[Editor’s note: This review may contain spoilers.]
Writers: Julie Benson & Shawna Benson
Artist: Roge Antonio
Colors: Allan Passalaqua
Black Canary is undercover as a combatant in Roulette’s games. She has figured out that this is where Blackbird is recruiting her “students.” Black Canary quickly gain’s Blackbird’s notice and is recruited herself. Blackbird seems to show real interest in Black Canary (now Donna), as well as the other students in her current class. Blackbird’s rhetoric sounds much like Magneto in Marvel’s X-Men comics from years past, she seems to be recruiting an army of meta-humans to fight regular people. (As a quick aside, I recall the term “meta-human” used in a DC Universe setting for the first time on the short-lived Birds of Prey TV series from the early 2000’s.)
Black Canary actually is able to learn to do something unique with her Canary Cry she’s never done before — fly! BC soon learns that Blackbird is stealing her students’ powers and leaving them alone and powerless. She herself is becoming the army. Black Canary is soon discovered and controlled by Blackbird. Meanwhile, Huntress and Batgirl get a lead on Gemini, currently about to feel the point of one of Oliver Queen’s arrows. The Birds call on Nightwing and prepare for a coordinated attack, next issue.
This issue draws on a number of sources and references. Alone, they could be construed as “ripping off,” but as they appear, they blend together into something new. Black Canary undercover is a classic Birds of Prey trope that never gets old. This is part of Dinah’s standard M.O. Part of what we learn through flashback is that this has always been part of her skillset, or rather we learn how she’s gotten so good at it over the years. On that same note, it’s interesting to see how this Dinah’s early life transpired. Pre-Flashpoint Dinah had a much different history, and this “New 52″/ Rebirth Dinah is more akin to her TV counterpart — an orphan whose biological family was not in her life. Lastly, the comparison to classic X-Men should be a sign that the creative team is doing something right. It should be obvious that Dinah could fly like Banshee using her sound powers in the same way.
Finally, setting up a meta-human-versus-normal-human dynamic is exactly the same paradigm as mutants versus humans in those same X-Men comics. There’s always a metaphor in this type of situation, but so far it isn’t clear. As we prepare for next issue, it’s important to note that there are a number of deep relationships in this title. We see Green Arrow appear looking for his partner, Black Canary, and we see the Birds turn to Nightwing for assistance (knowing that Babs and Dick have a long history together). And of course, Helena, Babs and Dinah continue to grow closer.
At first I thought: How can Roulette and/or Blackbird NOT know that “Donna” is Black Canary. Well, Blackbird did, so that eliminates the one negative I had…
With issue #9, Batgirl and the Birds of Prey proves that while evoking classic Birds of Prey elements, there is room to grow and find inspiration from classic comics of days gone by. The key is always being able to make it seem fresh and new. Developing the characters in this title is the single most important aspect and that’s happening. It only looks to get better next issue with Green Arrow and Nightwing joining in the fight!