It all comes to this: one final showdown with The Calculator, Blackbird, and Fenice. Can the Birds come out of this situation with their secrets—and their lives—in tact? Find out in Batgirl and the Birds of Prey #22. SPOILERS AHEAD
More of the same
One of my favorite movies is 2010’s Megamind, the dramatized identity crisis of a once-feared super villain—Megamind—who loses his sense of purpose after eliminating his rival, Metro Man. An early scene sees the two going at each other in an increasingly silly battle of metaphor—with stock phrases like “revenge is a dish best served cold” answered with “but it can be reheated in the microwave of evil.” Eventually, (literally) captive reporter Roxanne Richie has had enough, interrupting the whitest rap battle in history with “Girls! Girls! You’re both pretty!”
I realized this afternoon that one of my biggest problems with Batgirl and the Birds of Prey is that it often reads like that verbal showdown between Megamind and Metro Man: a silly rehearsal of oh snap one-upsmanship that somehow doesn’t realize that it’s making a joke of itself. We get some more of that here at the end, as Babs and Canary show up at Calculator’s lair to save Huntress. “You really shouldn’t leave your toys out where they can get broken”, says Dinah as she tosses the head of Calculator’s dead robot killer at his feet. Ooooh. Sick burn.
That specific sort of Megamindedness only happens once this time, but it’s been a frequent feature, and it’s just the tip of an iceberg of poorly-constructed speech throughout the rest of the book. With lines like Canary’s “no one controls my metahuman powers but me”, the dialogue is a tough sell. Characters frequently speak in a manner that nobody would in real life, and that just makes them much harder to connect with.
The visual storytelling isn’t much better. Laying out a twenty-page comic involves making decisions about what to include and what to leave out, but I think Antonio gets it wrong a number of times. The first two pages are especially poor, with insufficient visual information to make plain how we transitioned from one panel to the next. Sometimes the problem is a poorly-rendered pose or emotion, but more often than not, it’s a bad layout. Look at the first page:
Now look at the next one:
The first panel on page two is simultaneously superfluous and inadequate. Superfluous because it adds nothing to what the first page spread already gave us, and inadequate because it’s never visually clear how we get from a relatively calm interrogation to the escalation in page two, panels two and three. The next few pages feature far too many shots of all of the heroes and anti-heroes present, and while it’s fairly clear what’s happening, not much is happening, and the sameness of the panels makes for uninteresting pages.
The story tries to wrap things up with some sense of importance, but the series has failed to earn the emotional investments it tries to reap, and I’m indifferent to it all. Fenice’s death doesn’t matter nearly as much to me as it’s meant to, and instead feels like an overused method of emotional extraction—if the only reason I’m supposed to care is that she’s Helena’s mother, then it’s not enough. The distrust-becomes-trust-becomes-distrust subplot between the two of them was never well-executed, so this reconciliation-in-death falls flat.
The final word from Gus is similarly empty. He wasn’t a great character, and the Birds’ look-the-other-way loyalty to him strains credulity, so I don’t really care about his tribute. It isn’t touching, and it isn’t interesting. It’s just another narrative endorsement of a character who hasn’t earned it, with some low-hanging fan service (the costumes and other trinkets) added for a garnish.
- You liked this series and want to read the end.
Batgirl and the Birds of Prey #22 is a fitting end to an underwhelming series. Unnatural dialogue, goofy posturing, and empty emotional conclusions fail to send this title out on a positive note, and some mediocre visual storytelling only further downgrades a slog of a read. If you liked this series, then you’ll probably like its conclusion. If you didn’t, move along—there’s nothing to see here.