Time to check out another new Rebirth comic! This time it’s Batgirl and the Birds of Prey, written by Julie and Shawna Benson, with Claire Roe of BOOM! Studios’ Welcome Back. Is it good?
Batgirl and the Birds of Prey: Rebirth #1 (DC Comics)
When out and about on patrol, Batgirl takes down some thieves and discovers that someone named Oracle tipped them off about some goods. However, that shouldn’t be the case since before she returned to being Batgirl, Barbara Gordon was using that codename to run a group called the Birds of Prey. Enlisting former member Black Canary, the two set out to figure out who is using that name. Meanwhile, Helena Bertinelli has arrived in Gotham City, bringing her own brand of justice to the big mafia families.
The Initial Impression
Batgirl and the Birds of Prey: Rebirth is one of the most unique issues of the Rebirth comics so far. For the most part, the Rebirth issues have essentially acted as #0 or previews for the main book. Justice League and Green Lantern introduced us to the characters while series like Wonder Woman and Titans laid the groundwork for what was to come in their runs. Birds of Prey here is different in the sense that it acts more like a #1 issue than anything else. It handles all of the setup with the origin of the characters and what the series will be about, but it also gets the main plot moving and the characters are already out to solve it. It’s unexpected and above all, this is one Rebirth issue you can’t simply skip.
Damn Batgirl! You been hitting the gym and weights lately?
Batgirl and the Birds of Prey: Rebirth #1 is not particularly great, but it’s not bad either. There are equally as many problems as there are strengths in the writing and artwork. To start with, as an introductory issue meant to bring in new readers and get old ones up to speed about the characters and their recent issue, it does its job well. The writing is good at going over everyone’s backstory, giving you enough details to understand everyone’s motivation, and hint at why they are the way they are. The story itself with Babs and Dinah going after the person using the Oracle identity is a good one and the conflict that Helena brings is good as well. Like mentioned, the plot is already underway by the end of the issue, so there’s a bit more happening in the comic outside of just setup. It’s a not a bad story at all and it should be interesting to see how things play out when the main book begins next month.
The problems with the story lie in a lot of execution and its writing. Batgirl’s narration is unnatural sounding and sometimes inappropriate with a scene’s mood or tone, especially when she recounts the whole Killing Joke part of her life. Backstory and exposition can feel forced and awkward, especially with the whole confession scene with Helena as she discusses her history. Black Canary keeps going back and forth with how much she wants to help Batgirl with figuring out who the new Oracle is. There are a lot of jarring, random transitions and cuts between scenes and panels, making the storytelling jumpy and not particularly smooth at points. While the characterization does seem on point and there’s decent dialogue exchanges here and there, the writing isn’t particularly great and needed could have used some more smoothing out.
I knew I should have trademarked that name before!
The artwork by Claire Roe is a mixed bag as well. Character wise, everyone looks on point enough and they have a good range of facial expressions (though some odd ones too). On the other hand, Roe has trouble with body physique consistency or even characters having the right body type. Sometimes the characters look toned and fit, the other times they look surprisingly bulky and all muscled up. The action can look dynamic and energetic, but it suffers from poor transitions and very static looking images at times. The locations are nicely drawn and detailed whenever there isn’t a strange single-color void for a background instead. The layouts can be smooth at points and the colors look fantastic, but then things can awkwardly jump around and on one occasion, the colorist made Helena white by mistake.
Is It Good?
Batgirl and the Birds of Prey: Rebirth #1 is a mixed bag. It’s got a decent story, is rather new reader friendly, and the artwork has its charm. However, there is also the less than stellar writing, weak storytelling, and inconsistent art. It’s something that I would like to recommend, but it’s not exactly strong enough yet for me to do so. Maybe when the first real issue comes out in August.