Batgirl and the Birds of Prey #1 reflects DC Rebirth‘s approach to continuity: previous stories may have happened, but probably not in the way that you remember them. For example, the issue opens with a flashback to Black Canary‘s days as an operative of Oracle, back when Barbara Gordon was still paralyzed after the events of Batman: The Killing Joke. It’s kind of like their dynamic in the original Birds of Prey series by Chuck Dixon and later writers, including Gail Simone. But it doesn’t quite feel the same.
Writers Shawna Benson and Julie Benson may have given Batgirl top billing in this title, but it’s Black Canary who carries the issue and doubles as the narrator. Surprisingly, the Bensons bungle Batgirl in several scenes that feature the veteran heroine making some very rookie mistakes. That’s not even counting the fact that Batgirl and Black Canary apparently have a secret headquarters that they have to enter from the street in full view, which conveniently allows them to spot someone trying to break in. That is nonsensical.
Making the duo a trio is the Huntress, whom Grayson readers may recall is an agent and even the leader of Spyral. But this version of Helena Bertinelli is all one-note anger without the depth of her earlier appearances. Hopefully this will change as the series progresses.
The Bensons fare better in the action sequences, as the Birds of Prey find themselves at odds with the Huntress. Helena wants to murder a mob operative for his role in the death of her family, while Batgirl and Black Canary want him alive for information about the individual who has co-opted the Oracle name as an info broker for villains. The prerequisite heroine fight gets a few pages before the inevitable team up. This was one of the issue’s biggest weaknesses: it was a bit too predictable.
Claire Roe’s artwork was also a distraction in this issue. She handled the fight scenes very well, even if her facial expressions were a bit jarring. Batgirl and Black Canary’s faces were contorted in disconcerting ways. Some of that is simply Roe’s style, and she certainly has some strong sequential instincts.
There’s really not enough here to make a judgment about the new Oracle as a villain, since we don’t even have any suspects yet. In theory, a hacker who can outwit Barbara Gordon should be a formidable foe, but the Barbara Gordon Batgirl that we got in this issue was seriously off of her game. The Bensons had such a good take on Black Canary that it’s curious that both Batgirl and Huntress came off poorly by comparison. For this revival book to work, all three leads have to be well-rounded characters and worthy heroines. Though they were not in this issue, we are hopeful that the series will develop each character individually.
RATING: 2 OUT OF 5 BURRITOS
What did you think about Batgirl and the Birds of Prey #1? Let’s discuss in the comment section below!
Curious about WTF comics moments? Check out some of our favorites:
Images: DC Comics