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The Oracle Code

Author Marieke Nijkamp and illustrator Manuel Preitano develop an origin story for DC hero Oracle (Barbara Gordon) in this atmospheric graphic novel.

Late one night in Gotham City, the impetuous Babs Gordon, daughter of the police commissioner and a brilliant coder, is hit by a stray bullet and left paralyzed from the waist down. Her father sends her to the Arkham Center for Independence for rehabilitation, but Babs struggles to warm up to the staff's attempts at helping her recover. Not particularly interested in new friendships, it is a surprise to Babs that she develops a relationship with Jena, whose parents died in a horrific fire. Jena wanders into Babs's room one night looking for her missing brother and stays, telling Babs nightmarish fairytales that strangely mirror real life. When Jena also disappears, it's up to Babs to unlock the center's sinister secrets.

Creepy halls, secret doorways and menacing caretakers make this coming-of-age graphic novel a suspenseful thriller. Nijkamp (Before I Let Go) successfully makes the jump from prose to comics here, evenly balancing the portrayal of Babs's mental and physical recovery with the mystery narrative. The teen slowly and believably comes to terms with how her body's abilities have changed, and readers are never meant to feel sorry for her. Preitano's (co-creator of the Destiny, NY series) moody art accentuates the story's foreboding atmosphere; colorists Jordie Bellaire and Manuel Preitano's dark purples and blues highlight dangerous plot points and use a lighter palette for the more hopeful moments. The Oracle Code is a propulsive collaboration for both novice readers of superhero comics and those well-versed in this arena. --Shelley Diaz, supervising librarian, BookOps: New York Public Library & Brooklyn Public Library