In Brief: Killing two birds (pun intended) with one stone, Babs, Dinah, and Helena search for a place for Helena while investigating Babs’s shady realtors.
Summary (Spoilers): At the Gotham Science Center, the Birds of Prey fight the Zodiac Master, a dweeby villain who commands constellation themed minions while trying to steal lunar rocks and crystals. With the probationary Oracle, Gus, assisting, they take down these starry minions, recover the rocks, and force Zodiac Master into retreat. However, Black Canary’s cry took out the sprinklers for Helena’s hotel room, forcing the Huntress to crash with Dinah for the night. Batgirl and Gus investigate Babs’s realtors, who have tried to break into the Clocktower four times since she bought it, while Helena sleeps on a pile of Dinah’s old band t-shirts.
In the morning, a cranky Helena and cheery Dinah plan how to discover the realtors’ scheme. Huntress, unsurprisingly, favors a direct and violent approach. Canary wants something a bit more showy. Babs, however, suggests they go undercover – which both of her teammates agree to, Dinah a bit more enthusiastically than Helena. Babs heads to a brunch date with her Dad, leaving Gus to run ops.
Huntress, in a blonde wig, and Dinah, in a brunette bob, meet with Ruthie and Robert Roth, the realtors. They quickly discover the Roths sell abandoned villain lairs and attack locations. Back from her date, Babs watches with Gus as Helena and Dinah get a whirlwind tour of close to a dozen sketchy locations. Gus and Barbara do a search on the history of the Clocktower, and discover that bank robbers were arrested there without their loot recovered. Babs dashes to the Clocktower, and find a duffle full of gold bars under the floor. She holds a news conference with her dad, donating the gold to the Gotham Children’s Hospital. The realtors and the Birds are stopping by the Clocktower’s neighborhood just as the conference happens, and the Roths are crestfallen but retreat with good grace.
Later, as the Birds relax in the Clocktower, eating some pizza together, Helena shares that she intends to stay in Gotham, establishing a civilian life as a teacher as well as her life as Huntress. Babs and Dinah’s romantic histories come up, but they decide to spend Valentine’s Day together instead of going on dates.
In Depth: After a possibly slightly overlong first arc, the Birds of Prey have a fun one-shot adventure together. The Bensons juggle a lot of balls, calling back to the setup work they did over the first arc for this caper with the repeated attempts of the realtors to break into the Clocktower, as well as following up with the Birds in their various emotional states. The best moments come from the humorous and warm interactions between the three heroines – Babs’s multitasking brilliance, Dinah’s enthusiastic style, and Helena’s intelligent crankiness combine in ways we haven’t seen for over five years.
Claire Roe, the Scottish interiors artist from the first few issues, has returned to pencilling duties. Though I am a big fan of her work, the linework sometimes felt a bit sketchier and less carefully rendered than her initial issues, but was still a welcome sight. Roe’s biggest strength is in the distinctive angular faces she draws for the three Birds, and how many muscles she can fit into each one of them. Each of the heroines appears ready to take down any and all comers with those physiques! Allen Passalaqua’s colors, as always, provide the vibrancy and mood that makes the book stand out – particularly in the opening sequence, when the star-themed minions of the Zodiac Master (an obscure villain from a handful of stories over the past 50 years who happens to make an appearance in this week’s The LEGO Batman Movie) are covered with constellation diagrams in a shiny blue, creating a gorgeous effect for a funny action scene. Yanick Paquette’s cover also captures the beauty of the design for this villain, who hopefully will show up again to receive his just comeuppance from the Birds.
In addition to calling back to the individual histories of the Birds, with Dinah’s band shirts and Helena’s Spyral past, the Bensons root their book firmly in the present events across Gotham, from Catwoman’s imprisoning in Tom King’s Batman, to Dinah’s romance with Green Arrow in Seattle, and lastly Nightwing’s romance with the Defacer in Tim Seeley’s current issues. While Hope Larson has provided a hint of this kind of interconnectedness recently with Barbara’s call to Dick, the kind of detail interwoven in this issue establishes that this story stands in a world full of events that impact all of the characters, rather than individuals who occasionally mention each other. The kind of careful attention to detail this issue indicates gives great hope for the future issues, as Dick guest stars in the next arc.
Pick up/Pass? A very fun one shot with a lot of great moments and a solid story – definitely a pick up.
In Conclusion: The Bensons give us a feeling of the current status quo for the Birds – and it’s a great one – quipping, fighting crime, and bonding.