Sunday, June 16, 2024

The Birds of Prey Go On House Hunters: Gotham City

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If someone were to ask me to point to a single issue of Birds of Prey to explain why I love that series, it wouldn’t be as difficult as you’d think. All I’d need to recall is that the best aspects of that book weren’t the action. No, what I enjoyed the most were the in-between moments, which is pretty much what the Birds of Prey under Simone became. A book mostly about the everyday lives of our favorite characters.

Nowhere is that more apparent than Birds of Prey #68, aka the one where, after Babs takes her father’s advice on how to prevent professional burnout, Dinah gets a flower shop and Helena returns to being a school teacher after sleeping in a not-so-comfortable position. So, it should be pretty clear that there are more than a few structural elements there the Bensons paid homage to this month.

And to great success, I might add.

Thanks in no small part to the return of CLAIRE ROE!

Just imagine some fireworks and trumpets and—I dunno, balloons? I guess?

Yes! It’s true, one of my favorite new artists came back to draw this issue, and I could not have been more pumped for that. Nothing against Roge Antonio, he’s still fantastic, but I absolutely adore Roe’s sharper and appropriately shredded character renderings. Plus, her strong nose work—yes that’s an important thing deal with it—and hyper-expressive faces are always a delight.

Just…everything. All of it.

Ahem. Now that the fanboying has subsided for the moment, let’s take a look at why Batgirl and the Birds of Prey is still the funniest damn book in the Rebirth line.

Canary Cries Fire

During a brief battle with the Zodiac Master Constellation Creeper, an unabashedly silly thief who “predicts” his crimes before committing them and can also summon familiars using magic rocks, Babs gets a proximity alert from the Clocktower and needs to run off to make sure nobody broke in and stole all her stuff. Dinah and Helena stay behind, making quick work of the mook…except their teamwork works a little too well.

Fauxracle, who’s been acting like even more of a creep by referencing the fact that he knows everything about them, confirms that the GCPD arrived at the Clocktower before the would-be robbers could get in. Realizing that this is third time something like this has happened, Babs correctly deduces that it must be those really weird realtors who kept trying to break into her place. Even though they sold it to her.

Meanwhile, Helena arrives at Dinah’s “city apartment she rarely sleeps in” since she is typically hanging out with Green Arrow. Across the country. In Seattle. Because Dinah has infinite cash for airfare between the East and West coast. And also two apartments. Good lord how successful was her band, exactly?

Why is this relevant? Well, mostly because Dinah doesn’t actually own a couch in Gotham. However, she does have a ton of unsold Black Canary band merchandise! Which is totally a couch.

Remember how Dinah is big on social justice and environmentalism? The latter probably comes from all the dinosaurs she fought during her time travel adventures. The former? Well, her mom was originally the first Black Canary because they wouldn’t let her be a police detective. That’d do it.

I legitimately hope this “Black Canary used to be a rock star” thing lasts for years and years to come. If only to see other characters wearing her band shirts scattered across random DC titles. I should really be making a list of how many times I’ve seen a poster or a shirt in a book she’d probably never show up in. It’s amusingly long, if I recall correctly.

“Again, it’s like poetry so that they rhyme. Every stanza kinda rhymes with the last one.”

What? If they’re gonna quote Star Wars more or less every issue, I can quote George Lucas!

Anyway, Babs spends the entire night investigating the realtors with Fauxracle but comes up with nothing. So, she decides to call in the Birds of Prey because honestly what else is she gonna do? Not use the title of the book to her advantage? Like hell. So, then this happens:

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Told you the Bensons and Roe paid homage to Birds of Prey #68. Kinda surprised I was able to catch it, but hey, I guess it just suck with me. Anyway, Helena and Dinah display their respective ideologies when discussing how best to approach figuring out why the realtors keep trying to get into the Clocktower. It’s pragmatism (kidnapping and “torturing” them) and idealism (waiting to see if they’ll do it again) up against one another in a pseudo-cartoony style shift that I found perfectly silly.

Helena’s imagination looks like the kind of thing you’d get from a fifth grader, which is rather apropos considering her profession as a school teacher, while Dinah’s is a bit more artistic and vague. Fortunately, the better third of the team suggests a legitimate option: a sting! Go undercover and posing as potential clients.

She then delegates overwatch duties to Fauxracle, as she goes on a brunch date with her father, something that also happened in Birds of Prey #68, though under very different circumstances. But, before she can leave, Fauxracle quickly jumps on the word date as a shipping moment with something, uh, extremely specific. And nostalgic/creepy since he apparently knows about it.

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Damn it, I really miss those two together.

Gotham Grand Tour

The sting begins and it’s beyond ridiculous. Helena and Dinah have switched places, more or less, but the character design and dialog are so on point that you barely even need to be told that.

If you’re wondering why Dinah even has a blonde wig, it’s because originally her natural hair color wasn’t blonde. It was, well, pretty much what she’s wearing in that scene. But, as we’ve seen in flashbacks, that’s no longer the case, so this is mostly a sight gag because Helena in a wig is so silly.

Speaking of sight gags, two thirds of the Birds of Prey get driven around to the most recent, uh, scenic locations in Gotham. And by scenic I mean “were recently featured in other Bat-books”. With one notable exception. It’s an extremely clever joke, especially considering how two of these are actually pretty subtle.

The first is the Riddler’s apartment, most recently seen in the backup of All Star Batman #6, though, considering the timing of that issue, it might be a coincidence. That or the Bensons just asked what buildings were going to be used for supervillain hideouts months ahead of time. Not that odd of an idea, honestly.

The second? Santo’s estate, from earlier in the book. Yeah, uh, nobody is there to pay for it anymore so it’s back on the market. Thanks continuity!

The rest, well, I hesitate to say gold, mostly because that comes into play later, but they are fantastic.

I love how that editorial caption only exists for the sake of the joke.

Okay, so, yes, that’s Selina Kyle’s former apartment from before she was falsely accused of murdering 237 terrorists and sent off to Arkham prior to the events of I Am Suicide. Who actually committed those murders? Holly Robinson, the owner—at least I think that’s the implication—of the fourth property at the bottom. Certainly looks like the one from Batman #15. It would also explain the blood and the lack of suspect, since Holly slit open Bruce’s throat with a giant knife.

He’s fine, though.

Anyway, the third property is, honestly—I’m shocked this stuck with them as much as it did with me. That thing about gargoyles is not new. It’s still funny, since the whole “Batman sits on a gargoyle” thing isn’t nearly as cool once you realize they should all technically be spitting water for that to make sense. But, this is a call back, a tiny one, to the opening of Birds of Prey #74.

I can’t even remember what this issue was about, but I’ll never forget this piece of trivia!

Like I’ve been saying, the best parts of Birds of Prey have always been the smaller, quiet moments. The joke is used in a new way this month, of course, since technically it wasn’t even a joke the first time around. The point being that, again, none of this stuff is on accident. The Bensons have a clear and present understanding of how this stuff is supposed to work, and why it’s worked before.

The Birds Of Prey Are Golden

Moving forward on that specific train of thought, the realtors reveal that they offer a big fancy binder detailing the history of the property you buy as a fun incentive. Except Babs didn’t get one of those when she purchased the Clock Tower, so they must be hiding something. She, with basically no help from “I’m dating maybe 50 girls at once for some reason” Fauxracle, figures out that a bank in Gotham was robbed in 1962. The perps were arrested at the Clock Tower but the loot was never recovered, so it must still be in there.

And…I just…I honestly cannot believe that this worked as well as it does. Because Babs found a gym bag full of solid gold bars under the floorboards.

Why do I notice these things?

Just take a moment to consider what’s going on here, since I think this a layer of meta-narrative that is kind of insane. Barbara found gold. There is gold in the floor. She tore up the Clock Tower, the iconic home of the Birds of Prey, searching for a hidden stash. And she found gold.

Do you see what I’m getting at? When we first see the Clock Tower in Batgirl and the Birds of Prey, it’s run down and unused. Babs had to overhaul the whole thing to get it up and running again, and even now it’s still not at full capacity. But, she knew it was important for her to set up shop there once again. Why?

Because it’s part of the very foundation of the Birds of Prey. And what did she find under said foundation? Gold! Because the concept is that. The foundation is full of that. The characters are explicitly that. The old trades basically printed that. Y’see what I’ve been saying?

The Bensons seeded this in the Rebirth one-shot! Eight months ago. The whole bit about Gotham History not being part of the Clock Tower? Well, kinda sounds like it’s a missing piece, doesn’t it? Something that hasn’t been used in a very long time to its fullest extent. Something that had been more or less abandoned as the previous owners let it fall into disrepair without realizing they were literally sitting on solid gold.

I swear to God, these two are going to be the death of me one day because the meta-narrative just keeps getting smarter. First it was the Burnside merch, now it’s Birds of Prey as a franchise. And how DC gave them the keys to this “fixer-upper” of a home and let them go to town on fixing it.

And trust me, hooboy did it need fixing. There are a lot of good reasons nobody talks about the New 52’s version of Birds of Prey. None of them are what you’d describe as positive.

Pizza, Chocolate and Wine

After a quick and very effective shut down of the realtors by donating all of the gold to the city in full view of the news media, the Birds of Prey retire to the Clock Tower to celebrate a job well done. The entirety of which did not include an appearance by Batgirl aside from the opening action scene. And honestly, that’s all kinds of impressive. I didn’t even question it, not that I personally would but the fact that it was seamless in the story, with Babs still providing overwatch and support to compensate for Fauxracle’s rather…interesting habits.

She had things to do, and they were important things. None of it required Batgirl or Huntress. I’d say Black Canary, but technically Dinah is always Black Canary but you get the point. The cold open was the only action-y vigilante moment of the issue, and it was, frankly, the weakest part. Not that that it was specifically weak (it wasn’t) but it just didn’t hold a candle to everything else.

Because that’s Birds of Prey at the very core. Everything else.

Also, remember when I said Helena was a school teacher?

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Yup! Still a thing.

Oh, and apparently it was Valentine’s Day—I think this was originally solicited for next week—the entire time and all three of them spaced on that! Which honestly makes sense. Even though Dick did just get into a relationship over in Nightwing last week, and Ollie is…doing Ollie things, presumably, they were clearly enjoying one another’s company too much to bother to check the date.

Also Dinah was most likely intending to bail on that date anyway since she’s on the other side of the damn country. I mean, she had to buy plane tickets and get a ride from the airport to her apartment and call Babs—this would’ve crossed her mind at some point.

But, in the end, what matters most is that Batgirl and the Birds of Prey gets stronger and smarter every month. And the Bensons make it look like it’s the easiest thing in the world.


Writers: Julie and Shawna Benson

Pencils/Inks: Claire Roe

Colors: Allen Pasallaqua

Letterer: Deron Bennett

Images Courtesy of DC Comics

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