Gus Yale is dead. An unintended victim of Batgirl’s covert ops against the Calculator, the former “Oracle” was guilty by association and didn’t stand a chance against Calculator’s killer-robot Burnrate. Dinah and Helena feel betrayed by Batgirl’s secrecy, but can the Birds set aside their differences and beat the bad guys? Find out in Batgirl and the Birds of Prey #20.

A somewhat more enjoyable experience

I was not fond of Babs and the Birds in issue #19. The storytelling didn’t do it for me on any level, and the outrage that Canary and Huntress displayed seemed nonsensical. This week’s issue deals with the fallout from that, but I find it much more readable. I don’t love it, and I think this series deserves its impending cancellation, but I was able to get through this with relative ease.

It helps that the book starts off strong. Other than a little bit of initial confusion about who’s doing the narrating, I enjoyed Huntress’s overview of her current situation. I bailed on this series early, and I only came back to it when I started reviewing it two months ago; but, even though I don’t have much memory of the early arcs dealing with Helena’s mother, I’m still able to connect with the narrative. We exist in a culture of moral peacocking and writing people off, so it’s refreshing to read a character who both acknowledges the evil in a person and seeks that same person’s welfare.

Much of the rest of the issue is action, and while i don’t like Burnrate all that much, I did enjoy these scenes. Antonio’s storytelling is solid, and he delivers some great panels along the way. Check out this one:

Still some problems

I still think the Birds are resolving a conflict that they shouldn’t have had in the first place. It’s a little better here, because Helena makes it clear that it was the secrecy among the team that was the real problem. But regardless, I wouldn’t imagine this sort of thing generating such a fissure. So she didn’t tell them she was hacking the Calculator’s server? Big deal. They should have told her that they wanted to be kept in the loop and moved on. All of the outrage last issue, and the level of hurt on display here doesn’t seem like a proportionate response. And Huntress’s implication that it was Barbara’s secrecy that indirectly led to Gus’s death is a bit silly. He put a mark on his head when he adopted the name “Oracle” and started poking his digital nose where it didn’t belong.

I also have a problem with the continued downplaying of Gus’s crimes. That first arc with him was a mess, and the way that the Birds just became his buddy—instead of bringing him to justice—made no sense. Trying to retcon his offenses in the same run just feels ridiculous. Better to just stop including Gus in the book altogether and leave the baggage behind.

Recommended if…

  • You didn’t like the last issue—this one is a lot better.
  • You like Antonio’s style—he has some good layouts and great panels this time around.

Overall

Batgirl and the Birds of Prey #20 doesn’t make me wish DC would rescind this series’s cancellation, but it is a significant step up in quality from the previous issue. Huntress has a relatable story, and a good narrative voice; Antonio choreographs an excellent motorcycle fight sequence; and there’s some subtle moral commentary that I really appreciate. Don’t buy this if you aren’t already invested in the series; but, if you are, you’re in for one of the better issues that Batgirl and the Birds of Prey has produced.

SCORE: 6.5/10