Graphic Novel Review: The Oracle Code by Marieke Nijkamp. null
The Oracle Code by Marieke Nijkamp. null
Published: March 10th 2020
Page Count: 208
Publisher:
Illustrator: Manuel Preitano
After a gunshot leaves her paralyzed, Barbara Gordon enters the Arkham Center for Independence, where Gotham's teens undergo physical and mental rehabilitation. Now using a wheelchair, Barbara must adapt to a new normal, but she cannot shake the feeling that something is dangerously amiss. Within these walls, strange sounds escape at night; patients go missing; and Barbara begins to put together pieces of what she believes to be a larger puzzle. But is this suspicion simply a result of her trauma? Fellow patients try to connect with Barbara, but she pushes them away, and she'd rather spend time with ghost stories than participate in her daily exercises. Even Barbara's own judgment is in question. In The Oracle Code, universal truths cannot be escaped, and Barbara Gordon must battle the phantoms of her past before they swarm her future.
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The Oracle Code is the fourth title in DC’s new middle school and young adult range. I’m making a point by starting with this because these titles are noticeably different from other DC titles in a number of ways. The most obvious one is that the characters, familiar DC heroes, anti-heroes and villains, are all teenagers. For those of you who are familiar with DC comics you’re probably scratching your forehead right now and thinking, umm, how does that work exactly? And you’d be right to do so. For those who are confused, let me explain a little. Not many DC characters were even close to being who we know them as now in their teens, so how can you have a teenage version of them in a novel/graphic novel?

It’s pretty simple; DC have changed the origin stories for the purpose of this range. Considering the DC universe has multiple universes, it is possible to just look at them as alternate universes. Personally, it annoys me because there really is no need to create a new range just to cater to young people. Many of us grew up on comic books in one form or another, whether it was actual comic books, TV shows, or animation. I also feel that instead of changing the origin stories of currently existing characters, they could just create brand her characters that the new generation of fans could identify with and grow up with.

So I knew going into The Oracle Code that Barbara’s origin story was going to change, however, considering she became Batgirl as a teen, I didn’t think much would be different. I was wrong. For a start, she is not Batgirl at all. Barb’s Oracle identity appeared after she was paralysed when the Joker brutally shot her, and personally, I feel that rewriting that part of her story removes some of her identity as a disabled person. While I completely understand the necessity of rewriting what happened to her (because that is one of the darkest moments in DC history and even adults struggle with it), at first I did not understand Nijkamp’s decision to have Barb already have the hacker identity of Oracle prior to her accident. Then as I wrote the conclusion to this review, I realised one of the reasons for her decision; anyone can be Barbara, but not everyone can feel they can be Batgirl. That is definitely true for teenage girls who are at a point in their life where their whole world is changing. Throw in a disability and I can tell you from experience that the last thing you feel like is a superhero. However, geeky Barbara the hacker? She’s just an ordinary girl and that can be anyone.

I chose to read The Oracle Code for GeekDis because it’s one of the few graphic novels with disability representation for young readers, and in that respect it is very good. Graphic novels are a fantastic medium for representation because people tend to remember things in different ways, and while this is aimed at a younger audience, I feel that it is beneficial for people of all ages. Throughout The Oracle Code, disabled young people are not seen as overcoming their disabilities; they are seen as adapting to life with them. Barb’s friends teach her that life has irrevocably changed, but that doesn’t mean life has ended. In fact, it has opened up some new doors! 

While Oracle Code is a good old fashion mystery in typical Batgirl style, it doesn’t skip over all the dark parts of suddenly finding yourself disabled and your entire life turned upside down. That is the input of Nijkamp, a disabled writer, and it shows. The plot itself was good, it just wasn’t what I was looking for, and as I said, I have some major issues with this DC range of titles. But this would make the perfect gift for young people, especially young disabled people who are struggling with a new diagnosis or feel like they don’t have a place in the world. 

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Throughout September, I am giving away some of the books that I am reviewing for GeekDis!

This giveaway is part of GeekDis, a collaborative event for members of the disability community to talk about disability representation in pop culture. You can learn more about GeekDis and see all the content myself and others have been creating here! To help spread awareness about the need for disability representation in pop culture, I am giving away books that feature disability representation.

I am giving away any book with disability representation that costs no more than £10.99 on The Book Depository at the time of the giveaway. All eligible books will be marked with GIVEAWAY in the title, just like this one, so keep an eye out for them! You can follow me on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram for notifications of new book reviews.

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