WARNING! The following article contains SPOILERS for Batgirl #23.
The final issue of Hope Larson's critically acclaimed Batgirl comic run showcases exactly what makes Barbara Gordon something special among DC Comics' heroes: her ability to not only overcome challenges, but embrace them.
The previous issue of Batgirl opened with Barbara saving a battered wife from her supervillain ex-husband, before detailing Barbara's adventures investigating an underground fighting ring (and reconnecting with an old boyfriend). The issue ended with Barbara realizing that everything she had experienced following the fight with the supervillain was an illusion, and that she had fallen prey to a ray gun that caused anyone who was zapped with it to start imagining their ideal life.
While several days had passed in Barbara's head, a mere few seconds had passed in reality, as the villain continued menacing his family while Batgirl lay prone and helpless.
This sort of threat has famously incapacitated other heroes in the past. Batman faced a similar trap thanks to The Mad Hatter in the Batman: The Animated Series episode "Perchance To Dream." Superman had to fight his way out of a dream of a Krypton that never exploded in the classic Alan Moore comic "For The Man Who Has Everything". What separates "Strange Loop" from these earlier stories is precisely why Barbara is able to free herself.
After trying to meditate her way out of the illusion and coping with a series of distractions meant to draw her deeper into the world of the mind prison, Barbara hits upon the key to her escape. Reasoning that the illusion is drawing on her memories to create something that seems real, Barbara attempts to break the continuity of the world around her by acting out of character in a way that her mind could not accept. To that end, she tracks down her old boyfriend Kai, and reveals her secret identity as Batgirl. She claims she wants to give up everything to live a simple life with him, and flirts in a much more aggressive manner than the quiet, thoughtful aspiring librarian Barbara Gordon would ever dream of doing.
What Barbara realizes about herself - and explains to the super-villain as she starts fighting him again - is that the ray gun didn't work on her because she doesn't want a perfect, peaceful, easy existence. Barbara says that she wants to be challenged and to embrace changes to her routine. This is why her perfect world was precisely like the life she was living already, only with things being far too easy.
This is what sets Barbara Gordon as unique among DC Comics' heroes. Many superheroes overcome adversity but few of them embrace the challenges that live throws at them with the same vigor and enthusiasm as Batgirl. While Barbara Gordon may not be struggling to overcome her paralysis as Oracle anymore, she still has the same heroic spirit that not only allows her to overcome adversity, but to thrive while under fire. It's an aspect of Barbara Gordon's character that Hope Larson captured perfectly and one that will hopefully continue to be profiled as Batgirl's adventures continue.
Batgirl #23 is available now from DC Comics.