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Batgirl and The Birds of Prey: Rebirth #1 Review

Birds of a feather yell together.

Birds of a feather yell together.

Written by Julie and Shawna Benson
Art by Claire Roe
Colors by Allen Passalaqua
Letters by Steve Wands

Review by John Dubrawa

DC’s Rebirth has been all about restoration–friendships, relationships, memories, happiness–and if there’s one team that should benefit the most from this new decree it’s the Birds of Prey, who have been in need of a resurgence for quite some time. That being said, the mouthful of a title that is Batgirl and the Birds of Prey: Rebirth #1 doesn’t quite live up to expectations but let’s face it, how could it ever have? Not only is this title carrying the legacy of one of the DCU’s most beloved teams on its back, but it is also coming off the heels of its three main characters showcased expertly in their own solo adventures within the DC New 52. Right from the start, series writers Julie and Shawna Benson (who are also first-time comic writers) have an impossibly high mark to try and reach, so this title is already starting at a disadvantage.

To their credit, the Bensons attempt to restore some semblance of legacy to the team by spending a sizable amount of time on Batgirl’s history. Babs’ voice is strong in the opening narration, and when she later teams up with Black Canary to take down a mafia ring, the camaraderie certainly exists between them, at least more so than it has lately. Where the problem of this issue sets in for me is the strange cherry picking of history and continuity. So we learn within this issue that Killing Joke definitely (for now) has happened, Barbara Gordon did spend time as Oracle, and that she and Dinah did team up as the Birds of Prey. However, when Huntress enters the fray during the final moments of this issue, she’s treated not only as a threat but as someone these two haven’t even met before. Where this worries me is the fact that the “we don’t trust each other so we are going to bicker” angle marred the New 52 Birds of Prey series and I’m afraid we are doomed to repeat the mistakes of the past here. But I want to be wrong, I really do.

Another worry I have for this series as it moves forward is in Claire Roe’s art. Roe is capable of an amazing amount of detail–just look at the first few pages of the issue where Batgirl handily defeats a group of thugs for an example–but there’s a strange inconsistency when it comes to close-up shots of character’s faces that’s hard to ignore. It’s messy in a way that can be distracting in some otherwise really excellent, kinetic sequences. But I completely understand that Roe is facing perhaps an even higher bar than the Bensons considering the artists that previously drew these three characters were Babs Tarr, Annie Wu, and Mikel Janin. So I want to see what Roe is capable of as she continues to…ahem…spread her wings artistically as this series continues.

VERDICT

WAIT AND SEE. Look, I know raising questions concerning continuity in the context of DC’s Rebirth is like asking, “so what’s going on with the X-Men?” but the cherry picking of history going on within the pages of Batgirl and Birds of Prey: Rebirth #1 is a real head-scratcher. Series writers Julie and Shawna Benson choose to start this new series with only a partial bit of what’s come before and I’m concerned that this series may devolve in much the same way the New 52 version of the team did back when they didn’t know each other at all. Birds of Prey fans should give this a look, but this isn’t the return to form for the team people are clamoring for. At least not yet anyway.

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