Stewart and Fletcher (Flewart?) pace this issue like a horror movie, and you realize that they've actually paced this entire first arc as one as well. We've slowly watched Babs' life fall to pieces around her, with each new development hitting her harder than the previous one did. This issue is no different: you'd think that Hooq putting out a $20 million bounty on her head would be sufficiently bad, but the revelation that her brain algorithm is the secret Batgirl and (somehow) kidnapped Frankie is pretty freaking bad. It's Batgirl vs. Oracle, and the cards seem stacked in Oracle's favor.
The decision to resurrect Oracle, so to speak, is a great one, speaking to Babs' DCU past. We've mostly glossed over the return of her ability to walk, learning only that she had some sort of experimental surgery in South Africa, if I remember correctly. Stewart and Fletcher (Stetcher?) are instead putting that transition front and center, as "old' Barbara fights with "new" Barbara for control. The hints have been there since the relaunch of this series: the loss of her brain algorithm has been a major plot line, since it has imperiled her doctoral thesis. In fact, the stakes in this fight are so high because it seems to offer the possibility that Babs could somehow regain control over the missing algorithm, solving her academic crisis.
That said, we still have a lot of questions here. How did her algorithm become sentient? How did it escape destruction when her laptop was destroyed? Also, how did an algorithm kidnap Frankie? Did someone we know act as Oracle's surrogate? I'll also say that Stewart and Fletcher have to do more work selling us on Babs' reconciliation with Dinah. It happens too quickly here, based on a hurried conversation. We understand the isolation that drove Barbara to seek out Dinah, but we don't really get why Dinah would take back Babs. Is it pity? It's not the crisis at hand, since Babs doesn't know about Oracle's existence at the point when it happens. I hope Stewart and Fletcher eventually address it, even if retroactively.
All that said, those complaints are fairly minor. Overall, this issue does a great job of showing us how detailed of a story that Stewart and Fletcher are telling, even if we didn't realize it from the start. I can't wait to see where we go from here.
**** (four of five stars)