[Editor’s note: This review may contain spoilers.]
Writers: Julie Benson & Shawna Benson
Artists: Claire Roe & Roge Antonio (flashbacks)
Colors: Allen Passalaqua
We start with a flashback to Dinah as a young girl. This is the first exploration into Dinah’s past since the early days of “The New 52.” She’s in a foster home, pining for her mother the night before her ninth birthday. We don’t get much about Dinah’s mom, but we do see the anger and rage Dinah has built up over the years and how deeply the loss of her mother has affected her. While she believes her mother has left on some secret mission, she is hearing a harsh, all too real story of an unwanted pregnancy and a woman who couldn’t handle the responsibility of being a parent. We see Dinah leave and end up in a dojo where she earns the name Sui Jerk Jai and a black belt by the time she is 16. Her Canary Cry manifests itself as well, though not with any explanation.
In the present, Dinah, Babs and Helena think they’ve got a yet another lead on the Oracle doppelganger and it takes them to what they anticipate to be a mob hit at a restaurant. Turns out that Santo was the target all along and they head to the safe house. They have a brief fight with the snakes…. The snakes! Helena ends up saving Commissioner Gordon and the three Birds get a little bit closer as Babs and Dinah convince Helena to stay despite their differences. Unfortunately, they’ve lost Santo to Fenice.
Delving into Dinah’s background really adds a lot to the character. It’s too bad it’s taken so long to explore her past in the current continuity. While it seems that Dinah’s mom might be a forgettable character, there’s something in the story that seems to hint that there might be more to it. Most importantly, this sequence really builds a lot of sympathy for Dinah and her similarity with Babs’ own mother issues gives them strong common ground for their friendship.
The shakes are handled well, despite not a lot of page time, they all come off with distinct personalities which can be difficult to pull of without minimal dialog and exposure. Lastly, Dinah and Babs nearly begging Helena to stay shows their vulnerability and the perceptive Helena jumps all over it. It almost seems as if Helena feels sorry for her fellow Birds. Using a different artist to illustrate Dinah’s past worked very well as it created a recognizable distinction between it and the present. Passalaqua’s use of a limited color palate for the flashback sequence also worked well in depicting a dismal, colorless existence for the young Dinah. Last but not least, Claire Roe continues to communicate a lot in her depiction of facial expressions.
Very difficult to find negatives this month in Batgirl and the Birds of Prey. Strong character work, plot development, excellent balance!
Easily the best issue of the series so far. The chemistry is coming together as the Benson’s slowly peel back the layers on these characters to show why they are friends. This isn’t the same Birds of Prey from the pre-Flashpoint era, but this is they way to make this title work in the current DCU. We get to see the familiar dynamics and relationships, but through a different set of bonding moments. Excellent work!