Or – “Birds1.jpgHow many Batgirls IS this now, anyway?”

When I started picking up the original Birds of Prey miniseries, (Good gracious, has it actually been ten years?) I did it with three thoughts in mind: First, to support a book with female protagonists. Second, because Oracle was a fave-rave character from her run in ‘Suicide Squad.’ And finally, because when a tall blonde woman wears a bolero jacket and fishnets, she has my undivided attention.

Well, I never said they were all thoughts I was entirely proud of… In any case, Birds of Prey has become one of those books I read every single month, because I’ve ALWAYS read it. Some runs of the book felt like a 10K sprint in full plate armor through the swamps of Florida, but this is not one of them. Gail Simone is one of those writers who seems uniquely suited to a “team book,” and consistently amazes me by writing female characters who are superheroic, fully-realized, while remaining female characters.

This issue starts on an ominous note, with a mysterious woman being released from prison. She is picked up by members of Gotham City’s O’Shanlan crime family, who inform her of the new status quo, including the dictum that no mobster touches Helena Bertinelli (the mobster also known as the BoP’s Huntress). She seems taken aback for a moment, drawing the hapless capos in with a feigned nausea, before responding to their request…


Now, I’m not sure, but I strongly suspect that to be a vote of “No Confidence.” Whomever this woman is, she’s most likely going to be a pain in Huntress’… uh, side in coming months. (For those NOT in the know, Helena/Huntress is the daughter of a former mafia boss who is currently taking over his territory in the hopes of using it to eliminate crime in Gotham City. Not really that much more strange than thinking you can do it by dressing as a flying rodent and beating people up, when you consider it.) As we leave the crazy girl with the big guns, we find the aforementioned Huntress on a picnic in the park. Not precisely where you’d expect a dark vigilante to spend her afternoons, but Birds of Prey isn’t your average book.

Fellow Bird of Prey Black Canary has (through a long and complex series of events) adopted a young girl who would have grown up to be the living weapon of an Asian assassins guild. In an attempt to give the girl a normal life, the Birds of Prey have introduced her to the magical device called “monkey bars.” At this point, we reach one of the most wonderful parts of Gail Simone’s writing: a six-page conversation that DOESN’T bog the book down. Since it’s the first issue of a new arc, this is how we get our exposition for the new readers and the slow children in the back of the theatre. The characters of Oracle, Black Canary and Huntress are complex and well-done, and this sequence gives us an insight into each of them and their interactions. Like any group of friends, they respect each other, they talk to each other, and most of all, they bust each others’ chops.


Dick, if you’ve been living in a cave, is none other than Dick Grayson, former Robin, current Nightwing, and Barbara/Oracle’s probable one true love. Anyway, one of the things our heroes want to find out about is the presence in Gotham of a new vigilante, seemingly a teenage girl. I don’t know if you’re keeping score, but so far, the Joe Bob Totals on women in the Bat-Family is “1 paralyzed, 2 dead, 1 turned evil, 1 mockery, and 1 who dated Renee Montoya.” Understandably, Oracle (being the one paralyzed) wants to find out who this new girl is, but it’s not clear if she wants to take her under her wing, or wave her off the life and mystery dates with loony-tunes like Black Mask. The obvious way to do that, is to bait a trap and see what blunders in. One fake robbery later, the Birds still don’t have their Prey, and Huntress idly wonders who this new kid is.


Heh. Eat your heart out, Frank Miller. I find this new Batgirl to be an interesting and fun character. She talks like an authentic teenager (at least based on the ones I talk to), seems to be a metahuman, and most disturbingly of all? She knows Huntress and Black Canary’s names. It is at this moment that All Hell chooses to break loose, with Helena Bertinelli’s fresh-out-of-prison antagonist arriving and trying to take Huntress out with a sniper rifle. Whether she KNOWS it’s Helena under the mask is unclear, but it’s all academic, as Batgirl shows one more super-power by teleporting herself into the bullet’s path. Batgirl falls, and Black Canary rushes to see how injured she is. Black Canary is stunned to see the Batgirl simply disappear and radios to Oracle that the girl is gone… It’s okay though, Oracle seems to have found her.


To quote my wife, “Buhaminaaah?” Many questions raised, few answers extant. But it’s one of those mysteries that intrigues, rather than infuriates, as though we’ve been given all the pieces to work it out. More explanation is forthcoming, as next issue promises the full story on the new Batgirl. This issue is, as I mentioned, the start of a new storyline leading into #100 and a major shakeup, but it doesn’t feel incomplete. There’s a satisfying chunk of character, a little action, the introduction of a new villain, and some nice art going on here. James Raiz is a good choice for this series, making the characters simultaneous powerful, impressive, feminine and pretty without going overboard with glamor or lapsing towards the realm of porn. If you’ve been staying away from Birds of Prey, this would be a good time to jump on board. All told, it’s a well-done book, with an entertaining cameo that makes me wonder about the Birds’ upcoming new lineup, scoring a pretty impressive three stars.


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About Author

Once upon a time, there was a young nerd from the Midwest, who loved Matter-Eater Lad and the McKenzie Brothers... If pop culture were a maze, Matthew would be the Minotaur at its center. Were it a mall, he'd be the Food Court. Were it a parking lot, he’d be the distant Cart Corral where the weird kids gather to smoke, but that’s not important right now... Matthew enjoys body surfing (so long as the bodies are fresh), writing in the third person, and dark-eyed women. Amongst his weaponry are such diverse elements as: Fear! Surprise! Ruthless efficiency! An almost fanatical devotion to pop culture! And a nice red uniform.

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