Huntress feels betrayed. She thought that things were different with her mother, but evidently, she was wrong. And with Calculator and his metal assassin Burnrate still at large, there are other pressing concerns to deal with before emotions. The series is drawing to a close, in this, its penultimate issue. Soon, all will be revealed in Batgirl and the Birds of PreySPOILERS AHEAD.

Messy stuff

This series has always been marked by underbaked ideas. Even when it’s on to something, the book never shows any evidence of extensive consideration or editing. This has been true in the big picture—like having the Birds make nice with a murderer—as well as the smaller stuff, like dialogue and artwork. The details are pretty loose again in Batgirl and the Birds of Prey #21. Right on the first page, we see this from Calculator:

His speech begins with a good turn of phrase: your life has never been in front of you. What a great way to describe someone who’s always got to watch her back. But then he has to go and ruin it in the very next balloon: you’re life isn’t behind you—it’s breathing down your neck. That’s nonsensical! If someone or something is breathing down your neck—literally or figuratively—it is by necessity behind you. One word could have saved the whole phrase—your life isn’t just behind you—but neither the writers nor the editors caught it. I don’t know the Bensons or the editors, but I’ve learned enough about this industry in the past few years to understand that there are a million potential reasons (besides a deficit of skill) that something could go wrong in a book. I have to think that if Julie and Shawna had spent a bit more time reading that over, they would have seen what I did. Maybe it’s time they didn’t have, but as a reader, all I have to work with is the book I have in hand, and unfortunately, this leaves a bad impression.

There’s a similar problem on the next page. We’re in the Clock Tower, and Canary narrates while Babs helps Helena clean up after the latest skirmish. After outlining what Helena’s going through on an emotional level, Dinah says this:

How do you watch adrenaline course through an opponent’s veins? Again, I get what she’s trying to say, but it reads kind of weird in the end. Helena is the other half of this analogy, which ultimately functions effectively, but the messy introduction is a bit distracting.

I wish this was all, but unfortunately, it’s the art and lettering that drop the ball on the next page. Look at these two panels, from the top of the page:

Do you see the problem? For starters, that second panel probably should have been two panels instead of one. Dinah is talking to two different people, but the artwork here is clearly meant for her second balloon. Speaking of which, her second balloon’s tail is actually pointing to Babs instead, and Babs’s balloon is pointing toward Dinah. I’m not sure who is ultimately at fault, but it doesn’t really matter. This is something that a number of folks in the process should have caught, but they didn’t. Whether that’s because the lettering happened much later in that process than it should have, I couldn’t say; but this is a mistake that shouldn’t have made it to print, regardless. What’s worse, before we can leave this page, there’s another gaffe in the lettering, with Helena speaking a line meant to come from Dinah. The visual storytelling in the same panel is a little mushy, too—Dinah has just tossed some earpiece-style communicators toward her friends, and they catch them; however, it took me some concentrated observation and thought to figure out what was happening. At first, all I saw was a confusing pair of motion indicators.

At only three pages in, we’ve already encountered some sizable mistakes. There are similar issues as the story progresses (though, thankfully, no more lettering gaffes), but at this point, I think you get the picture.

Fun with Green Arrow

The highlight of the issue by far is Dinah’s adventure with Ollie. At a high level, it’s an entertaining development—Green Arrow coming to Gotham to help Black Canary with an investigation/assault. It’s also a logical development—if Babs and Helena need to lie low, then who would Dinah call to help out? Ollie for sure. Beyond that, their banter is fun (some may hate the Star Wars reference the Bensons put in, but it made me smile).

Sadly, there isn’t a lot of that banter, and it gives way to Dinah getting incredibly insecure and Ollie, well, humble-bragging on Dinah’s behalf?

I’m all for characters going through moments of self-doubt, and maybe if I’d been following this series a bit more closely, Dinah’s hesitance would make more sense, but her crumpling doesn’t work for me here. It (maybe) makes a little more sense later on, when there’s more potential collateral damage that her cry could (and does) create, but here, it seems like unrealistically excessive caution from Canary.

It moves, I’ll give it that

As a reader, though, I had a much easier time with this issue than I have had with most of the rest of the series. I still don’t like the way most of the dialogue is written—mostly because of how melodramatic it is—but the plot moves along well, perhaps focused by the limited time left to wrap up the larger story of the run. If the entire series were like this issue, I would probably have kept up with it—I don’t love it, but neither do I hate it, and when I have time to sit around and flip through a bunch of comics, I wouldn’t mind something like this where there’s a clear conflict and an action-packed, linear march toward its resolution.

Recommended if…

  • You’ve been enjoying Batgirl and the Birds of Prey. I’m not trying to be funny, either—I think if this book has an audience, it’s probably somewhat limited.
  • You’ve got some extra time and money on your hands.

Overall

Batgirl and the Birds of Prey #21 does a bit better on story than much of the series, but sloppiness and melodrama weight it down. Still, it has some highlights with Dinah and Ollie in the middle, and the whole thing does march along fairly well, so it would not be a waste of time if you decide to check it out.

SCORE: 5/10