Now that their “Rebirth” one shot is over, the Birds of Prey are getting down to business. Even though one of the characters feels a little off-kilter, Julie Benson, Shawna Benson and Claire Roe’s “Batgirl and the Birds of Prey” #1 has some strong elements that should definitely be enough to keep readers coming back for the next installment.
There’s a lot to like about the Bensons’ script. There’s a good opening sequence where they show rather than tell the reader how well Black Canary and Oracle once worked together, as they take down a hijacked train using teamwork. It moves at a nice clip, and Roe knows when to ramp up the tension and when to slow down so that an entire flashback fits into three pages without feeling cramped.
Along those lines, the addition of Huntress provides some friction for the strong working relationship between the Black Canary and Oracle, a position that she also held in the pre-“Flashpoint” version of “Birds of Prey.” The Bensons are careful to not only make Huntress have some information that the other two need, but also to keep her from being utterly in the wrong. Huntress’ methods for avenging her family may not be the best by any stretch of the imagination, but her desire for vengeance (even if it’s a little deadly) isn’t misplaced. The Bensons have made Huntress dangerous, but not out-and-out untrustworthy or impossible to form an alliance with. Having that spoiler character in the mix makes sure that the Birds of Prey’s mission is never entirely smooth sailing; it’s a tried and true storytelling technique that works well here.
Probably the most notable part of “Batgirl and the Birds of Prey” #1 is Roe’s art, though, which does a great job of making the characters appear like they’re moving at breakneck speeds. For example, take Huntress’ motorcycle whipping around the corner even as she’s shooting her crossbow, which looks particularly sharp; the careful touch of the front wheel of the motorcycle and Huntress’ right foot skidding into the panels below help accentuate that moment without drawing attention to itself. Roe is also skilled at drawing little inset panels, like the one below Batgirl pulling out her batarang. It’s a moment that provides a visual transition to Batgirl throwing it, but doesn’t need a massively large panel. Those little touches throughout the comic make me eager to see a lot more of Roe’s art. Add in some exaggerated expressions that look straight out of Duncan Fegredo’s wheelhouse (which is a very good thing), and you end up with a lively book from start to finish.
The one stumbling block in “Batgirl and the Birds of Prey” #1 is the depiction of Batgirl, and that’s especially frustrating considering her status within the book, which has been elevated in both the story and the title. The Bensons show us how rattled Batgirl is over someone stealing her former codename, but — in this moment — she just comes across as inexperienced and a little foolhardy. Elementary mistakes, like forgetting to silence a phone, are almost inexplicable, and her freak out at the end of her first meeting with Huntress comes across as a rookie reaction. Hopefully, now that the Birds of Prey are a trio once more, we’ll see Batgirl show that controlled personality we glimpsed in the opening flashback.
“Batgirl and the Birds of Prey” #1 is a good start to the ongoing series overall, but this should be great rather than good. For the moment, readers may be willing to overlook the uneven nature of Batgirl’s personality, but hopefully we’ll get a bit more competence and collectedness from the character in the next issue or two. Though the character can and should be rattled by the fake Oracle, her reaction here comes across as a bit much. Once Batgirl’s characterization smoothes out, readers will have a real winner on their hands.