- You stole everything from us. You stole our family. From now on, James...? I'm an only child.
- — Batgirl
Synopsis for "A Blade from the Shadows"
When they were kids, Barbara Gordon and her brother James, Jr. didn't relate to one another all that well, but on Saturday nights, their father would let them stay up late together watching horror movies. At the time, Barbara had found it endearing to see her brother afraid, but she was wrong. The movies had not scared him. The killers in their slasher flicks had annoyed him by their sloppiness.
After the harrowing experiences she has had over the past few days, Barbara is anxious about her life, and has decided to come back to her apartment, finally, and face her roommate Alysia Yeoh. When Alysia answers the door, Barbara asks to be allowed to come home, and angrily, Alysia complains of how Barbara had terrified her by leaving three criminals handcuffed in their living room, and refusing to explain herself. Even so, her resolve crumples and she hugs Barbara to her, glad that her friend is okay. To herself, Barbara hopes that she will be able to keep Alysia - someone who was willing to stick with her, despite her behaviour and baggage - in her life.
Barbara confesses that she has some things to tell her friend, and explains how she was shot three years ago during a home invasion, and was paralyzed from the waste down. She tells of how the one who shot her was the Joker, and how the man who had been courting Alysia for a while had actually been her brother James, Jr. - a convicted serial killer. The cat he had given her was actually some kind of threat, named after the cat she had had as a girl. As she tells Alysia all of these things, she is conscious of the fact that she is trying to scare her away, but she seems determined to stay.
Intensely, Alysia explains that she has something to confess as well: she is transgender. For a moment, Barbara doesn't know what to say, but her expression of surprise soon softens into a smile, and she announces that Alysia may call her "Babs" - the people she loves are allowed to call her Babs. As they embrace again, Barbara receives a call, and knows that she has to leave. Relieved to have shared her own secret, Alysia is understanding enough to let her go.
Barbara muses that while she told Alysia nearly all of her dark secrets, she kept the biggest one from her - she is Batgirl. Hopefully, she will better be able to protect Alysia if she doesn't know that Barbara is Batgirl. Donning her cape and cowl, Batgirl is hopeful, too, that the Joker is dead. In the meantime, though, her brother is still on the loose, and eager to kill her.
Meanwhile, Commissioner Gordon receives an unexpected call from his son. James, Jr. explains that he wants his father to be present to witness his plan come to its climax. He orders Jim to meet him at the old aquarium alone - and immediately.
Meanwhile, Barbara and James' mother is already at the Gotham Bay Aquarium, reminiscing with some sense of irony of how she had once brought her own children there. She is startled by James, Jr.'s arrival. Mockingly, he asks after her finger, which the Joker had severed. He reveals that the doctors could have saved that finger - if he hadn't thrown it into a dumpster just two blocks away from the emergency room. Batgirl, has been watching the whole thing unfold. She had known that if her brother ever made an escape from Arkham Asylum, they might never have found him again, and he would never have fallen for a trap. That is why the trap had to be his idea.
As James, Jr. pulls a gun on his mother, Batgirl leaps down between them, remarking that a gun is beneath him. It doesn't send the kind of message that he likes to send; and besides that, it is sloppy. With the gun still pointed at their mother James, Jr. comments that he knows she asked him to meet her there because this was where she last saw him smile. Becoming enraged, he mocks the idea that he might have shown leniency because of the memories of this place.
Turning on Batgirl, James asks whether she ever revealed to their mother that Barbara Gordon and Batgirl are one and the same. Calmly, their mother states that she had already known that, and suddenly pulls a gun from her coat and fires it at him, declaring that she will not let him hurt her daughter. Angrily, Batgirl takes the gun from her mother's hand, but looks to see that James has gone missing. As she begs him to let her help her, he comes up behind her with a hammer and cracks the shock-plate in her helmet.
Barbara begins to lose consciousness and worries that her mother will be left unprotected if she does. As she collapses, James, Jr. explains that he does want her to live. He just wants her to be back in the wheelchair. Surely, he thinks, that will help to drive their mother insane. After that, he will kill Alysia.
Strengthening her resolve, Barbara rolls out of the way of his next attack, and rises to her feet. Ever since she returned to the mantle of Batgirl, her life has been filled with pain and darkness from outside of herself, and it's time for that to stop. As she unleashes a flurry of kicks and punches on her brother, Barbara announces that from now on, she will be an only child.
Despite knocking James off of his feet, Barbara is aware that she has a concussion. Their mother rushes to James' side and begs to know why he has hated his family for his entire life. James claims that his hatred stems from Barbara's successes. Their parents had always doted on her, fostering her intelligence and talent. He perceived her like a dog begging for attention from their parents. Incredulously, Barbara questions why he would cause so much bloodshed just to get attention. Putting a knife to their mother's throat, James admits that he wanted her to suffer - but that he is flexible enough to kill her right now instead.
Knowing that he would certainly kill their mother - and everyone else Barbara cares about - she resolves to put an end to it. She throws a Batarang that pierces through her brother's eye. The impact throws him back, and she hears his spine cracking against the railing of the bridge they stand on as he rolls over it and plummets into the Gotham Bay. Looking down into the water, Barbara assures herself that she had tried to save him.
Staring at her blood-stained hands, Barbara is forced to hold her mother back from the edge, to keep her from leaping in after him. The two of them collapse in tears in the middle of the bridge. Suddenly, she hears her father warning her to get her hands off of his ex wife.
The commissioner declares that she is under arrest for the murder of his son. Barbara is sickened by the fact that she actually considers using a concussive against her own father, but instead, she dodges his gunfire and leaps into the bay in escape. Sadly, she considers that while she intended to become an only child this night, she may have made herself an orphan as well.
Appearing in "A Blade from the Shadows"
- Batgirl (Flashback and main story)
- James Gordon, Jr. (Flashback and main story) (Apparent Death)
- Birds of Prey Vol. 3 #21 takes place before this issue.
- James Gordon, Jr. is revealed to be alive in Suicide Squad Vol. 4 #20
- Batgirl Recommended Reading