Gail writes a very organized Annual that is easy to follow and understand if you are new to BATGIRL. For those of you who have been reading BATGIRL all along, you will find that this issue calls back to previous issues quite frequently. For example, one of the main focuses of this comic is a character that previously appeared in Simone's BATGIRL (issue #9), and she resurfaces here. The character also undergoes a bit of change; so it's safe to say this issue is more about that character than it is about Batgirl, herself.
When you open up the issue you'll turn to an incredibly stunning two-page spread of Barbara in action on pages 2 and 3. I love the expression on her face and her stance; I think she looks amazing. The art in this issue really stood out, in my opinion. It was really well illustrated and there were scenes that looked almost as if they had been painted.
Reading this issue there were some moments where I just shook my head. I don't know what it is about the dialogue, but this, to me, just doesn't sound like Batgirl. Considering Gail Simone has written Oracle in the past (she was the writer for Birds of Prey), that Barbara and this one sound really different. I understand that this Babs hasn't had the life experience and maturity that the previous version of her character had under her belt; but I still think they should have a more similar narrative. A lot of this feels forced.
The story, although it's organized and easy to understand, isn't really that interesting or original, either. I didn't feel it was necessary (especially for the price) or crucial for reading the rest of this series.
Annual issues tend to be a lot bigger than most. You get more comic, but you also pay more for it. So the question is, is the BATGIRL ANNUAL worth the $4.99 price tag? Like I mentioned above, this issue is really well organized. If you have been following the series then you will definitely enjoy seeing elements we saw in previous issue appear here. You might even enjoy the team-up featuring Batgirl and Catwoman. As for whether or not it's worth the +$5.00 it will cost you after taxes, I have to go with not so much. If you haven't read the series yet, this is a perfect place to start. You get some background on Barbara as Batgirl as well as an idea of Catwoman's character in the 'New 52.' You also get a glimpse at a new character we will likely be seeing a lot more of in this universe. Having said that, this doesn't feel like an essential story -- I doubt you will need to have read the Annual if you want to keep reading BATGIRL. Additionally, the story isn't that interesting. It's structured well, the interactions between characters is good, but overall I wasn't very impressed.