Book: “Batgirl and the Birds of Prey (Vol.1): Who Is Oracle?” by Julie Benson, Shawna Benson, Claire Roe (Ill.), and Roge Antonio (Ill.).
Publishing Info: DC Comics, April 2017
Where Did I Get This Book: The library!
Book Description: A part of DC Universe: Rebirth!
The Birds of Prey prowl the street of Gotham once again! The sisterly, crime-fighting trio–Batgirl, Black Canary, and Huntress–get the band back together in the aftermath of DC Universe: Rebirth, but they’re not reconnecting for nostalgia’s sake. A mysterious new criminal operative called Oracle has declared war on Gotham. Barbara Gordon, a.k.a. Batgirl, and a.k.a. cyber-superhero Oracle in a previous guise, takes exception to someone smearing her legacy. Writing duo and sisters Julie and Shawna Benson, along with breakout artist Claire Roe, reunite the femme fatale crew in Batgirl and the Birds of Prey, Volume 1: Who Is Oracle?!
Review: So okay, my last foray into the “DC: Rebirth” world left me feeling a bit cold. Batwoman deserved so much more than that. So when I saw that my library had “Batgirl and the Birds of Prey: Who Is Oracle?”, I was hopeful that another series near and dear to my heart would get some better treatment within the “Rebirth” series. I’ve been feeling kind of meh towards it as a whole, between Batwoman’s progression and the whole ‘let’s take Alan Moore’s characters and put them into this new series even though he no doubt hates that‘ thing (and I could rant forever, but I shan’t). But I’m willing to give it a chance, as a DC fan through and through. So thank goodness that “Batgirl and the Birds of Prey” feels so, so right.
This is yet another origin story for the Birds of Prey, but Julie and Shawna Benson do a good job of starting from partial scratch without dismissing the original intent of the group. See, originally the Birds of Prey had Barbara Gordon as Oracle at it’s center, and that’s important because that was when Barbara was still wheelchair bound. When she was Oracle, she was arguable they most important member of the Bat Family, and also was great representation for those who have disabilities. Then Barbara’s paralysis was ret-conned so she could be Batgirl again, leaving Oracle behind. In this telling, Babs and Dinah “Black Canary” Lance formed the team when Barbara was still Oracle, but then disbanded shortly thereafter. It is NOW that they are coming back together that we are introduced to the other member of the band, Huntress, who is the other best known member of this team through the years and versions. But the motivations for them are darker this time around. Barbara is angry that someone calling themselves ‘Oracle’ has started sending her messages in a game of cat and mouse. And Huntress has her own personal vendetta that brings her into the fold.
It is definitely darker than other iterations of the Birds of Prey, but I feel that as a reboot, it works pretty well. I like that the motivations aren’t built out of pure nobility, and that Barbara’s relationship with her alter ego Oracle is complicated as hell. I personally love Oracle and I love that after Alan Moore (him again!) basically tried to destroy Batgirl in “The Killing Joke” when Joker shot her in the spine, Barbara Gordon came back more powerful and more essential than she had been before. But I also think it’s important to remember that Barbara turned into Oracle because of the horrifically traumatic experience of being shot. Barbara’s link to Oracle is a double edged sword, and I think that this series has done a pretty good job of addressing that thus far. I also like that Huntress is given some pretty brutal traits in this narrative, as Huntress has always been a bit wild but this story gives that wildness a reason and a very rough origin. There is also a stark contrast between her brutality and her Catholic faith, which has been touched upon a bit and I hope we see more of it. And then there is my girl Black Canary, one of my favorite members of the DC Universe with her snark, sarcasm, and determination built from abandonment. We get a bit of her backstory and motivation as well, and I like that she gets to do a bit more than be the sassy and brassy lead singer of a punk band (I had such high hopes for that series). Plus there’s a panel of her going to town on a plate of nachos and I felt such a kindred connection to her in that moment. The Benson Sisters are giving these girls some good stuff to work with, and I couldn’t be happier.
Plus, the art is super fun. It does a good job of being dark and dour, as well as putting splashes of color to give it a bit of spunk.
I will admit that the eventual reveal about Oracle left me a little cold. I’ve mentioned before that I have my OWN opinions on who should fill the Oracle role now that Barbara is back in the cowl. But I’m going to be open-minded and stick it out to see where this goes. This is a series that has it’s talons in me, no question.
“Batgirl and the Birds of Prey: Who Is Oracle?” is a very strong start to a series that I am very excited to follow. I’m finally invested in a “Rebirth” arc storyline, which has let me breathe a sigh of relief when it comes to the future of DC.
Rating 8: Grittier than the “Batgirl” comics, “Batgirl and the Birds of Prey: Who is Oracle?” gives some complex and kickass ladies some dark things to do. Also, Black Canary is the very best and it’s great to see her again.
“Batgirl and the Birds of Prey (Vol.1): Who Is Oracle?” isn’t on many relevant Goodreads lists, but it would definitely fit in on “Kickass Women in Superhero Comics”.
Find “Batgirl and the Birds of Prey (Vol.1): Who Is Oracle?” at your library using WorldCat!