[Editor’s Note: This review may contain spoilers.]
Writers: Julie Benson & Shawna Benson
Artist: Claire Roe
Colors: Allen Passalaqua
It can be difficult to restart a fan-favorite series within a new continuity. Duane Swierczynski attempted this with Birds of Prey in the launch of the “New 52” almost five years ago. And while those stories are still part of this team’s history, Batgirl and the Birds of Prey are operating in a whole new landscape. Babs’ time as Oracle has been restored to continuity. However, this does not mean that this book is not weighed down by last year’s “DCYou” characterizations of Batgirl and Black Canary. It manifests itself in visual look of the characters as well as their voices. Julie and Shawna Benson have the unenviable task of trying to marry the pre-Flashpoint Birds of Prey concept with the current interpretations of the characters. There’s going to be some stumbling along the way, but this issue gets a lot right about the Birds of Prey dynamic.
This issue starts with a flashback that is revisited throughout as it breaks away from the main storyline: “Who is Oracle?” This flashback gives the Bensons the opportunity to show Babs and Dinah as Oracle and Black Canary in classic Birds of Prey mode. Babs is in Dinah’s ear and they work together to stop a runaway train. This sequence not only allows the reader to get a feel for the classic dynamic, but it also touches on the theme of teamwork which is echoed in the main storyline as Babs and Dinah have to not only work together, but recruit a third team member in Helena Bertinelli; the Huntress.
Babs, Dinah and Helena have tracked down their quarry only to discover Terroni is already dead. Helena takes off leaving Babs and Dinah to try and piece together their next move, first of which is trying to figure out Helena. We discover that Barbara has bought the Birds’ old headquarters, the Gotham Watchtower. The new Oracle texts Babs and inadvertently gives the Birds a lead. However, this also lets Babs know that her secret identity is known. It should come as no surprise that Helena has also figured out that Santo Cassamento is the next step in the mystery. They are surprised by a new player who is fond of snakes and has been sent by yet another player. This interruption allows the three Birds to come to an agreement and set the table for a spirit of cooperation.
The flashback sequence and overall feel of the book and the interactions between Batgirl, Black Canary and the Huntress was very authentic and entertaining. In short, it felt right. The search for the individual who has stolen the Oracle identity and is selling info to the mobs in Gotham is intriguing. It’s especially effective because it’s such a personal mission for Barbara. Helena name dropping Dick Grayson to the Birds was a nice touch.
The visual appearance of the Batgirl and Black Canary is a bit angular. They both favor their “DCYou” designs. While Claire Roe does a good job in communicating character with facial expressions, Babs too often comes off as the surprised and overacting teenager. It’s a credit to Roe’s skill, but the choice of this appearance works against the classic Birds of Prey dynamic that the Bensons’ script delivers so well.
So far, Batgirl and the Birds of Prey does a better job of reintroducing the Birds of Prey concept than the “New 52” version. However, it is a bit of a mixed bag in that the characterization of the individuals doesn’t fit as well as the dynamic between the characters. This issue was stronger than last month’s “Rebirth” issue, but the “DCYou” characterizations are distracting and remind the reader that this is not the classic Birds of Prey and that something is just not quite right.