Getting the Gang Back Together – “Batgirl and the Birds of Prey” #1 (Review)
Written by: Julie Benson & Shawna Benson
Art by: Claire Roe
DC’s Rebirth is honoring the history of Barbara Gordon’s Oracle character more than their last reboot in the New 52. Wheelchair bound Barbara Gordon was a super hero who inspired readers across the spectrum. In the muscle bound and overly sexualized world of super hero comics, Barbara Gordon stood out. Batgirl and the Birds of Prey #1 honors Barbara’s contributions as Oracle and creates an Oracle impostor as the plot device during this first arc. Writers Shawna and Julie Benson (of the CW’s The 100) are new to writing comics, but are clearly comfortable writing engaging dialogue and strong characters. The Benson’s honor the reader’s familiar with previous iterations of Birds of Prey by leaning into the strong trust and bound that Batgirl and the Black Canary shared through the book’s history. Yet they succeed in providing enough context for newer readers to grab onto and enjoy.
Readers familiar with recent interpretations of Brenden Flecther and Babs Tarr’s Batgirl will find some similar personality traits here. Artist Claire Roe adds to Barbara’s personality by drawing some personal and awkward moments with humility and humor, while acknowledging the harsh life and city that Barbara has experienced. Roe’s art creates a familiar dark grit that is Gotham, yet she adds wonderful personal expressions that remain true to the bright spirit of Barbara Gordon. The Bensons and Roe’s Gordon is serious, but feels like there are moments where she willing to drop the hard edges and be herself. Dianh Lance is also written and illustrated in a way that demonstrates the Black Canary’s experience and ability. The personal interactions between Gordon and Lance are one of the great strengths of this issue. The Bensons know how to write strong interpersonal dialog with realistic and confident female characters. As the third character on the “team”, the Huntress, Helena Bertinelli, has undergone a number of changes to her character, and was most recently a spy in the Greyson series. Helena’s hard edge as a spy who is willing to kill creates a number of tension filled moments between her and Batgirl.
Throughout all these well written interpersonal moments, Roe’s character designs and illustrates create strong, but realistic characters. Birds of Prey like many female character focused books over the last two decades has too often feature overtly sexual and ill proportioned depictions of female characters. Roe’s work shows off confident and strong women with character models that ground the series. The reader and the series are better off for this direction.
All of this praise is warranted, the Bensons and Roe succeed in the creating a world and characters to be proud of. Unfortunately, this first issue’s storytelling is not executed as well. The story moves from one chase scene to another and unfortunately Roe’s excellent depiction of the characters does not carry over into excellently choreographed fight scenes. On those merits, the book is a solid middle of the road 7.0. But the character dialog, friendship, and tension combined with the strong art direction elevate the book to an 8.0 and any reader not stuck in the muscle bound 90’s would do well to keep an eye on this creative team.