It’s good news/bad news time again for Batgirl And The Birds Of Prey.
The good news first: This doesn’t suck. Seriously, it’s probably the most entertaining issue of the entire run so far. It’s light enough that, if taken with a pinch of salt, it’s not too far removed from Silver Age tales like the 1970’s Brave & The Bold story, Arise, Ye Ghosts Of Gotham.
Not only that, but there’s one page in particular which has to be singled out for praise. It’s a splash page montage of Batgirl and all the things she does to help make Gotham a better place, along with a simple but effective monologue about her motivations. For the first time in this series’ current run, Barbara Gordon is written perfectly. Add to that a higher standard of artwork than usual, courtesy of Marcio Takara, and this issue manages to be quite an improvement.
The bad news is that if you’re after anything more than a fluff piece to read, then you’ll probably still be disappointed with Batgirl And The Birds Of Prey #14.
Huntress, in her civilian guise, takes some of her class on a field trip to Gotham’s outskirts to learn more about the history of the city. Joined by Black Canary, they learn of a mysterious shaman named Blackfire who stole the nearby land from its original inhabitants and appeared again many years later to slaughter colonists. However, what could be passed off as folklore soon becomes real, forcing Huntress and Black Canary to battle a seemingly immortal foe. Meanwhile, Batgirl has her hands full protecting Gotham in various ways, from saving Batman’s life to teaming up with the latest members of the Birds of Prey, Catwoman and Poison Ivy…
The plot may be of Silver Age quality, but the writing sadly isn’t. As has become routine, major plot holes appear almost instantly, which result in a story which can only generously be described as being for young kids. The few moments where Batgirl And The Birds Of Prey #14 shines are let down by weak characterization, a clichéd villain and dreadful dialogue. Even the more solid artwork has glaring mistakes, such as Catwoman’s goggles being shattered on one page and then completely intact again mere moments later, or a pair of teenagers being drawn like they’re in their forties.
As fun as a stand-alone issue is, there needs to be more solid storytelling here. For instance, Blackfire, a one-dimensional villain who does little more than scowl before being slapped down to size, is apparently immortal and has been trapped in a cave for centuries (although his clothes look immaculate). He awakes… why? He possesses a child into freeing him… how? His motivation for being evil is… never explained. If we had seen signs building up to any of this, or if the two stories told about Blackfire weren’t so contradictory, perhaps this tale may have held up better. Regarding his simplistic defeat, it’s fair to say that he’s robbed of his immortality and is left to die a horrible death by our heroes.
As for the kids on the school trip who witness our heroes battling this villain, they’re all idiots. So is Batman, who apparently has no idea how an Amazon Alexa works. He also doesn’t care about secret identities anymore as he babbles on the phone – yes, on the phone! – to Batgirl. But that’s okay because Batgirl doesn’t care about secret identities either. I’d say it was all meant as a joke, except nothing about it is particularly funny.
Batgirl And The Birds Of Prey #14 is a slight step in the right direction, although it should be taking great strides. This series has got a long, long way to go before it becomes an actual must-read comic book but, as a quick diversion, it’s adequate.