Batgirl and the Birds of Prey #22 – Julie Benson, Shawna Benson, Writers; Roge Antonio, Artist; Marcelo Maiolo, Colorist
Ray – 5/10
WARNING: SPOILERS BELOW
Ray: The latest incarnation of Birds of Prey comes to an end with Batgirl and the Birds of Prey #22, which brings together the entire rogues’ gallery that the Birds encountered over the last twenty-one issues. The power-stealing Blackbird, Huntress’ crimelord mother Fenice, and hacker mastermind Calculator have captured Huntress in an attempt to lure Oracle to them, and the other two Birds have called in their allies (including the Gotham City Sirens and Green Arrow) to help them take out the powerful robotic assassin Burnrate. The robot is no more, taken out by a powerful canary cry (that also knocked out most of the team) the last issue, so it’s time for a final charge on Calculator’s base. Fenice has been brainwashed by Blackbird, so Huntress tries to get through to her mother while the other heroes hunt for the villains. The team dynamic isn’t bad this issue, but I did notice that it’s Black Canary who oddly seems to be the most juvenile member of the team here.
And that’s one of the lingering issues with this series. Characterization is all over the place, as Huntress has wavered from violent murderer to loyal friend, and Batgirl is halfway between her mature Oracle personality and Batgirl of Burnside. Fenice’s death seems to come out of random, more the result of a bad series of circumstances than a heroic sacrifice or major plot development, and the “I am Spartacus” moment that ends the main plot just seems to emphasize just how watered down the Oracle legacy has become over the years. The end of the series catches up with the three heroines as they deal with the fallout and make some major life choices, but overall this series just didn’t work. There’s been a lot of attempts to revive nostalgic hits in the last few years, but this one shows that sometimes a property is a product of its time and place, and when too much has changed it’s just not the same anymore. Might be time to let the Birds rest and try a new concept – Batgirls Inc, maybe?
Corrina: The original concept of Birds of Prey was to team up two heroines, Barbara Gordon and Dinah Lance, who each needed something new in their lives. Babs had become the heroine Oracle but she wanted to form a permanent team. Dinah was at loose ends, with Green Arrow dead, her powers gone, and looking for a new start. These were experienced women, in every way, and watching their friendship grow, leading up to the original “I am Spartacus” Oracle moment was a joy. When Gail Simone added Huntress as a permanent member, Helena too needed a fresh start after some tragic events involving her family and she fit right into the concept.
I can’t blame the Bensons for some of the problems with this edition of Birds of Prey because they lack the characters needed for the original concept. Babs is now a young hero who dabbles in hacking and computers, rather it being her main identity. She’s not looking for a new start–she’s at the start of her own career. Similarly. this version of Dinah is also younger, she doesn’t have the tragic history with Ollie, and she is fully powered. Neither of them needs a team. For this new version to work, there needed to be something else to bind the characters together. Perpahs there could have been something with Canary, a chaotic good hero, dealing with an organized and lawful good partner in Babs but that dynamic never materialized. Instead, both women were portrayed as impulsive and immature.
Adding Huntress to this mix, unfortunately, didn’t work because this Helena’s past as head of a school for assassins didn’t have anything to add to the team concept except maybe anger. It would have helped if Helena’s characterization had been consistent but, alas, it was not. I guess she’s going back to teaching but little of Helena in this series pointed her toward that career.
Basically, there was a fatal combination of DC wrecking the original concept that worked so well combined with a creative team that seemed ill-suited to create a new reason for the team to exist. This failure of this series, creatively, is a huge disappointment.
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Disclaimer: GeekDad received this comic for review purposes.