Batgirl & the Birds of Prey #1
By Zak Edwards
August 18, 2016 - 11:40
I was legitimately excited to read Batgirl & the Birds of Prey when Rebirth was announced. Black Canary was already a great supporting character in Batgirl's New 52 run and I wanted to see them team up more. Add in that it’s an all-female team comic actually written and drawn by women, a rarity in comics even in 2016, and I was hyped. But the book hasn’t got its hooks in me, and in writing this review, I figured out why.
|Artist Claire Roe shines during Batgirl & the Birds of Prey #1 action sequences.
Every positive element in this book is mixed up with what makes it a mess, like a swirling blob of paint that ends up a gross, brownish-black colour. Black Canary and Batgirl, for example, have an excellent chemistry and palpable history that’s at once abrasive and familiar, but Canary spends much of the issue waxing poetic about days gone by. As for Huntress, she and her newfound teammates completely lack that history or chemistry, or even purpose. She’s the obvious third wheel and that’s before writers Julie and Shawn Benson have to explain why Batgirl would team up with someone on a murder-vengeance spree. A spree that somehow involves a man who controls snakes. So while some chemistry works, it actually compounds the problems Huntress brings right from the second they all meet.
Tone is another issue, one that starts not just on the first page, but with the very first words you read: “Gotham City. Rush Hour. Just like all the other hours.” It has this faux disinterest, this strange pseudo-cynicism that feels like a Gen Xer trying to be cool while talking to teenagers. To be fair, the Bensons’ script has a lot of sass in it, some great lines and jokes that put at least a smirk on my face, but the humour, like the rest of the book, remains uneven. By the time you read “Gotham Watchtower. Right twice a day,” you wonder if anything was cut.
First issues are a complete pain and I’m not sure that the Rebirth Specials did most creators any favours. Rucka’s Wonder Woman: Rebirth
seemed to do it best by treating it like a one-off that's pretty much ignored in the ongoing series. That special meditates on Wonder Woman’s history, but Rucka didn’t fall into the trap of trying to set up the series itself. Batgirl & the Birds of Prey
’s special also deep-dived into history, but with no great results. It felt very much like a first issue, not a one-off special. The result is a second #1 performing double duties, not knowing how much time to spend recapping and how much to spend moving forward. You can literally see these problems in the opening pages’ lettering, where Canary’s inner monologue competes for space with Batgirl’s radio instructions. The tension between the past and the present makes for a crowded mess.
|Letterer Steve Wands manages to pack everything in, but much of it feels unnecessary.
Speaking of messes, Claire Roe’s art is exactly that, but in a (mostly) good way. Her action sequences are things of beauty, all of which seem to be holding on by a single thread. The art threatens to fall apart at any moment, just like the script and the Birds of Prey's own efforts, but it actually keeps things together. When the action comes to a standstill, though, so does the art. Roe’s cartoonish style makes for cool high-flying kicks and motorcycle chases, but character’s faces appear stretched over some sort of machine, like their own skin is a mask. Take, for example, this:
Batgirl & the Birds of Prey
has a lot of potential, but putting the pieces into play has been a problem. It started last issue and continues into this second first issue. I have a feeling that once this book has a chance to settle, it will be great. For now, it will test the patience of new and returning fans alike, even if its visuals can be downright cool.
tl;dr review: Two first issues in and this book has some problems, but plenty of potential.
Last Updated: September 6, 2021 - 08:15