Last month, I was a shocked because I actually enjoyed Batgirl & the Birds of Prey. In fact, as far as the characters were concerned, I felt that it was the most natural these three women have been since Rebirth. This month… The book is even better! I haven’t reached the, “I’m a fan!” status yet, but I’m not mad about this book’s current trend…
Look, I’m going to be honest. I was dreading this issue. Nightwing comes into town, and needs saving from the Birds of Prey. Meh… I mean, aside from Batman, Nightwing is the most capable hero from Gotham, so it bothers me a little that he needs saving/help. That’s not to say that it couldn’t happen, I just would have preferred a mutual team-up. Anyway, I wasn’t looking forward to seeing Dick, Barbara, and Helena together. I didn’t expect a cat fight between Babs and Helena – which is what the Benson’s apparently thought readers were expecting. No, I expected a heavy-handed version of the usual between Dick and Babs (anyone remember the terrible exchanges in Stewart’s Batgirl run?), plus an added layer since Helena is in the mix. We do get some of that mush here, but it isn’t nearly as bad as I predicted.
Essentially, Nightwing comes to Gotham in pursuit of Gemini, a villain who went on a killing spree in Bludhaven. First off, I really wish this story would have been planned a little better. As a fan and reader of DC, I wish – at the very least – there would have been a single issue in Nightwing with him dealing with Gemini, before the two worked their way down to Gotham… I might be in the minority here, but it would have been nice to at least reference this considering Gemini supposedly “cleaned up” in Bludhaven. Anyway, it’s a non-issue, just worth commenting on.
As I said, Dick comes to Gotham in pursuit of Gemini, and he’s recruited the assistance of the Birds of Prey. Unaware that Gemini has picked up some additional powers since their last encounter, Nightwing is caught off guard and injured. Of course, that means that it’s time for the Birds to step in. Most of the first half of this book is action, and it is by far the BEST action sequence this title has presented! Why? Because I believe it to a degree! Beyond that, the interactions between the heroes feels natural (yet again). Those are both solid wins. The out-of-place wise-cracks are gone, the relationships and trust between the characters feel proper… it makes me happy.
The Benson’s captured Nightwing’s voice quite well, and I loved the opening exchange between Nightwing, Batgirl, and Oracle. I would have loved it even more if I actually liked Oracle (for real, ladies, he needs to go!). But nearly all of the exchanges were enjoyable! The Birds worked cohesively as a team, and once the fighting was over, the conversations felt just as natural. There are apparent connections between Dick and Babs, as well as Babs and Helena, and while I don’t think these exchanges were great, they also weren’t terrible. I’ll view that as a win for now. There is a set of jokes that I absolutely loved that involves Dick being told to strip… Bensons, kudos! This is an outstanding and appropriate use of comedy.
All around, the issue feels elevated compared to the previous attempts. Batgirl & the Birds of Prey is still fun, but this chapter captures that maturity and intensity that I’ve been missing. These women speak to each other like women here – not like teenage girls. The action has an intensity and creates a sense of unpredictability. And on top of all of that, the characters and their dynamic are believable! Let’s just take a moment and enjoy this for a second before I move on…
Nope, enjoy it a little longer. I’m not quite ready to talk about the negatives…
Alright, as much as this issue improved, Batgirl & the Birds of Prey still isn’t without its problems. Some of the issues that have plagued this book since the beginning are still here, albeit they aren’t nearly as blatant as they were in the previous arc. Character inconsistency remains to be a huge issue – especially with Helena. I’ve harped on this for months now, but the Bensons/ DC need to pick a lane. Either treat and use Helena as though she were the head of a world-wide spy organization, or don’t.
For months she’s been dumbed down to essentially be the Pre-Flashpoint Huntress. I love pre-Flashpoint Huntress, so this isn’t a jab. It’s just that Tom King and Tim Seeley gave Helena a richer backstory by having her lead Spyral in Grayson, so if that continuity is there, us it. Batgirl & the Birds of Prey has acknowledged this history, but it has yet to actually respect it… until this issue.
Now, I’m happy that the Spyral backstory is largely in play and recognizable here, but I also feel as though this brandishing of her past is just for the convenience of Nightwing, and to help drive the triangle (Babs, Dick, and Helena). What I mean by that, is that after this arc/issue, Helena is probably going to go back to how she’s been portrayed in issues 1-7. This is the inconsistency that worries me. I know I’m projecting, and I fully expect some fans to scoff at me because of it, but you have to admit that I have a point.
Blackbird is introduced as well, and as far as villains are concerned, she’s worlds better than anyone else the Benson’s have introduced so far. I’m not certain how I feel about the overall plot though. A meta who steals powers is kind of what’s going on in Titans, plus the whole underground, meta-human, fight club is something I’d like to stay away from. Anyone remember the WB’s Birds of Prey series? Remember episode ten, “Gladiatrix”? No? Well here’s a reminder… (A reviewer recaps the episode. There’s language, so be warned. I’d love to hear his thoughts on this book though…)
The Benson’s have openly sited this series, which was a MESS, as inspiration, and this arc proves that. And if tired questionable stories weren’t a sign of bad things to come, the forced, unnatural, and unnecessary plot progressions really should be. The entire transition of Canary interjecting herself into this scenario is…. Well… terrible. Ultimately, I’m glad that there are elements in this issue that I enjoyed, but there’s still a lot of work to be done!
The Art: Roge delivers his best work yet! He’s had a tendency to draw blobby characters, and that isn’t the case here. I’m not sure if he was able to take his time with this issue, or what, but he surprised me here. If he could consistently provide art of this quality, I wouldn’t be screaming for a new artist every month. (Same goes for Roe).
- You’ve been wanting Birds of Prey to improve.
- You liked the WB’s Birds of Prey television series.
- You’ll read anything with Nightwing.
Overall: This is easily the best chapter of Batgirl & the Birds of Prey since the books Rebirth issue. Unfortunately, despite vast improvements in characterization, villains, and action, Babs & the BoP is still barely above average. Yes, there are worse books out there, but that doesn’t mean we should settle for mediocrity – especially when this title could be outstanding. On a positive note, for two issues now, we’ve seen a positive trend in quality! Let’s hope it continues! (They could start by killing Gus… Just saying…)