All across the Batman corner of the DC Universe, the effects of Bruce Wayne's return are being felt as "Batman Incorporated" has hit the scene. That makes this issue a natural spot for Batman to show up and take inventory of the operations that have glided along under the watchful eye of Oracle. This issue is also the first segment in "The Death of Oracle," which promises some long-lasting repercussions for the Birds.
Oracle's opposite number, the Calculator, has a bead on Oracle, thanks to a character that Oracle views as an ally. It's the first surprise of this particular issue, but something tells me it might not be quite as simple as it appears though. I don't see Gail Simone playing a straightforward betrayal, but with Simone you just never know. She manages to drop in plots and twists that her characters - and her readers - don't see coming.
Through the treachery previously mentioned, Calculator assembles a squad to attack Canary and her crew. Here Simone uses Calculator's scheme to introduce a new character, Mortis, with an interesting power that promises to provide some challenges for Black Canary's squad.
Alongside and underneath the story of Calculator trying to plot his revenge upon Oracle, Simone balances this book nicely between Oracle and her street operatives, giving each of the characters a chance to introduce themselves. Much of the story of the Birds comes from Black Canary, but the story itself follows a celebration of Dove's birthday that has brought the non-team to a strip club. While there, Simone takes the time to play up the interactions between the heroines. This leads to an investigation of Hawk and Dove's relationship. It's one page - six panels - but it does a nice job of explaining the inner cogs of the Hawk and Dove relationship. I simply wish we'd get a little more.
Having just mentioned Hawk, who is one of the Returned Twelve, I think it is worth noting (although I'm not completely certain what it means) that the "Brightest Day" banner isn't on the cover of this comic. I'm sure there are still elements of "Brightest Day" that are going to come to play in this series, especially with Hawk onboard.
Syaf's art is a welcome addition to this book. Syaf brings a gritty, scruffy style to the book, adding some depth and dimension to the strong characters he draws. The conversation between Barbara Gordon and Batman gains an extra layer of peril under Syaf's pencils, just as the threat posed by Mammoth, Mortis, and the H.I.V.E. drones alongside them seem more threatening. Hopefully Syaf'll be here for a while as it seems as though this title has struggled to find its visual identity. It has one now, and after the half-year-long storyline, Syaf brings a breath of fresh air to match the newness in Simone's story.