Batgirl, Black Canary, and Huntress are now face-to-face with Oracle. It’s what we were promised in the previous issue, but never received. I’m well aware that some people will like what takes place in this issue, but I’m definitely not one of those people.
The same problems that have plagued Batgirl and the Birds of Prey since the first issue are still present and ever growing. I’ve moved from, “That was good” to “God, I hope this gets better” to “I’m going to have to suffer with mediocrity,” to “Please change creative teams or cancel this book.” The writing is poor, the plots are even worse, and there is practically no logical cause and effect found in this book. It’s bad. I don’t say this to be mean or trash talk anyone involved with this story, I’m just critically assessing this book based on its content. I’m also looking at this from the perspective that there are hundreds of great writers waiting for an opportunity to write comics. It’s honestly a shame.
Considering I continue to find so many issues with this book, I’m not going to bother with a spoiler section for this review. If you don’t want anything spoiled, I’d advise that you stop reading now.
When Geoff Johns launched Rebirth, the point was to “course-correct” characters and titles back to what made them great. Because of that, it was no surprise that when Birds of Prey was announced – excuse me, Batgirl & the Birds of Prey – it would feature the iconic trio of Barbara, Dinah, and Helena. That was a great call. If you want to go back to what people love, then bring back the characters and relationships that people love – which DC did. The problem is, that wasn’t the full formula that made Birds successful.
The other aspect that was missing from the New 52’s Birds of Prey, was a central intelligence figure managing an operation to stop crime… Specifically, Oracle. This is an element that DC has been trying to bring back for a while now, but they can never seem to do it well. In Batgirl there was an evil A.I., as well as Barbara’s friend Frankie. Both essentially had an “Oracle” element to them, but they ultimately felt like a cheap, forced imitations. They even toyed with shifting Cullen Row into that type of role during Batman & Robin Eternal. Now, the Benson sisters and DC are introducing a new “Oracle” to try and fill that same void. So who is this new “Oracle?” Gus Yale…. Yep, nothing. That carries no weight.
The problem here is that DC appears to want their cake and eat it too. They want Barbara Gordon as Batgirl (perhaps because Barbara is a much more recognizable name than Cassandra or Stephanie), but they also want Oracle. The issue with this is that I can’t foresee fans accepting someone else as Oracle unless Barbara gives them that mantle because they earned it. This is how Barbara passed the mantle to both Cassandra Cain and Stephanie Brown in previous continuity. But DC hasn’t figured that out yet. And even if they did, I’m still not quite sure that fans would except it. Cassie worked as Batgirl because she was a better vigilante. Barbara knew that. Steph worked as Batgirl because Barbara saw potential that resembled how she viewed herself, had she been able to continue as Batgirl. Those moments both worked because there was a void for Batgirl, and Barbara was incapable due to her disability. With Oracle, there isn’t that need for someone else to step in. Barbara is still fully capable of performing that role, she’s just choosing to be Batgirl instead. Beyond that, Barbara has remained more advanced in that role than anyone else who has stepped in. Gus may be the exception to that rule (it remains to be seen), but the lead up and reveal to his character already makes me hate him.
Had Gus been a villain that was working to get under Barbara’s skin as it were originally set-up, I would’ve been ok with this. I even liked the bit of the story where Gus set up the idea that Oracle was known and respected with hackers. I’m even ok with him picking up the name “Oracle” for self-advancement. What I don’t like is that Gus went to the lengths of the past few issues of Batgirl & the Birds of Prey to try and join the team. Yep, you read that correctly… Apparently, this “Oracle” isn’t a bad guy, he’s just a moron…
I know what you’re thinking. “Good guy? But he’s working with the mob! He sent hit-men to try and kill our heroes, successfully killed civilians, nearly killed the Birds by blowing up a building, and had robot rogues set to attack and kill anyone that entered his home… How is he a good guy?’ Well, the good people behind this book believe that addressing these exact issues by providing ludicrous exposition that is completely unbelievable explains it all, and mostly acquits “Oracle” of his wrong doing. Mostly. But don’t worry, all it takes for Barbara to trust “Oracle” is the discovery that he’s donating the money he’s earning from the mob to charity.
Are you serious with this crap? Who keeps signing off on these decisions? Yet again, Batgirl and the Birds of Prey fall back on another bad problem. These characters are overly trusting and forgiving; something I’ve called attention to each and every month. I understand that the intent is for Batgirl and the Birds of Prey to be fun, but there should be some sense of believability found in it. The relationship between Huntress and Batgirl/ Black Canary developed way too easily, and this is no different. If you’ve spent a decent amount of time with someone trying to kill you – no matter their intentions or misguided logic – you don’t suddenly decide to be friends and work together. It doesn’t add up. It doesn’t make sense. Many things in this run aren’t logical, they’re just convenient… And that’s one of the biggest reasons I can’t get behind this book. 80% of occurs in this title is just a means to end.
Many readers have referenced that I’m missing the point, and that this is supposed to be fun and quirky like Simone’s run. To that I say, Simone’s run had some camp and is fun, but still had a grasp on reality to a degree where these three women felt believable. Simone’s writing was also on another level. She added funny little jabs, had great dynamic between the women, and ultimately delivered better stories. If you don’t believe me, then go check out (or refresh yourself) with Birds of Prey: Of Like Minds, Birds of Prey: Sense and Sensei, or Birds of Prey: End Run. There’s no comparison in quality.
The other “big reveal” in this issue is supposed to be that Fenice is Helena’s mother. The only problem is that this was set-up so poorly, and is so blatantly obvious, that there is no shock value. None. And I can’t even get excited about what’s to come because the set-up and execution of plots have been so terrible up to this point that all I expect is more terrible writing. To make matters worse, this just feels like a desperate, half-assed attempt to recreate the same impact that came from Batman: Cry For Blood when Huntress found out her mother had an ongoing affair with Santo Cassamento, and that he is Helena’s real father. At this point, I kind of feel like this title should be called Batgirl & the Cheap Rip-offs instead of Batgirl and the Birds of Prey.
And these are just the big issues I’m bringing up. There’s so much more that bugs me about this book. For one, the art (aside from Passalaqua’s colors) is average at best. I feel as though the characterization is bad. The book feels disconnected to the rest of the universe. Characters and plots are inconsistent for the convenience of the story. Many characters are undermined. Good storytelling is sacrificed for the sake of being hip and cool. The Huntress/killer conversation is tired considering it is brought up multiple times in multiple issues, despite the fact that neither Barbara nor Dinah have ever seen Helena kill. It’s just too much. There’s some nice meta humor from time to time, but it’s far from saving this mess. And that’s what this book is… a mess. Come on DC! What’s going on? Rebirth just occurred! How are you already starting to lose your way with so many titles? Get Geoff Johns back in the office to help with comics!
- You want to find out who Oracle is.
- You want to find out who Fenice is.
- You want to buy this title just for the sake of keeping the Birds of Prey franchise around.
Overall: My perception of Batgirl & the Birds of Prey is this: Imagine being a young kid that is a genuine fan of something. You love it so much that you create your own fan fiction, but pull heavily from other plots to create your plot. You feel great about the work you’re creating, and feel as though you’re creating killer stories. Fast forward at least fifteen years, and manage to stumble onto these stories you’ve created, and when rereading them you think, “What in the hell was I thinking? This is awful!” That’s Batgirl & the Birds of Prey, except the team behind it haven’t hit that “fast forward fifteen years later” moment yet to see things with perspective.