Okay, I’m going to get a little geeky fanboy on y’all with this post, but this week’s batch of comic books was so kick-ass I just felt the need to write about it a little. Specifically, a comic called “Birds of Prey.” “Birds of Prey” follows the story of Barbara Gordon (ex-Batgirl) and her field operatives, generally female superheroes who work with her to stop crime. If you’re wondering why the former Batgirl just doesn’t go out into the field and stop crime herself, you need a little bit of background.
Back when Barbara was still running around in tights as Batgirl, she ran afoul of the Joker, who shot her, damaging her spine and paralyzing her legs. Not one to give up, Barbara used her past experience as a librarian (and is that not the coollest thing?) she became Oracle, a master of the information highway, hacking into ultra-protected, secure, government sites, linking the world’s superheroes and providing them information, and monitoring newsfeeds from around the world among many other things. Since the wheelchair did cut somewhat into her mobility, she relied on trusted field agents to help her with her mission.
“Birds of Prey” tells Barbara’s continuing story, along with that of her operatives, among whom are Black Canary, Huntress, Lady Blackhawk, Catwoman, Manhunter, Big Barda, and many, many more. For the past several years, “Birds of Prey” has been under the authorial guidance of Gail Simone, who took a book that already had a small, devoted following, and turning it into one of the mainstays of superhero comics today. A rare comic that thrived with a largely female cast. Under Gail’s assured hand, “Birds of Prey” was guaranteed to be a fun, well-constructed read.
This latest issue, #108, was Gail’s farewell to the book. Gail is moving onto bigger things (one of DC Comics’ flagship titles, and one in need of her assured touch — “Wonder Woman”) but her affection for Babs and her friends is all-too evident. In wrapping up a multi-issue storyline, Gail puts the control of the Birds of Prey team into question, as Oracle’s long-time rival, Spy Smasher attempts to take over the operation. Oracle stands up to Spy Smasher, putting aside her insecurities in a rough-and-tumble fight where she calls upon her training as Batgirl, and the rigorous upper-body workouts she has continued to put the beat-down on her rival. Then, to insure that Spy Smasher doesn’t get any ideas for revenge, Oracle’s many friends (and the two double-page spreads Gail’s terrific artist, Nicola Scott renders for this moment are a fanboy’s dream) make a lovely appearance of support. After only being gone for handful of issues, the appearance of Black Canary, Barbara’s staunchest ally and one of her closest friends is both nostalgic and a testament to the legacy Gail leaves with the title. The book ends with an emotional moment whereby Barbara reconnects with her humanity, and her need to help others and reaches out to a troubled teenager code-named Misfit.
So, the fans of “Birds of Prey” bid you a sad farewell, Gail. You’ve provided us with year’s of entertainment for which we appreciate. You’ve taken some mainly ignored, sometimes mistreated characters and let them truly come into their own and shine, allowing them some much-needed time in the spotlight to build them to new levels. While it’s sad to see you leave the Birds, I am beside myself with the thought of your “Wonder Woman.” Onward and upward as they say. As for the Birds, after a short run by Tony Bedard, a writer I am not overly familiar with, Sean McKeever takes over. I’ve enjoyed Sean’s work on “The Inhumans” mini-series, and the X-Men title, “Mystique.” I’m looking forward to his take on Barbara and her pals. Sounds like a win-win situation to me.