I’ll say this much. Birds of Prey has given me a lot of respect for Duane Swierczynski. The New 52 utterly gutted the whole Birds of Prey concept. Oracle was no more. Helena Bertinelli was no more. Black Canary only barely held onto some semblance of herself. Seriously, Swierczynski got a crap assignment here. And you know what? He’s done a damn good job with it.
Now, I’m not saying the current Birds of Prey is as good as the past incarnations. It’s not. It still has been gutted. But given what little he has had to work with, I don’t think anyone could do a better job than Swierczynski has been doing with this series. I would love to see what he could pull off with a DC book that hasn’t been shot in both feet from the start.
This is the new origin of the new Birds of Prey, and it is actually rather clever. What I really like is how Swierczynski has the whole birds theme spin out of the group forming from an undercover sting operation on the Penguin. Hence the bird names of Black Canary and Starling. In the context of what the current Birds of Prey are supposed to be, it really works and ties them nicely into the mythology of Gotham City. Hell, it even gives a stronger rationale for an all female cast given Penguin’s preference for hiring beautiful women on his staff, though Swierczynski doesn’t really take full advantage of this opening.
As much as I mourn the loss of Black Canary’s status in the DCU, I have to admit I find what DC is currently trying to do with her pretty compelling. The first issue of Team 7 may have not be as strong as it needed to be, but the concept of it is good. We know Dinah will hit a high and then a major low coming out of it.Swierczynski sets Birds of Prey up for Dinah as an attempt to get some of that magic of Team 7 back in her life after suffering as a solo act for some amount of time. There’s just a lot of good stuff to work with here. It all simply depends on DC playing it right. My only real concern is Kurt Lance, Dinah’s not really dead husband. It would be better if he was just her dead husband. The potential for silly cliches is way too strong with Kurt’s current not really dead status, and he probably works better as a corpse. It’s not like there are any Kurt/Dinah fans wanting to see those two reunited. We’ve never even seen them together as a married couple.
The real shame of the story is that it just doesn’t work.
This origin is set one year ago. Now, I suppose it is a little disappointing that Dinah has only used the Black Canary identity for a year. It’s not so disappointing that the whole Birds of Prey thing began a year ago, given how it was still barely a team in the first issue. That actually makes some sense. But one year ago is also the first time Dinah met Batgirl, who basically helped foundt his little group.
One year ago.
Seeing the problem here?
Batgirl, wearing a costume that doesn’t match what we’ve seen of her old one or her current one, crashes the undercover sting on the Iceberg Lounge. Hijinks ensue. Batgirl, Black Canary and Starling all join forces in what is meant to be the seed that eventuall becomes the Birds of Prey. And this all happens one year ago. So that begs one impossible to ignore question. What the hell is Batgirl going there?
It has been stated repeatedly that Barbara Gordon was crippled by the Joker three years ago. The Batgirl zero issue even established that this happened a little bit after she already stopped being Batgirl. I don’t know if it has been exactly stated when Team 7 ended in disaster, but it seems rather likely that Team 7 lasted longer than Barbara did as Batgirl. That means you probably couldn’t even push the setting of this story back to when Barbara was still Batgirl and still have it work. So again, how the hell is Batgirl in this story? This is no minor continuity issue. Barbara Gordon was in a freaking wheelchair when this story is supposed to have taken place. There’s no reconciling her presence here.
How does a mistake like this even get made? You can’t tell me the writer and editors just overlooked it. It’s a little too big for that. More likely, DC probably didn’t care and just wanted Batgirl to be part of the team’s origin whether it works or not. It doesn’t work. DC has taken away Oracle. The magic is gone, and they would honestly be better off if they just stopped trying to force Batgirl onto the team.
Hell, they probably could’ve used this story to establish that Barbara was something resembling Oracle for a little while. But they go with this instead.
Somehow, DC has managed to flip it so now the presence of Barbara Gordon is what ruins Birds of Prey. It’s really almost impressive. What is actually a rather clever new origin for the Birds of Prey gets derailed by the confusing appearance of Batgirl at a time when there shouldn’t be any Batgirl. Oracle is gone, and DC needs to stop trying to throw us a bone about it when all that accomplishes is to make things worse.