In Review: Batgirl and the Birds of Prey: Rebirth #1

An interesting opening that has me wanting to see what's next with this trio.

The covers: Two to track down on this trio’s origin issue. The Regular cover is by Yanick Paquette and Nathan Fairbairn. This is a great cover that has Huntress screaming in Batgirl’s face, who’s enduring the onslaught but is giving the woman the stink eye. Nearby, shown between the two, is Black Canary, rolling her eyes because they’ve all been down this road before. Only the heroines’ heads are shown (though the Huntress is waving her finger at Batgirl), but the characters’ personalities come through clearly in this one image. The coloring is dark, since the two in the foreground wear dark colors, but Black Canary is very bright, drawing the reader’s eye to the humor of the situation. The Variant cover is by Ben Caldwell and it has the trio not standing atop the DC Bullet, but in action: Batgirl is leaping up as if she’s thrown something, Huntress swings her right leg upwards in a kick, while Canary is between the two, bracing to give a sonic scream. I like how this shows the characters in action, so it’s the one I had to pick up. Overall grades: Both A

The story: The appropriately titled “Rebirth,” written by Julie Benson and Shawna Benson opens with Batgirl narrating how life gives one scars. She says she’s back from training overseas (which is the action that starts in Batgirl #1) and finds a suspicious group of men on a building. They fight, she takes them down, and is surprised when checking one of their phones to find that they were hired for a job by someone named Oracle. This throws her into a rage and she leaps atop a man on the ground, screaming, “Who sent this to you?!” The frightened thug responds, “I dunno — My boss paid some computer nerd in exchange for some intel! Goes by Oracle!” His response frightens her. She wraps the criminals up for the police and returns to her apartment when she relives the horror that made her Oracle. Scenes are shown from the iconic The Killing Joke, with the Joker paralyzing her. Back in the present, Barbara realizes she “needed someone to be the brawn to (her) brains.” She contacts Dinah Lance, who’s on tour, and gets her to help her for one night only. What the pair don’t realize is that the Huntress is also in town, hunting down mafia hit men, one of whom is Barbara and Dinah’s lead. There’s the obvious confrontation, because the pair have never met the Huntress before, but it’s got a lot of action and a good conclusion. However, this isn’t the end of the issue, as Oracle is teased and he or she states, “I’m the only one who knows what’s coming.” This was just enough to have me hooked into going another issue to see how these three work together. Overall grade: A-

The art: Claire Roe is the artist on this book and she’s got tough shoes to fill. Babs Tarr was the artist that had Batgirl explode over a year ago and fans, like me, are looking for the visuals of a Batgirl book, even a team book like this, to look somewhat similar. Batgirl is drawn somewhat in Tarr’s style and it worked for me. When she springs into action on the splash page on Page 2 she looks great. She takes out the antagonists easily on Page 3 and I liked seeing her with a smile on her face as she does so, showing the reader that she enjoys doing what she does. The bottom panel on 3 does have the heroine in an awkward pose after an action has been committed, and not helping is the bad guy’s shoe having a small explosion on his shoe, which left me wondering if he’d been kicked in the foot. The third and fifth panels on 4 are outstanding. The reader can instantly tell her emotional state from these two panels. Even better is the top of 5 which really has the heroine wearing her heart on her sleeve. Roe’s recreation of the scenes from The Killing Joke are great and the top of 8 really packs a wallop, without showing Barbara’s face! To be able to capture emotion like that, without a character’s face, is the sign of a good artist. The top of 10 has a great shot of Dinah in action. The location that the two women go to on 12 and 13 has them them too hidden by the shadows. Yes, it’s a dark place, but, like film, Roe could have cheated and given some more light to the sequence. I didn’t understand where the light source was in the room, since Barbara is initially well seen, but Dinah is in shadows, and then Barbara has a bizarrely constructed shadow on her face on 13 that makes her grotesque. The Huntress is introduced in shadows, but the story designs it to be so and it words. The action on 18 and 19 is great, with some smaller panels to show some intense reaction shots by each character. The final page is the new Oracle’s tease and the devices shown are suitable for the story, but lack the fine detail to make them believable. Mostly great visuals, but moments were they stumble. Overall grade: B+

The colors: The coloring on this book by Allen Passalaqua is good. The opening page has him using colors to expertly show the reader that he or she is looking at several different computer screens. Having the narration that’s accompanying the images be in violet is a slick way to show the reader that Batgirl’s narration is being read. When Batgirl looks at a phone at night there’s a nifty green glow from the device, as there would be in real life. It’s not necessary in any way to show this the story, but it makes it more real. Barbara’s green eyes are instant areas of focus for the reader. Given the amount of computer use in this issue, green returns to show the reader that devices are in use. The coloring on the Huntress’s first two pages are great, with the light source on those pages obvious. The action scenes stand out with Passalaqua using a cool blue-green to stand for the evening, allowing the heroines and their clothes to shine. Overall grade: A

The letters: Several different kinds of computer text, narration, an editorial note, the story’s title, opening credits, yells, sounds, a list written by Helena Bertinelli, signage, and the tease for next issue are crafted by Steve Wands. I was in awe of Wands’s work on the Batgirl book and I’m glad to see that he’s on this book. His computer texts are unsurpassed by any letterer and his sounds are excellent. Wands is one of the best letterers working today. Overall grade: A+

The final line: An interesting opening that has me wanting to see what’s next with this trio. I like how the Huntress is meeting Batgirl and Canary for the first time. I just want the visuals to be a little better. Overall grade: A-

To find out more about Batgirl and the Birds of Prey or other books featuring these characters go to http://www.dccomics.com/

Patrick Hayes was a contributor to the Comic Buyer’s Guide for several years with “It’s Bound to Happen!” and he’s reviewed comics for TrekWeb and TrekCore. He’s taught 8th graders English for 20 years and has taught high school English for five years and counting. He reads everything as often as he can, when not grading papers or looking up Star Trek, Star Wars, or Indiana Jones items online.

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