In Brief: The hunt for Oracle begins as Batgirl (Barbara Gordon), Black Canary (Dinah Lance), and Huntress (Helena Bertinelli) collide!
Summary (Spoilers): Batgirl opens the issue using surveillance cameras to locate her targets, some low-level criminals, while musing on the idea of healing over time. She takes them down efficiently and precisely, but discovers that they acted on the information of “Oracle.” Shaken by the news that someone is using her old secret identity, Barbara muses on her history as Batgirl, Oracle, the Birds of Prey, leading her to Dinah. Serving as security to her former band, Dinah initially rejects Barbara’s request for aid in this case. However, when Babs lays out her evidence in a building suspiciously reminiscent of the Clocktower, Dinah agrees to a one-time team up to find her next lead, a mob member named Terroni (though Dinah enjoys calling him Pepperoni).
The scene cuts to a church at night in the rain, where Helena Bertinelli is doing some reminiscing of her own. After recounting her history as Matron of Spyral, she reveals she’s killed the priest, in reality a hit man for the mob that killed her family when she was a girl. Next on her list is Terroni.
When Dinah and Babs, bickering all the way, manage to accost Terroni, they themselves are arrested by Huntress’s arrows. Babs allows Terroni to escape to help Dinah, but both are shocked when Helena reveals her Spyral knowledge of their secret identities. A mysterious observer echos Helena’s knowledge from their nefarious tech den of evil!
In Depth: It’s a shame that Lady Blackhawk, Zinda Blake, doesn’t show up in this issue, as it would give a more appropriate excuse for this reviewer to shout “HAWKAAAAAAAAAAAAA!” The former Bird of Prey would be just as approving of this alternate universe reunion of the three Birds of Prey made iconic by Gail Simone’s title-defining run from 2004-2007. Though Barbara Gordon still wears the Burnside suit introduced by the last creative team on the Batgirl title, her characterization is much more serious and focused than the Babs of Burnside. In addition to her athletic and memory abilities, she has a returned sense of purpose and history that both the first 34 issues by Gail Simone and the last 18 issues by Brenden Fletcher and Cameron Stewart lacked. Nods to the classic Birds of Prey (and Oracle) Clocktower base, as well as incredibly detailed and exciting iconography of Oracle’s surveillance setup and methods are layered in expertly. Even some nods to the youth-oriented Burnside run are given where Babs holds up a perp’s phone, but instead of taking a selfie, she’s unlocking it and finding information. Though the nods to continuity and history are extremely welcome, one hopes they don’t draw too deeply on the plotlines – so, for instance, hopefully the “Oracle” of this arc does not turn out to be Calculator (though Savant might be a nice surprise).
A lot of the conversation in the fandom surrounding this release has focused on the art by relative newcomer Claire Roe. While Roe clearly has her own style, which can be disconcerting for someone used to a more Jim Lee-esque DC house style, after a few pages, the faces (particularly the noses) start to look more normal – similar to David Lafuente (Ultimate Spider-Man, Batman Eternal, Batgirl Annual #3). Combined with veteran colorist Alan Passalaqua, the art is vigorous and dark, even connected to the formerly frothy-colored Babs. The opening scene where she lays out the street-level criminals emphasizes Batgirl’s strength and intelligence brilliantly.
Yannick Paquette seems to have been a crucial pinch-hitter in the transition from the new 52 to Rebirth, providing pencils as a fill-in for Greg Capullo on Batman for number 49, giving Nightwing Rebirth interiors, and now providing covers for Birds of Prey (not to mention partnering with Grant Morrison for Wonder Woman: Earth One). The cover for this week’s Birds of Prey is really excellent Paquette – with gorgeous clean lines, lovely colors, and incredibly characteristic expressions – Babs’s serious frown, Helena’s furious yell, and Dinah’s exasperated eye-roll all capture a strong sense of the relationship and individual characters. Nathan Fairbairn’s colors are similarly lovely – from Bab’s intense green eyes, to the contrast between the darkness of the two foreground characters and Dinah being very light.
Pick up/Pass? A combination of strong art, intelligent writing, attention to history and the modern give this one a solid “Pick up” recommendation.
In Conclusion: Like many Rebirth issues, Batgirl and the Birds of Prey Rebirth connects the past and the present in a winning combination.