REVIEW: ‘The Oracle Code’ From DC Comics

Reading Time: 3 minutes

The Oracle Code

The Oracle Code is YA graphic novel published by DC Comics, written by Marieke Nijkamp, with illustrations by Manuel Preitano, colors by Jordie Bellaire with Preitano, and letters from Clayton Cowles. The book follows Barbara Gordon on a journey of finding herself and becoming the powerful hacker Oracle.

Following a gunshot injury, Barbara Gordon is left paralyzed. From there, she enters the Arkham Center for Independence, in hopes of undergoing physical and mental rehabilitation. Now using a wheelchair, Barbara must adapt to her new normal. At the same time, she begins to realize something isn’t quite right at the Arkham Center for Independence. As Babs begins to investigate the strange happenings, she uncovers a dangerous mystery.

To say that Barbara Gordon is a character that means a lot to me would be an understatement. When it was first announced DC Comics was publishing a YA graphic novel about Oracle I was both excited and incredibly skeptical. Oracle means more to me than any other character in comics. Barbara Gordon’s path to becoming Oracle is a journey many disabled people, including myself, find inspiring. Seeing a powerful woman take her new reality as a disabled woman and become something even more powerful is refreshing and incredibly empowering. However, there have been a lot of times where the way Oracle has been portrayed was harmful and even triggering for me. Needless to say, my concern about this book was justified. Luckily, The Oracle Code is a fantastic portrayal of Barbara Gordon and being disabled.

At the start of The Oracle Code, Barbara is angry, overwhelmed, and frustrated with her new reality. A disabled person’s feelings toward their disability are always complicated. I know that because there are days I curse my body and what it can’t do and then there are other days I am thankful for who I am because I am disabled. Disability is a complicated and wonderful thing and Barbara’s own conflicting feelings toward her disability feel raw and incredibly real. Like Barabra, I was not always disabled so I see myself in her reluctance to accept her disability.

In addition to delving into Barbara’s complicated emotions, The Oracle Code also contains elements of horror. While not outright terrifying, the stories Jena tells Barbara are unnerving and a reminder of how people use horror as a way to process trauma. It is also refreshing to see horror elements featured in a book about disability that is not based on harmful stereotypes. So often in horror, disability is framed as evil or scary. The horror elements and spookier aspects of the comic are accentuated by Bellaire and Preitano’s coloring. Most of the frame is grey except for a few key pieces and the main characters shown on the page. This choice helps create the eerie environment of the Arkham Center for Independence.

Nijkamp writes Barbara as compassionate, frustrated, determined, and stubborn. She isn’t flawless and she is learning every day about herself and how to adapt to her new normal. The script’s heavy themes are beautifully coupled by Preitano’s illustrations. Barbara’s emotions are expertly captured through her body language and facial expressions. Most importantly though, Barbara feels like she is grounded in reality because her wheelchair is the type of chair you would live in. The crutches her friend uses are made for permanent use. These little details make all the difference and more often than not in the past, Barabara has been drawn in a transfer wheelchair as opposed to one designed for everyday use. As someone who has needed to use a wheelchair on a daily basis previously, this detail means the world to me.

The Oracle Code is everything I wanted and hoped it would be. It does Oracle justice and grounds Barbara in a way that feels relatable and real. The graphic novel also manages to tackle ableism and the world’s desire to cure people in a graceful and impactful way. This is a must-read for fans of Barbara Gordon but more importantly, this is a must-read for disabled fans. I truly believe this book is for us and because of that, I will always treasure it.

The Oracle Code is available now in comic book stores and online.


The Oracle Code
5

TL;DR

The Oracle Code is everything I wanted and hoped it would be. It does Oracle justice and ground Barbara in a way that feels relatable and real. This is a must-read for fans of Barbara Gordon but more importantly, this is a must-read for disabled fans. I truly believe this book is for us and because of that, I will always treasure it.

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