Gail Simone reminds us of her solid storytelling chops in this action-packed exploration of the Batfamily’s young lovers in an issue titled “Birds of Rage”.

By now you all know the Convergence formula: it’s world domination cage match and here we have the (somewhat odd, but nevertheless interesting) teams of Shaman Hawkman and Hawkwoman against New Earth Nightwing and Oracle. Someone suggested elsewhere that these particular hawks were chosen so that when they are defeated it won’t be to the outrage of fans everywhere, but I’m not sure we should assume anything about the outcomes of these Convergence fights. After all, the assumption here is that the outcomes of these battles will impact the DCU in the aftermath. And if our current Grayson and Batgirl are going to continue, doesn’t it stand to reason that this world’s Nightwing and Oracle might not make it?

Food for thought.

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Way to not waste time with an opening!

The Birds of Paradise

Old West Guy Gardner, Blue Beetle, Martian Manhunter, and all the Old West others eat dirt within the first three pages, which is a great way to get your attention. This issue isn’t kidding when it comes to the dog-eat-dog match-fight that is the whole premise of Telos’ scheme, and the Shaman Hols are all business.

As for Nightwing and Oracle, it was actually painful to see them together again (in the best way possible). To make it even more cruel, Simone brings Kori into the mix for a brilliant and beautiful scene between her and Nightwing on the rooftops.

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For a moment I thought Simone was introducing some wretched love triangle, but Kori’s lovely self-sacrifice was so much more dramatically satisfying; a profound and heartfelt moment.

And if Mr. Freeze doesn’t just break your heart in his opening fight with Nightwing, your motherboard needs some emotive upgrades.

Jan Duursema’s pencils (with inks from Dan Parsons) are definitely old comic house-style art, but the kind that’s perennial. Opening these pages was literally like stepping back in time in terms of the reading experience. The women look like women without being sex “things” and the men are powerful and realistically proportioned. While Wes Ozioba’s digital colors place this visually in the 21st century, it’s not too overly processed (even the look and feel of the computers is a bit throwback without all the glowing electric light that’s supposed to suggest technological sophistication in comics these days).

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Dick breaks a lot of glass in this issue

The Birds of Prey

Just a couple of plot things that could have been stronger here, if I might nitpick for a moment:

Simone’s Achilles heel is the convoluted plot turn and here she gets hung up on explaining the fight set-up between Nightwing/Oracle and Katar and Shayera. Part of it feels little editorial: establishing the contest could have happened in a few short pages, but we’ve got this many to fill, so let’s make it more dramatic with some back-and-forth and lengthy explanations of how it will all play out and an ultimatum that we’ll check in on later. The Hols laid waste to everyone in their own world so it’s unclear why they would bother not doing the same here.

Similarly, Barbara struggles with Nightwing’s proposal but can’t just talk about what’s on her mind? And however much I like the reversal at the end, it vexes me a little too.

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The whole: “I can’t tell you what super seekrit thing I’m doing even though I have no reason to not trust you or let you in on my plan” is always frustrating as it feels more like writer convenience than organic dramatic tension. Even so, I was delighted by Oracle’s courage and connivery–and it made for a great cliffhanger–so I forgive it, mostly. Your mileage may vary.

And in the pickiest of nits: Jill Thompson’s cover is awesome (I’ve only ever seen her cartoon work prior to this), but the composition could have been improved. The main focus of the action is all packed up top with all that intense lettering (a triple title, no less), while we have a big patch of empty space in the bottom right quadrant. Tilting or cropping the image differently could have helped maximize the focal point.

Some Additional Facts

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Once again, the DC editors have included a brief but helpful guide in the back pages to orient the reader to the history of these characters.  Some additional bits:

  • Jan Duursema was never an artist for Nightwing or Oracle, but she did work with John Ostrander on Hawkworld in the 1990s and on Hawkman after that, so she was a great choice for this book.
  • Dick and Kori were nearly married when their wedding was wrecked by Trigon’s daughter, Raven. The event gave them sufficient pause to call it off.

Recommended If…

  • Nightwing + Oracle = <3 forever!
  • You’re a fan of Jan Duursema (she’s one of my heroes of comics!)
  • You want to see what a powerful female character actually looks like in a comic book (hint: she ain’t wearing Doc Martens).
  • You want to see Katar and Shayera Hol be about as mean as anything.

Overall

If Grayson isn’t the direction you wanted for former Robin Dick Grayson, and if Batgirl’s recent redesign has put you off New 52 Barbara Gordon, this is the book of your dreams: Nightwing and Oracle side-by-side again: childhood pals fallen in love through their mutual association with Batman and their desire to join his crusade. This book has it all: super dynamic action, Nightwing’s great quips, Oracle’s steel-trap mind, a little romance, a lot of danger, and a great cliffhanger. A must-read among the Convergence titles out this month!

SCORE: 9/10