy!
The Oracle Code is an empowering and heroic journey brilliantly documenting Barbara Gordon’s mental and physical recovery. The book is a great entry point for younger readers and a fantastic addition to the ever brilliant DC’s Young Adult graphic novel collection. I genuinely can’t wait for Teen Titans: Beast Boy later this year!