Spoiler Warning: It should go without saying that there are spoilers in my reviews, so if you want to experience these stories and their surprises for yourself, maybe skip the rest of this article. Long story short: I’m intrigued by the mystery presented in Batgirl and the Birds of Prey #1, so I’m willing to follow the first few issues and see how it goes!
When New 52 put Barbara Gordon back into the Batgirl costume, effectively retiring her as Oracle, I was disappointed. I liked the original arc that took Gordon from regular Jane, to costumed vigilante, to information super-broker. I felt that, as Oracle, Gordon offered a lot to the heroes of the DC comics beyond mere fists and bat-themed gadgets. She was as formidable at gathering intel on supervillains as Batman, but she was actually willing to share with other heroes, making her endeavors significantly more effective than the Bat’s one-man crusade.
So like I said, when I heard that she was swinging back into action as a vigilante hero, I was less than enthusiastic. I had enjoyed Birds of Prey pre-New 52, but I just kinda stopped following that title and any of the other stuff that Barbara Gordon appeared in all at the same time when New 52 launched.
Now, with the launch of DC Rebirth, I’ve taken a look Batgirl and the Birds of Prey: Rebirth #1. Written by Julie and Shawna Benson, BatBoP: Rebirth #1 (heh, Batbop…) also features art by Claire Roe, colors by Allen Passalaqua, and a cover by Yanick Paquette and Nathan Fairbairn.
In BatBop: Rebirth #1, the Benson sisters, known for their work on sci-fi show The 100, deliver part one of “Who is Oracle?”, a storyline that will continue on in the monthly Batgirl and the Birds of Prey series starting in August.
The issue progresses at a respectable pace, with some initial action and narration, followed by a wrap-up of Gordon’s story so far. Within the first three pages, the Bensons introduce us to the primary plot hook for the arc: someone has taken up the identity of Oracle and begun selling information to thugs and crooks.
Understandably, Gordon takes this personally and enlists the aide of Dinah Lance, aka Black Canary, her former Birds of Prey partner.
Obviously, this title continues from the New 52 continuity, which means that Gordon and Lance were the two members of the “original” Birds of Prey, but the book introduces Huntress quickly enough through a fortuitous mutual bad guy. Of course, this being a “first meeting” of superheroes, the good guys (gals?) immediately start fighting each other and let the bad guy get away. It’s a classic time-honored comic book tradition.
Huntress reveals that she knows the secret identities of both Black Canary and Batgirl, before the perspective shifts to a shadowy figure watching the whole scene unfold on a bank of green Oracle-style computer screens with an ominous monologue about the three female crime fighters.
I’m not entirely sold on the dynamic between the characters yet, but that’s the way most “new stories” start off, so no criticism on that front. Another problem, though it’s minor, is that the dialogue isn’t as smooth as it could be, coming across as somewhat stilted. However, the plot hook is certainly interesting – who is this new Oracle? Why is he or she selling information to the bad guys? How did they get Oracle’s intel? It’s certainly enough to draw me in for another look when the first issues of the ongoing series hit shelves.
Now, as for the art, I’m very ambivalent. Roe’s style is good, but inconsistent, especially when it comes to drawing the various characters’ facial features. I find Batgirl’s and Black Canary’s frequently shifting faces and body types disjointed, and they definitely throw off my immersion in the story. I end up fixating on Black Canary’s weird expression in one panel, or a drastic change in the shape of Batgirl’s nose in another, rather than on what’s actually happening. One thing Roe does a great job at is facial expressions, I must say. She gets a lot of emotion across in several panels throughout the book, which I love.
Passalaqua’s coloring is fine, relying on darker tones in keeping with the Gotham City atmosphere that fans of any Bat-family comic will be familiar with. Unfortunately, I wouldn’t say the colors are particularly attention-grabbing or inspired, though.
The cover on the other hand is great. Batgirl, Huntress, and Black Canary each have differences in their facial features, such as the shape of their chins, eyes, and noses. Paquette and Fairbairn manage to do this in a subtle way that doesn’t call attention to this detail or that detail, and they avoid caricature by going overboard. As a result, it gives the characters a life-like quality, allowing me to tell them apart without relying on costumes and hair colors. I know that’s difficult to maintain throughout interior art, due to the tight confines of each panel, so I’m not expecting this level of detail and consistency across the entire issue, but it was a great intro image for the comic.
Also, I’m saying that the interiors art or colors are bad, mind you – they’re just not my cup of tea. And honestly, the visuals are something that I can get used to over the course of the story arc, as Roe and Passalaqua are talented in their approaches. It might just take a bit of time to acquire a taste for their take on the characters.
Ultimately, if the story didn’t include such an interesting hook, I would be turned off by the title’s visual elements, but I’m willing to stick around for a bit and see how everyone (the creative team and the Birds of Prey alike) settle into this new adventure.
What did you think of Batgirl and the Birds of Prey: Rebirth? Let me know in the comments!