08 May 2013

Faster than a DC Bullet: Birds of Prey, Part XVI: The Death of Oracle

Comic trade paperback, n.pag.
Published 2012 (contents: 2011)
Borrowed from the library
Read May 2013
Birds of Prey: The Death of Oracle

Writers: Gail Simone, Marc Andreyko
Artists: Ardian Syaf, Vicente Cifuentes, Guillem March, Inaki Miranda, Pere Pérez, Jesus Saiz, Diego Olmos, Billy Tucci, Adriana Melo, JP Mayer, Eber Ferreira
Colorists: Nei Ruffino, Bob Schwager  
Letterers: Travis Lanham, Dave Sharpe, Swands, Carlos M. Mangual

Like some of the previous Birds of Prey volumes, this is a loose collection of individual stories, so I'll handle them one by one. The first of these is the titular one, "The Death of Oracle," where Barbara decides that these days too many people know there is an Oracle, and that just that bare fact opens her up to too much, and so she executes a masterplan that will allow the world to think that Oracle is dead. Of course, this masterplan goes awry, as the Calculator pulls some unexpected allies in, but not too awry. It's an okay story, with a couple good moments (I love the roles of Savant and Creote in the reconstituted Birds of Prey, and Dove getting drunk for the first time is enjoyable), but mostly it feels like one long fight scene stretched out over four issues. The way the Calculator's henchmen turn on him in the last part comes out of nowhere, too.

It's let down by some inconsistent and often-terrible art. Ardian Syaf and Vicente Cifuentes do a good job on the first chapter, and Guillem March isn't bad on the second, but I find Inake Miranda's work to be plastic and artificial, especially his faces, which seems incapable of conveying real emotion, and his linework is all the same thickness. Especially bad is the scene where Oracle reveals the full extent of her plan to Batman, Batman, Batgirl, Red Robin, and Misfit,* and all the characters stand in a succession of poses.

It's also let down by the fact that it doesn't really matter. The Birds don't seem to operate any differently with a "dead" Oracle, and indeed, they're pretty sloppy about keeping her up the necessary appearances, talking about Oracle right in front of villains they're fighting. What's more, at first Manhunter is specifically shown as one of the characters they're deceiving, but by the end of the book, she's not only in on the deception, she knows that Barbara Gordon is Oracle-- something she didn't know before Oracle was "killed." Some heightening of security.

"Which Reason Knows Not Of" continues the development of the flirtation between the Huntress and Catman begun in Dead of Winter. Their interplay is good, though Catman's triple-bluff plan here is a little too complicated to be believable, and I'm not sure why he even wants the result that he gets, which seems unnecessary given how superficial his relationship with the Huntress is.

"Hostile Takeover" is probably the best story in the book, a simple two-issue caper featuring the Birds teaming up with the Question. Fun and not too complicated, just like I prefer my stories, though there are too many characters. (On the other hand, this is the only time Hawk ever feels interesting.) Jesus Saiz does good art on the first issue, though Diego Olmos's backgroundless panels feel phoned-in. I don't get why the Huntress replaces the Black Canary as field leader, though.

The book (and this incarnation of Birds of Prey) wraps up with "War and Remembrance," a two-part callback to the Golden Age. A post-WWII mission of the original Black Canary, the Phantom Lady, and Lady Blackhawk turns out to have modern-day repercussions. A good idea, but ultimately the story's kind of a muddle, and it ends on a lame "joke" where all the characters laugh. Also, since when was the original Black Canary active during World War II? The art is done by like five different people, and I liked some of it.

Ultimately, I don't know how necessary this revival of Birds of Prey was. Though I didn't like the way that the original series wrapped up, this reincarnation seemed to stagger around without clear direction or purpose. And why go to the bother of getting Gail Simone back if you're just going to pair her with an ever-changing cadre of subpar artists?

* Speaking of Misfit, why is this her only appearance in this whole book? She supposedly moved in with Helena during Oracle: The Cure, but we haven't actually seen her since then, and End Run mentioned she was with foster parents. I miss her!


  1. Agreed the Birds of Prey relaunch after Brightest Day seemed mainly just to serve Brightest Day, and even there not all that well. I liked this depiction of the Birds as not always on the right side of the law (at least as far as the law was concerned), something that's carried over into the New 52 Birds, but I also agree Oracle's "death" was muddled and it's implications unclear. I chalk it up to the run-up to Flashpoint; I liked the Secret Six touches in Death of Oracle and that's how I remember this one.

    1. I think the "not on the right side of the law" thing would have been better if anything had been done with it. In The Death of Oracle, it basically boils down to Black Canary not being able to go to the hospital when severely injured... but then later in the book, she openly attends a hospital benefit! The idea that Dinah's secret identity was compromised really bothers me, too, as she didn't seem to have one up until the compromising happened.

      Someday I'll read Secret Six!