In Brief: Huntress (Helena Bertinelli) confronts her mother in the finale of “Who Is Oracle?”
Summary (Spoilers): Picking up exactly (to the panel) where we left off last month, Helena must confront the fact that her mother is the mafia leader the Birds have been pursuing the whole time. She shakes off her shock as Babs confronts the Fauxricle, Gus, who says it would have distracted Huntress from taking out bad guys. Huntress and Black Canary chase the mobsters to the Majestic Theatre, but the snakes have set a trap. Batgirl trusts Gus to run operations and rushes to aid her friends. Gus enlists some of his mafia contacts to help fight the snakes as well as Fenice, who has been killing mobsters as well.
Batgirl reveals that she called the Commissioner and his forces for backup as well, and the mobsters and police work together to subdue the snakes. Helena takes out one of the snakes on her way to confront her mother. She reveals her identity to Fenice, shocking the mob leader into a confession: she had an affair with Santo Cassamento, and conspired to murder her husband to be with him. However, Cassamento’s assassins let their vengeance get the better of them, and slaughtered the Bertinelli children as well.
Maria Bertinelli vowed vengeance upon the murderers of her children, building her own empire for nearly twenty years. Helena is angry with her, but her rage finds another target in Santo. Babs and Dinah finish up with the snake gang, and vault to attempt to stop Helena from taking lethal vengeance. Helena bitterly agrees not to kill either her mother or Santo, but turns them over to Gordon, saying she considers her mother lost to her.
On the rooftop, Dinah asks Babs if she’ll tell her father her identity, but Helena tells her it would get in the way of saving the city as Batgirl. The Birds embrace, Helena unwillingly, and head back to tell Gus he can join on probation. Gus is elated, but we learn that he is required to take meds, and is secretly being controlled by a darker force.
In Depth: It’s always nice to know that the writers of a series know their comic continuity. With the appearance of Maria and Santo’s love affair leading to the murder of the Bertinelli family, we have a direct callback to Greg Rucka and Rick Burchett’s stellar miniseries “Batman/Huntress: Cry for Blood.” The Bensons have talked about their longboxes of comics, and this addition, creatively worked to provide Helena with a present day challenge by facing her living mother, shows that they know those longboxes very well indeed.
The new Oracle, Gus, remains an unknown, with his secret controller revealed in the last page, but his quotation of Lando Calrissian’s “This deal gets worse all the time” indicates that he doesn’t really want to betray his heroes. I continue to hope that Gus is a supporting character, like Savant and Creote were in Gail Simone’s first run on the Birds, rather than a regular member of the team like Hawk and Dove were in her second. In this issue, it does seem that the former emphasis is the way the Bensons are taking it.
On the artistic front, the continued absence of Claire Roe’s muscular renderings of the Birds makes for great sadness – but Roge Antonio is an able substitute. Allen Passalaqua’s colors are as vibrant as ever, even though a coloring error swapping Babs out for Dinah in the penultimate page mars his otherwise excellent work. On twitter, Roe seems to indicate that the next issue marks her return, but no direct confirmation exists at this point.
The dialogue and structuring by the Bensons remains very polished, like an episode of their CW television show. The resolution of Helena’s conflict upon discovering her mother’s identity comes a bit too easily, but it’s likely this will be a continued conflict throughout the series, so the setup works reasonably well for that. As huge pop culture fans, the sisters pepper large numbers of puns and references throughout, some of which are a bit clumsy or on the nose, like Helena and Snake Lady’s exchange about birds and snakes, and some of which enhance a character moment, like Gus’s Star Wars quote noted above.
Batgirl and the Birds of Prey has proved one of the less critically well received titles of DC Rebirth, but the series is getting decent sales, and the writers have an enthusiastic twitter following, so this reviewer hopes that they are in this for at least two years. If they do, they’ll keep giving us the awesome heroes and friendships that have made the Birds of Prey one of the best-loved teams in the DC universe.
Pick up/Pass? A solid conclusion with solid art – worth picking up.
In Conclusion: Though it never reaches the heights of the Dixon and Simone years, this Rebirth arc of Birds of Prey is worthy of its name.