The Birds of Prey returned to their original line-up for DC Comics’ Rebirth event, with Batgirl leading Huntress and Black Canary on a mission to find out who the new “Oracle” really is. The first story arc for Batgirl and the Birds of Prey, “Who Is Oracle?,” took up the first six issues of the series, with sisters Julie and Shawna Benson (The 100) writing. The arc takes a while to get going, but gets better once the team’s members slide into their proper roles and get in a groove.
Batgirl And The Birds Of Prey Vol. 1: Who Is Oracle? (DC Comics)
What’s it about? Here’s the official synopsis:
In these tales from BATGIRL AND THE BIRDS OF PREY #1-6 and REBIRTH #1, a mysterious new criminal operative called Oracle has declared war on Gotham City! Barbara Gordon, a.k.a. Batgirl—and a.k.a. super-cyber hero Oracle—in a previous guise, takes exception to someone smearing her legacy. Can she count on Black Canary and the volatile Huntress to help her get to the bottom of this mystery?
The Bensons and artist Claire Roe took their Birds of Prey out for a test run with the “Rebirth” one-shot, which focused on Barbara Gordon catching up with Dinah Lance and convincing her that they need to work together again. They also meet Helena Bertinelli, the Huntress, after her adventures with Dick Grayson in Tim Seeley’s Grayson series. It’s not entirely clear how she jumps from being Helena, Agent of Spyral, to Huntress, though.
The “Rebirth” one-shot makes the trade paperback easy for any reader to pick up. Like the best of the “Rebirth” one-shots, it sets up the main series well, so it can hit the ground running. However, much of the early action in Birds of Prey still focuses on Black Canary and Batgirl trying to convince Helena not to kill people. After decades of these three together, it’s a bit difficult to see them so uncomfortable with each other, but this definitely is a true Rebirth.
After “Rebirth,” the main plot becomes clear: There’s a hacker who has revived the name “Oracle,” long after Babs left it behind once she regained the use of her legs. At first, they think a mobster named Santos is paying Oracle to keep tabs on them, but it’s really a mysterious woman named Fenice pulling the strings. Following fights with a group of forgettable thugs called The Snakes (although Asp – a man with serpent scales for skin – is pretty cool), they realize that Fenice is the person really threatening their safety.
When it comes to the art, the Bensons don’t really get to create chemistry with any particular artist here. Claire Roe’s dynamic pencils really work well with the action and give the early issues an attitude that’s missing when Roge Antonio comes in. His art changes things up partway through #3 and he takes over from there. Nothing against Antonio, but Roe’s work was unique and fit the characters perfectly. Antonio does have a different strength though: his action scenes are beautifully done and he draws a great Batgirl.
The “Who Is Oracle?” trade paperback collection includes the first six issues of the series, plus the “Rebirth” one-shot. It also includes a gallery of sketches from cover artist Yanick Paquette and Roe, as well as the excellent variant covers by Kamome Shirahama. DC needs to start making some of these available as posters. Here’s another example of Shirahama’s work:
Overall, Batgirl and the Birds of Prey Vol. 1: Who Is Oracle? is a good start to the new Rebirth series for new readers, providing quick origins for the three characters before jumping into the main mystery. For longtime fans of the Birds of Prey, it might be a bit tiresome, reading through another origin of the trio. But seeing them back together is more fun than expected, especially when you can read the story in one sitting.