Best Shots Review: BATGIRL & BIRDS OF PREY #1 Finds Success In Keeping It Simple

"Batgirl and the Birds of Prey #1" preview
Credit: DC Comics
Credit: DC Comics

Batgirl and the Birds of Prey #1
Written by Julie Benson and Shawna Benson
Art by Claire Roe and Allen Passalaqua
Lettering by Steve Wand
Published by DC Comics
Review by Pierce Lydon
'Rama Rating: 8 out of 10

Credit: DC Comics

Many "Rebirth" titles have existed to sort of recalibrate the DCU. Reader are trying to figure out what stories are still in play and how they fit together. Creators are trying new approaches to set this era apart from the "New 52." Sibling writing duo Julie and Shawna Benson have the opportunity to do the same for Batgirl, Black Canary and the Huntress, hoping to restore some of the goodwill that was lost in the previous iteration of the team. Their TV writing background is a huge boon to the title (and the publishing line at large) as they prove that the best thing you can do is keep it simple. Teamed with a currently-rising talent in artist Claire Roe, the Bensons seem like a perfect fit for Batgirl and the Birds of Prey.

Credit: DC Comics

Much to Barbara Gordon and the rest of the Birds’ chagrin, there’s a new Oracle in town, and they’re desperate to find out who it is. After framing the Rebirth special from Batgirl’s perspective, the Bensons give us a slightly different angle here: Black Canary. Since she’s something of the mediator between Huntress’ more lethal tendencies and Batgirl’s adherence to the generally accepted Batman moral compass, readers are given a really quick and easy rundown of how these women interact with each other and the world around them. The Bensons' writing is economic and free-flowing. The voices of the characters feel very natural, and the plot places them firmly within the Bat-family of titles. That’s where the simplicity and economy of the story comes into play. This is a street-level Gotham story that asks a question that Dick Grayson, Tim Drake, Kate Kane and Batman himself would want answered, but it carries a close personal significance to Babs and Dinah that make the stakes feel so much more important to them.

Credit: DC Comics

Claire Roe’s art has an exuberance and energy that is very well-suited for this kind of book. The interplay between characters is so important and she’s able to create pages and layouts that exude excitement. The downside to drawing panels that look like action shots of characters in motion is that sometimes the characters themselves can look a little bit ugly. That’s not to say that her character renderings and designs aren’t typically strong. But expressiveness is one of the hallmarks of Roe’s style and unfortunately, that occasionally means that in “catching” a character mid-tirade, they end up with a face that contorted in a strange way. It’s a minor complaint but given how strong so much of her expression work is, it seems odd that she’d let some of these instances pass unnoticed. What’s really incredible about her art is how organic it is, but that can sometimes play against reader expectations.

Batgirl and the Birds of Prey is a good book, and one that lives up to the significance of its title. Both Batgirl and Birds of Prey have historically yielded great stories about women and, even more importantly, great stories coming from great female creators. It’s clear that the Bensons are comfortable working together and their scenes flow together so well; this isn’t a case of two different writing voices being mashed together. It’s nice to see the Bat-family open up a little bit without involving Bruce Wayne or Dick Grayson right off the bat. The women in Birds of Prey are more than capable without leaning on A-listers to help sell the book. There is an obvious connection but these women are carving out their own niche in the DCU, and that’s a very, very good thing.

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