Review: Batgirl and the Birds of Prey #19

I have been super critical of this book of late, probably due to a couple of factors. Firstly, I loved the original book all the way back to when Chuck Dixon wrote it. Sure, the Birds hit their pinnacle with Gail Simone and Ed Benes on the book. Secondly, I love the characters. Batgirl, no change that, Barbara Gordon will always be a favourite character, throw in the first attempt at a more adult Batgirl, the Huntress and fishnets aside, Black Canary has oft been under used. At their high point, Birds was more to do with how these characters interacted than it was the bad guys they caged.

This issue teases this element, with an obsessed Barbara, once again in Oracle mode, using the Calculator’s own system against him as she sends Dinah and Helena across the city, scoring major victories. Assuming that her team won’t care where she is getting the information, she decides to not tell them. This decision, of course, rears its ugly head later in this book as does the decision in letting Calculator go a few issues back. With disappointment, disillusionment and distrust seeping in, what’s next for the team and an already compulsive and obsessed Barbara?

As always, Julie Benson and Shawna Benson are on writing duties. Between them, they have carved out a piece of Gotham for the girls that are almost unrecognisable from the city Batman, when he is actually there, frequents. Sure there is still crime, but for a “down and dirty” theme book, the Birds tend to tackle a lot of tech crime. Maybe I have missed a change in the mission statement along the way. With Barbra’s focus on stopping Calculator taking centre stage, the pair are opening the door for some tension in the team, probably for the first time since Helena joined up. This is a welcome change to the “everyone is friends” approach that this almost all ages book has; it will be interesting to see how the Ivy in Batman #40 is different to the Ivy that has been in Birds for quite some time. Dialogue wise, it’s pretty much as you were to be honest. I did enjoy the Commissioner Gordon cameo and at this stage of the story Canary and Huntress are practically guest stars. Hopefully, we will get to see the ramifications of actions taken impact all involved.

The art is provided by Birds “veteran” Roge Antonio whose Saturday morning cartoon style adds to the lightness of the book. This is quite the juxtaposition as the story does contain more than a few dark elements. The kid friendly art may work for some, and in some places it does carry a charm. But the way that figures are positioned in panels still allows for some confusing body features. Faces in detail are expressive, but lose their focus in groups. Marcelo Maiolo provides the colors in a solid way, darkening the art suitably to try to give the pencils more of an impact.

Regular listeners of The Definitive Crusade and The Dynamic Convergence, as well as readers of my previous reviews know how I feel about this current iteration of the Birds. But for the first time in a long while, I am cautiously optimistic that the book is moving in the right direction. Please, Julie, Shawna and Roge, do not prove me wrong!

Writing – 3.5 Stars
Art – 3 Stars
Colors – 3.5 Stars

Written by; Julie Benson & Shawna Benson
Art by; Roge Antonio
Colors by; Marcelo Maiolo
Published by; DC Comics

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