WARNING: The following article contains spoilers for the DC Ink original graphic novel The Oracle Code by Marieke Nijkamp, Manuel Preitano, Jordie Bellaire and Clayton Cowles, available now.
The Oracle Code is a YA graphic novel published under the DC Ink banner. The comic book tells an original story that establishes Barbara Gordon as Oracle — and only Oracle. In fact, from the opening of The Oracle Code, it’s clear that this is a different origin for Barbara. In the main DC continuity, Barbara is active as Batgirl for years, until she is shot by the Joker and left paralyzed. Finding herself in a wheelchair, she then becomes the tech-oriented Oracle.
That isn’t the case in The Oracle Code. From the start, Barbara is a gifted hacker, rather than a caped crusader. What’s more, changes are made to her accident — she isn’t shot by the Clown Prince of Crime, but by a random thief in an alley. Next to these changes, the biggest departure from established DC Universe canon comes in the form of the main story’s setting: Arkham Asylum. This is no asylum for the criminally insane. It’s a much different kind of establishment.
After her accident, The Oracle Code finds Barbara in a wheelchair, getting checked into the Arkham Center for Independence facility by her father, Gotham City police commissioner Jim Gordon. From the look of the building, it’s clear this is the Arkham Asylum fans know from the Batman mythology. However, this version of the establishment isn’t meant to treat violent criminals. Instead, it’s a rehabilitation center for young children with disabilities. The children live in the facility: They have their own rooms and there’s a pool, a dining room and multiple classes to help them, both physically and psychologically.
However, there is one thing that the ACI has in common with Arkham Asylum: It’s a dark and haunting place, especially at nighttime. The gothic nature of the rehabilitation center — which has long halls filled with old paintings — makes the place feel ancient and filled with ghosts, just like the Asylum.
What’s more, through her time at the ACI, Barbara begins to uncover a dark conspiracy involving the facility’s doctors. In fact, after she discovers that several children have gone missing throughout the years, her suspicions lead her to discover a secret underground wing — a state-of-the-art floor where the ACI doctors run experimental procedures on abandoned children in the hopes of achieving medical breakthroughs.
The Oracle Code‘s interpretation of the Arkham center is an effective twist. Usually, it’s the place where the bad guys get imprisoned. Here, it’s where the story’s hero and her friends get stuck as they discover the villains were inside the halls all along. In fact, the real monsters are the ones in charge.
Luckily, Barbara and her friends put a stop to it. As The Oracle Code comes to a close, the ACI is still standing and new, more trustworthy leadership is coming. With the doctors now under arrest, the facility can shine as it was always meant to — as a place to help young disabled children. While Barbara wanted nothing but to leave when she first got there, she now chooses to stay among friends — as a protector.
Marieke Nijkamp and Manuel Preitano's original DC Ink graphic novel The Oracle Code re-imagines Arkham Asylum as a different kind of establishment.