Batgirl and the Birds of Prey #20 – Julie Benson, Shawna Benson, Writers; Roge Antonio, Artist; Marcelo Maiolo, Colorist
Ray – 5/10
Corrina: Consistent (Sadly) With the Rest of the Run
WARNING: SPOILERS BELOW
Ray: There’s a lot of titles this week that are wrapping up their runs in April or May. Some will be missed, some won’t. While Birds of Prey has a long and excellent history of stories, Batgirl and the Birds of Prey never got off the ground, and this issue sums up the reasons why. After last issue’s Batgirl-centric issue that featured the death of failed replacement Oracle Gus Yale at the hands of Calculator’s killer robot, this issue turns the focus on Huntress as the team splinters in the aftermath of Batgirl’s “betrayal”. While the search for Calculator continues, Huntress gets summoned to testify at her mother’s parole hearing. The issue does get some decent mileage out of Helena’s conflict over her mother’s survival, as she struggles with her feelings over her mother’s betrayal combined with relief that she’s alive at all. However, the events surrounding this subplot are so unbelievable as to distract from the story.
I’m not looking for intense legal accuracy in my comics, but the depiction of Maria Bertinelli’s parole hearing is ridiculous. Parole hearings are held in front of a panel of judges specifically set to hear these cases, not specific judges who can unilaterally deny parole, bring in new/uninidicted crimes, and alter the terms of the sentence upon denying parole (sending the convict to Arkham Asylum instead of Blackgate). Gotham’s obviously a messed up place, and it’s no surprise that the judge is crooked, but the entire plot doesn’t really wash. Then the latter half of the issue brings back Burnrate, the ridiculous Terminator-like robotic henchman of Calculator for a big motorcycle showdown. The action here is good, but the tone is just so wrong for Birds of Prey. Helena’s probably been the one member of this team that’s undergone the most change since this series began, but the return of all the weak villains from this run doesn’t instill much excitement. I’m uncertain that BoP works without Oracle – and not the Gus Yale version, that’s for sure.
Corrina: The core of Birds of Prey was always strong-willed women helping each other. De-aging Barbara Gordon made that problematic because now we have a Batgirl near the beginning of her career, rather than a strong leader. Dinah, too, mostly comes across as too immature from previous versions. Dinah has always been more mellow and more inclined to fun than other heroes but she’s not immature. Then we have Helena, who does come across as a grown-up but her characterization overcompensates because mature seems to equal “angry and mean.”
Maybe BoP doesn’t work without the Barbara Gordon Oracle. Or maybe it doesn’t work because of the current characterization. I don’t know but I know perhaps a different creative team might have made it work. (Christopher Priest? Bryan Edward Hill? Marguerite Bennet? Vita Ayala? Marjorie Liu? Gail Simone?)
Adding to the problems of this series is the narrative issue of failing to develop interesting villains or other supporting characters in this run. God knows, I never liked Josh much in Simone’s Birds of Prey but he had a distinct personality and motivation in his few appearances. But Gus, who had 19 issues to make an impression, never did and it’s not because he tried to replace Oracle, it’s because his “secrets” were teased out too long, because the team trusting him initially never made sense, and because when his secrets were revealed, it was in on long talky segment, and now he’s dead and I feel nothing for the loss of his character.
And I throw up my hands at the legal shenanigans this issue. They’re ridiculous and it wouldn’t have taken that much to get them right.
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Disclaimer: GeekDad received this comic for review purposes.