Batgirl and the Birds of Prey #21
Story: Julie Benson & Shawna Benson
Art: Roge Antonio
Colors: Marcelo Maiolo
Calculator, in his hunt for the true Oracle, has broken Fenice and Blackbird out of Arkham, and he has a plan to smoke out our Birds of Prey. Staying true to the pattern the Benson Sisters set up for the Full Circle arc, Batgirl and the Birds of Prey #21 puts Dinah front and center as she deals with her own fear of her buffed up Canary Cry (thanks to Blackbird in BOP #8-10). With Burnrate, Fenice, and Blackbird at Calculator’s disposal, the Birds of Prey look to call in their own reinforcements to help even the odds.
***WARNING! SPOILERS AHEAD***
The Benson sisters are pulling out all the stops as we come to the end of Batgirl and the Birds of Prey (I’m still not ready for it to end!), and it makes for a very exciting issue! In Part 1 and 2, we saw the story play out through the perspective of Babs and Helena respectfully, and now it’s Dinah’s turn. We haven’t seen much of Dinah since she withdrew into herself after Gus’s death, but in this issue, we see why Dinah has been hesitant to use her Cry, and we see her pushed to a point where she can no longer let fear drive her.
Calculator reveals that he orchestrated Fenice’s transfer and escape from Arkham so that she could use her Mafia connections to draw the Birds out of hiding and get to Oracle. However, this is a different Fenice than we met at the beginning of BOP. In #20, we saw that Helena routinely visited her mother in Blackgate in the hopes that she could help bring the good out in her mother like the Birds did for her when she first joined. It seems as though it worked, as she refuses to give up her contacts just so they could go after the Birds, seeing as she knows that the hero known as Huntress is actually her own daughter. That doesn’t stop Calculator from getting the info he needs though, as Blackbird can easily get the info from her with one of the many powers she stole.
While the Birds try to comfort Helena and reassure her that her mother may have changed for the better, Helena comes to the realization that her mom knows who Huntress is and will give that info over to Calculator whether she wants to or not, making Helena a prime target. While Babs and Helena stay back at the clock tower to try to find where Calculator and his team of evil are hiding, Dinah goes after Blackbird with the help of Green Arrow!
Bringing Ollie into this issue is great for a couple of reasons. 1.) The Benson sisters will be taking over the Green Arrow title (along with artist Javier Fernandez) as Benjamin Percy moves to Nightwing (make sure to check out Green Arrow Annual #2 for the Benson’s first issue with our favorite archer); and 2.) the relationship between Ollie and Dinah is so much fun, and the Benson’s absolutely nail their chemistry in this issue (even throwing in the Star Wars “I love you.”/ “I know”).
While Dinah and Ollie search Blackbird’s old dojo, Dinah brings one of her struggles to light; she misses her mom and wishes that she could have a relationship with her, even if it’s the same relationship Helena has with her mom. This moment of reflection makes it clear that Ollie and Dinah are hunting in the wrong place, and they race to Helena’s apartment (which is currently being broken into by Burnrate). When Dinah comes face to face with Burnrate (no gripes about Burnrate from me this week, I swear!) it is clear that the incredibly strong Canary Call that Blackbird helped her develop actually scares her more than she is willing to admit to anyone but herself, and she lets Burnrate get away.
Calculator’s plan to smoke out the Birds is a huge undertaking, but it works flawlessly. Dinah, not wanting any innocents to be hurt, decides to “give” Calculator what he wants. When the Birds meet up with Calculator and crew, they let him know that Burnrate already murdered Oracle, but Gus isn’t who he was after, Calculator wants the REAL Oracle, and it’s an all-out battle when they tell him the real Oracle is gone for good. Luckily, the Birds of Prey have some more cards to play, as Catwoman and Poison Ivy join the Birds of Prey once again (Check out Source Code and Manslaughter arcs of Batgirl and the Birds of Prey for more Cat and Ivy awesomeness)!
The Birds of Prey and crew do everything they can to try and put Burnrate down, but nothing works until Ollie convinces Dinah to overcome her fear and use her juiced up Canary Cry (the only thing that seems to work against Burnrate). When the dust settles, Burnrate is in pieces, but Dinah sees her fear become reality. Not only that, but Calculator now has Helena, and Blackbird gives her the same treatment Fenice got, in hopes that Helena will give Oracle up.
Artist Roge Antonio and Colorist Marcelo Maiolo had a lot to work with in this issue, and it made for one of the most visually exciting issues in this series (which is saying a lot for Birds of Prey). Having DC favorites like Catwoman, Poison Ivy, and Green Arrow, allows them to stretch their legs a bit, but with how beloved these characters are to comic nerds everywhere, if Antonio and Maiolo didn’t do them justice, it could have spelled disaster for this issue. But worry not, because they absolutely nail these characters! While I love the way that Antonio draws Babs and Helena, Dinah has always stuck out to me in these issues. The panels of Dinah and Ollie hunting are so much fun. It is great to see the script done right for these two, but to be able to show the love in their relationship simply through the art is why I love Dinah and Ollie. I see a lot of similarities in their relationship as I do with my wife, and it made me want to just live in those panels for a while. The final panel is also a piece of art that makes you hungry for issue #22. The colors of the dark sewer tunnel with the water falling down behind them makes you zero in on a familiar situation from earlier in the issue. It is also a bit heartbreaking to see Fenice under Blackbirds control in this panel as she holds Helena.
I absolutely loved this issue and had to read it again out of sheer enjoyment before I wrote this review. Something I have always said about the Benson’s is their ability to dive deep into the relationships of these characters and portraying their inner struggles in a very relatable way. This entire arc has been a bit of a master class of that. While I am sad that #22 will be the last flight for the Bensons and the Birds of Prey, I am excited to see them end the series on top, while previewing a bit of the voice they will bring to Green Arrow later this summer. There are still some questions to be answered, like, will Helena give Oracle up? What’s going to happen to the Birds when all the dust settles? And, what is the puzzle Gus is trying to get Babs to figure out with that key?! We will have to wait for the final issue of Batgirl and the Birds of Prey (out May 9th)!