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Review: Batgirl and the Birds of Prey #9

In Brief: Black Canary goes undercover and hones her Canary Cry.


Summary (Spoilers): Our mysterious new villain, Blackbird, tells the metahuman fight club runner Roulette that she wants a new student. Roulette points to Dinah, who is engaged with taking down a wolf-man meta. Using only her martial arts skills, the “Noir Nightingale” triumphs again, adding to her long list of victories. Roulette puts in the enormous Osmium, and after an initial hammering, Dinah unleashes her cry and apparently kills the massive man. However, Blackbird reveals she was the one taking the form of Osmium, and recruits “Donna” to strengthen her powers. Over the next twelve days, Dinah meets her three classmates, one of whom, Owen, has mind control powers. Blackbird teaches Dinah to be able to shatter the structure of things, not just hit them with the blunt force of the blast. She even teaches Dinah to use her cry to provide flying propulsion, all the while preaching metahuman solidarity and hatred of non-metas.


Sneaking around, Dinah sees Blackbird stealing powers from one of her “graduating” students. She warns Owen, and he decides to try to stop Blackbird himself, mind controlling Dinah to let him go alone. Unfortunately, Blackbird has already stolen the power of immunity to psychic control, and she wipes Owen’s mind. Dinah shows up too late, and Blackbird reveals that she knows Canary’s true identity, and commands her to kill the other Birds.


Huntress and Batgirl, understandably worried about two weeks with no contact from Dinah, find Gemini along with Green Arrow, who is also looking for Dinah. The former shapeshifter tells the heroes what Blackbird did to her, and Helena calls in Nightwing for backup.


In Depth: The Bensons do a fine job weaving in Dinah’s personality, her background, and interaction with the other students and Blackbird this issue. However, taking the “Birds” out of the “Birds of Prey” really hurts the momentum of the book. Dinah is a great character, but the friendship, rivalry, banter, and all the things that built the Birds of Prey into a beloved brand are missing once you force the characters apart. Additionally, while the writing and drawing of the opening fight scene pitting Dinah against the wolf-man meta was good, showing Dinah’s skill, having her immediately use her cry on the next opponent didn’t have nearly the same amount of imagination or engagement.


Roge Antonio provides excellent work, along with Allen Passalaqua’s excellent work rendering the mind control powers, as well as his usual stunning job with atmosphere and character. The last two pages provide some special treats, as the Birds team-up with both Green Arrow and Nightwing, and Antonio’s renderings of these two heroes are just as strong and appealing as his Batgirl and Huntress.


The Blackbird arc is solicited for three issues, and hopefully the conclusion will provide more than a perfunctory reunion to make up for this slightly dry middle issue.


Pick up/Pass? This issue feels a bit more like something you might want to wait for the trade – the first issue was excellent, so the overall arc will likely be very good, but this one didn’t provide all the elements that make a killer Birds of Prey story.


In Conclusion: While dialogue and art remain strong, the solo Dinah story doesn’t generate as much appeal as a full team mission.


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