Batgirl unites with Black Canary to track down a mysterious figure going by a familiar moniker. Will they be able to stop the name of Oracle from being tarnished?
Batgirl and the Birds of Prey: Rebirth #1 follows the now familiar formula used in most of the Rebirth one-shots. It is equal parts rehash and status quo rebalance. The thing that differentiates this issue from the rest of the pack is that it provides no clear reason for why you want to read it. This was quite a disappointment for me as I read and loved Batgirl, Black Canary, and Grayson during the post-Convergence “DC You” initiative.
Let’s start with the first thing I noticed. This art does not work for me. On a technical level there is nothing wrong with it. Claire Roe seems like a talented artist. However, for the most part the aesthetics are at odds with what we’ve been seeing with the recent iterations of these characters. Batgirl and Black Canary are wearing their same costumes, but they just don’t look equivalent. Especially Batgirl. For example, in many panels her costume has a muscular quality to it that I thought we had moved away from with the last redesign. Some of the reasons I don’t think this can just be chalked up to a poor artist are that the out of costume sequences actually look reasonable, the background environments and characters look fine, and Huntress is stunning even in her new costume (which is a fantastic redesign).
The colors are fine in this issue, good even. Allen Passalaqua nails the dark tone of the city, and his color palette interacts satisfactorily with the characters and their costumes. Passalaqua actually seems to capture some of the spirit of these characters that I found missing in the pencils. Hopefully the art missteps as a whole are the product of a team finding its footing working with new characters.
Julie and Shawna Benson, of The CW’s The 100 fame, take on the writing duties of Batgirl and the Birds of Prey for the foreseeable future. While I’m personally not familiar with their show, I’m aware it has an avid fanbase. This lends them a credibility that is surely well earned and deserved. The Benson sisters’ foray into comics starts with something of a mixed bag though.
The plot itself is the high point. For the rehash segments of the book we get a fairly in-depth retelling of some of the events in The Killing Joke (seemingly undoing the recent implied retcon of said story), and the journey afterwards from Oracle back to Batgirl. Black Canary and Huntress get very brief re-introductions that seem to encompass only aspects of their characters from the New 52, unlike Batgirl’s near career-spanning recap. Then for the rebalance parts we see some plot threads from the previous runs of Batgirl and Grayson being picked up. Namely, the fake Oracle terrorizing Batgirl, and Matron leaving Spyral.
Possibly my favorite part is a scene showing Dinah’s old band performing on stage. The lyrics being sung are straight off of the Black Canary EP that DC released to promote the first Black Canary trade paperback. (It is available on Bandcamp and is absolutely stellar. I highly recommend everyone check it out.)
The real issue here is with the characterizations. Barbara and Dinah feel like themselves on an individual basis, but aren’t quite right when put together. There is a standoffish air to their interactions that doesn’t ring true. Don’t read that as them being rivals, they certainly come off as friends and colleagues, there is just a warmth lacking between the two. Helena is another story completely. In Grayson she was a driven and calculated leader. In this she is an obsessed murderer hell-bent on revenge. Sure, she pays lip service to this by claiming the need to “reinvent” herself, but as far as I’m concerned Helena comes off as a completely different character.
Batgirl and the Birds of Prey: Rebirth #1 stumbles right out of the gate, in what is hopefully the first step of this team finding its footing. There are glimmers of potential that prevent it from being written off, but ultimately this issue is not compelling enough to win people over that are on the fence.
- Incorporation of older continuity
- Huntress costume design is fantastic
- Batgirl’s costume looks strange in several panels
- Character interaction is off
- Helena might as well be a different character