Back in “Batgirl and the Birds of Prey: Rebirth” #1, Barbara Gordon discovered that a new entity in Gotham has been selling information to the mafia using her Oracle codename. Meanwhile, a mysterious figure named Fenice (Italian for “Phoenix”) was revealed to be buying this new Oracle’s information in order to kill off his or her mafia rivals.
Now, following months of build-up, and after unravelling a tangle web of clues and dead ends, the new Oracle finally shows his face in “Batgirl and the Birds of Prey” #5, and he’s none other than… Gus Yale!
Gus Yale, Barbara Gordon’s self-proclaimed “biggest fan,” is a hacker who once helped Oracle on the darknet. As Gus explains, after Oracle disappeared, he decided to take on the identity and track down Oracle’s true identity. His lair contains an extensive collection of Batgirl memorabilia, including Babs’ old glasses and library card. The creepiness factor of the situation is not ignored by writers Shqwna and Julie Benson; when Black Canary observes that “our super villain is a superfan,” Huntress quips, “I’m still waiting to hear the difference.”
Gus treats his use of the Oracle codename as a sort of audition for the Birds of Prey. He begs to join the group, declaring, “you guys are the O.G. dream team” and going starry-eyed as he watches Barbara take over the Oracle controls. Of course, Black Canary want nothing to do with the “faux-racle,” but despite her initial reservations, once Babs finds out he’s been donating the proceeds of his criminal dealings to charity, she quickly warms to him.
There is still a whole lot of explaining for Gus to do, of course. In the series’ previous issues, he led the Birds of Prey into multiple ambushes and on a number of wild goose chases. His obsession with Babs, rather than being endearing, is invasive and more than a little disturbing. Personally, I’m much closer to Black Canary and Huntress’s feelings than Babs’ on this, and I’m curious to see whether he turns out to be as harmlessly enthused as he tries to sound. Artist Roge Antonio and colorist Allen Passalaqua certainly keeps the reader guessing on this front; when Gus says “I liked you better as Oracle,” they give him some terrifying true-believer cult eyes.
However, he looks childishly, endearingly delighted as he watches Babs work the Oracle servers.
It’ll certainly be interesting to see how the new Oracle contributes to – or betrays – the team in the next issue.
Helena’s Past Comes Back to Haunt Her, Too
Oracle is obviously a huge part of Babs’ past, but “Batgirl and the Birds of Prey” #5 also stirs up some history for Huntress. With the series’ and group’s Rebirth launch, Shawna and Julia Benson re-introduced Helena Bertinelli’s mafia princess origin story. As Helena explains in issue #4, her mafia don father, her mother and her brother Pino were all murdered by the rival Cassamento family when she was younger, leaving her as the only survivor. After training with her uncle in Sicily and spending time as one of the lead agents/director of Spyral, a secret organization of spies, she returned to Gotham to avenge her family and hunt down Santo Cassamento. “The family rivalry between the Bertinellis and the Cassamentos started decades ago,” she says. “Santo Cassamento thought he ended it. He would have, if only I hadn’t survived.”
However, in this issue, Helena discovers that her mother is not only alive — she’s the villainous Fenice, who’s been taking out all her mafia rivals with the help of the snake gang.
For many readers, this won’t be a particularly shocking reveal. There have been a number of hints, such as the way that Santo said, “I thought you were dead,” when he first saw Fenice. Helena also admits she never saw her mother die, the way she did with her father and brother. “I will never know why they dragged Mama out of the room to kill her. Maybe it was a blessing.”
However, it is a surprise for Helena, and it’s not yet clear how this might affect her going forward. If she became a vigilante to avenge her family, what will she do now that she knows one of them is alive? Will she join Fenice in her quest to wipe out all the other crime families?
Wherever Babs and Helena go next, it’s clear that even though this is “Rebirth,” the past will be as relevant as ever for these storied characters.
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