Monday, July 22, 2024

Batgirl And The Birds of Prey Wraps It Up

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[Danny Elfman Theme Plays]
This issue of Birds of Prey was a strange one, even after last month’s genuinely confusing lettering and narrative decisions. When the Bensons’ script is zeroed in on the current Blackbird arc, it reads cramped, over-compressed and quite frankly rushed. Even Roge Antonio’s artwork takes a pretty solid hit, as backgrounds, with few exceptions, vanish entirely and are replaced with simple gradients. That weird, all-but-purposeless double-page spread didn’t help matters either since you could remove them entirely and I don’t think anyone would notice. Things wouldn’t be so clumped if they’d used these two pages to space things out a bit more:

Anyway, all that aside, when the script is not focused on Blackbird (aside from the wrap up), specifically when it’s foreshadowing the next arc, it reads and looks just like the first eight issues (the Rebirth one-shot, and the first seven) in terms of writing, composition, and pacing. That’s not to say this is “phoned in” or explicitly bad; it’s not. It’s fine. But that’s just it. It’s…fine, and it had been previously excellent.

So I hope you’ll forgive me if I indulge in trying to figure this out. I just find it very difficult to believe that writers this damn clever would stumble without good reason. Let’s be real here: a fluke isn’t eight times in a row.

I make it a point to avoid approaching media with a Doylist lens (though according to Kylie I’ve already been doing it over in my other reviews) since I typically don’t have any first-hand (or any other hand, for that matter) information on the circumstances regarding the creative process in how a piece of media resulted in its completed form. That being said, there are always exceptions, and this feels like one of them. If I had to make an educated guess on what exactly happened here, I’d bet it was something pretty simple: narrative resolution.

They have a reveal with Gus coming up, the Fauxracle, and they’re clearly very invested in it. He ran out of meds this issue, and his supplier is forcing his hand to set up a meeting with the Birds of Prey. Now, putting aside that this might make me hate Gus on a very personal level because individuals who take amphetamines to give themselves an “edge” make it very difficult for literally everyone who actually needs them to get them; as in: the University pharmacy does not carry those meds because they are so frequently abused by students that they consider it a health hazard, and the Walgreens closest to campus has a pharmacist who screams in your face if you try to get a refill a day early and calls you a drug dealer. Not that I’d know anything about that, obviously.

Uh, right, with Gus, they realized (correctly) that for the reveal, whatever that may be, to be satisfying it had to have room to breathe. We, the readers, needed time to be uncertain about Gus and his loyalties even though he kept helping the Birds of Prey. Was he just caught in the middle of something, or was he a not-so-great dude? Jumping straight into that narrative would’ve made it less effective, so the Bensons had a gap to fill. The Blackbird arc has a lot of good ideas, specifically in the old-school X-Men mentality relating to Dinah’s childhood, but ultimately the pieces just don’t gel into place as well as they should. The skeleton and most of the organs are there, but you kinda need skin, nerve and muscle tissue for it all to work. Okay, that metaphor kinda got away from me, but you get the idea.

In short, it doesn’t seem like they were excited to tell this story, thus the inclusion of Nightwing and Green Arrow to try and spice things up enough to keep it interesting for them and us. For me, it didn’t really work as well as I’m sure they hoped it would. Really, it just lead to a script with way too much dialog (never thought I’d say that) per panel and per page. Not everyone needs to speak or have something to add to the conversation, you know? We won’t forget they exist if they have things to do.

Either way, the arc is over, for better or worse. Was there resolution to everything? Mostly. The stuff with Dinah kinda got dropped for now, and Ollie’s presence proved to be completely inconsequential…other than to…both suggest and not suggest that Dinah and Babs have romantic feelings for one another?

I’m all for Dinah/Babs and Dick/Babs, but anyone but Dinah with Ollie just feels super weird.

As for Blackbird herself, I honestly have no idea what exactly she was trying to achieve other than collecting new powers. Which is fine, if it’s power for power’s sake. She seemed unstable enough for that to be her thing, since she’s got a Rogue-like (heh) power set. The little black caption box jokes made a very welcome return. Gemini apparently doesn’t get arrested for several counts of first-degree murder which is really strange. I mean, I get the idea of connecting it back to Nightwing’s Bludhaven arc but those supervillains were reformed and had served their sentences already. Gemini killed a bunch of people, what, three weeks ago? Maybe Dick is just lying to her to get her to come without resistance, but that doesn’t sound like something he’d do.

As for the other street kids—which all but proves that Blackbird straight-up murdered the one who could throw fireballs and disposed of the body already—Kimi sort of vanishes? And then Helena says she’d be willing to help him get his GED even though she’s a school teacher. She could know somebody who works at that school that could be of better help, I guess.

It’s kind of a bummer that this is the week we officially started doing ten-scale graded reviews here at the Fandomentals, so I’m gonna have to go with…


Still, looking forward to next month’s issue where things will hopefully go back to center.

NEXT WEEK: Batwoman #3! See? Told you it wasn’t as bad a wait.


Writers: Julie and Shawna Benson

Pencils/Inks: Roge Antonio

Colors: Allen Passalaqua and John Rauch

Letterer: Deron Bennett

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