Batgirl and the Birds of Prey are coming off a very strong arc that added a new villain to the team’s growing Rogues Gallery. Blackbird proved to be a great, personal challenge for the Birds of Prey. Now it looks like we are going to see the Birds of Prey face another challenge on a personal level as Gus, the new Oracle, is showing his true colors by sending the team to meet his mysterious partner. Will the meeting prove to much for the Birds of Prey to handle? Let’s find out with Batgirl and the Birds of Prey #11.
Writers: Julie Benson and Shawna Benson
Artist: Roge Antonio
Colorist: Allen Passalaqua
Story Rating: 8 Night Girls out of 10
Art Rating: 7 Night Girls out of 10
Overall Rating: 7.5 Night Girls out of 10
Synopsis: At the clocktower, Gus is screaming for his life as Huntress and Black Canary hold him upside down by his legs out the broken window. Batgirl reveals that she had secretly planted a ghost code in Gus’ system and was finally able to decrypt his chats to learn he isn’t just working for them but someone else as well. That’s when she knew that when Gus wanted them to meet “someone” tonight that they should meet with Gus first.
Oracle asks to be pulled back in so he can explain everything. Black Canary and Huntress pull Oracle back into the clock tower so he can explain himself.
Gus says that what he told the Birds of Prey about taking on the Oracle name and selling intel to the highest bidder for money to help his mom was true. He then reveals one night someone walked into his room and had his life future flash before his eyes, including going to jail, much to his mom’s disappointment, and being killed by the real Oracle.
Suddenly the person wanted to know how Gus came to be Oracle while arranging things on his desk. After Gus explained everything the guy gave him a choice to either work for him or be fram Gus for all his crimes. When Gus asks who the guy is threatening him, person reveals that he is the Calculator.
Batgirl knows who Calculator is and goes over how he became obsessed with Oracle (when she was going by that name) because Oracle continuously beat him each time he had a plot in motion. Black Canary pushes Gus against the wall and asks if he told Calculator that Barbara Gordon was Oracle. Gus says that he didn’t reveal that Barbara was Oracle as he knew Calculator was a villain and would never do that to a hero like Batgirl.
He then goes over how he learned about Calculator’s family and helped compile intel to get access to bank accounts to make them richer. After a while Calculator gave Gus the mission to take on the Oracle identity again and gain the Birds of Prey trust, something he was not in position to decline. Though he felt guilty seeing his mom’s house being paid off made it a bit easier.
As his job to gain the Batgirl and the Birds of Prey’s attention and trust went on he told his mom that he had a opportunity in Gotham City. Though he doesn’t see his mom anymore the Calculator checks in on him and uses his mom against him to make sure Gus set up the meeting with the Birds of Prey.
Batgirl is angry that Gus continues to lie to them and shows the black-market drugs he has been obtaining from Calculator. Gus reveals that the pills help control his mood swings as he has Bipolar Disorder, much to Batgirl’s shock. Gus goes on to say that as a kid his mom just thought he was acting up Calculator got him to see a specialist that diagnosed him as biopolar. Batgirl, Black Canary and Huntress all understand how hard it is to admit something that is causing someone to suffer but they assure Gus that he can trust them to help him out. Batgirl then assures Gus that they will end things with Calculator tonight.
Black Canary, Gus and Huntress all get in position as Batgirl meets Calculator in an alley. Calculator says he is not armed but Batgirl pins him against a wall with some batarangs. Calculator says that all he wants is Batgirl’s help as one of his business deals went wrong and now his wife and kids have been kidnapped because of him.
Calculator reveals that one of his clients paid a lot of money to get blueprints and intel on security at Terracare’s headquarters. The client used the information to break into Terracare and steal something extremely valuable from Terracare. Terracare ended up finding out that Calculator was the person that gave the person who stole their stuff their information so they kidnapped his wife and kids.
Calculator asks the Birds of Prey for help. Though the Birds of Prey don’t like Calculator they won’t put innocent people in danger so they agree to help him. They make Calculator agree to release Gus from their arrangement and not contact the Birds of Prey again after they help him. Batgirl then asks Calculator who the client that robbed Terracare was.
Elsewhere, Catwoman greets a pizza delivery guy and asks if he can break a 45 carat diamond
The Good: Batgirl and the Birds of Prey #11 does exactly what it needed to do by carrying the momentum created by the previous arc to make the story even better. Up until now Gus hasn’t done anything to make himself stand out as a character fans should get behind as the new Oracle. But now Julie Benson and Shawna Benson have added exactly what the new Oracle need to start coming into his own as a new fan favorite.
The Bensons smartly start the issue off by showing that the Birds of Prey aren’t easy to fall. This was a big sigh of relief as we have seen it done so often were the hero(es) of a series fall easily for a trap set by the person they believed to be an ally. The Bensons are able to instantly twist that narrative by adding to how hard it is to get things past the Birds of Prey as a group. Batgirl revealing that she tapped Oracle’s system was a good way of showing the reader how smart she is without making a big deal out of it.
Going into a new character’s backstory through flashbacks is not an easy thing to do. It’s something that could easily backfire as it can disrupt the pacing of the main story. Luckily the Bensons spend the appropriate amount of time with Gus’ backstory in how he came to be the new Oracle. Breaking up his backstory with Batgirl, Huntress and Black Canary inserting their own commentary helped with the impact of Gus’ origin. While what Gus was doing was not a good guy thing to do it was for the good purpose to help his mom and himself get out of their own personal struggles.
Adding in the fact that Gus was never diagnosed with bipolar disorder until he met Calculator added to the struggles the character faced. It is something that is hard to admit to have and when others around you, especially your parents, don’t want to admit their may be something more wrong with you it can be harder. Having Batgirl there to tell Gus not to hesitate to call it a disability was a strong character moment for the two. It opens up the Batgirl to become closer to her successor as Oracle, while giving Gus the chance to truly overcome what he has to deal with his bipolar disorder rather than just crumbling when he has to think about it.
Having Calculator end up being someone that was actually helping Gus with his bipolar disorder was an interesting character choice. It was an unexpected direction for Calculator’s story and including the villains family only furthered how surprising some developments where. Because the Calculator is the type of villain that works perfectly as an antagonist for the Birds of Prey it is interesting to see the Bensons go in a different direction with him. There still seems to be more to the plot involving the Calculator than we know, which will add to how the story develops if there is more to the villain’s motivation.
Getting Catwoman involved in the story as an antagonist was certainly refreshing. After months of having Catwoman play the anti-hero role over in Tom King’s Batman, it is a fun change of pace to have her be the villain of the story here. It’s a role we haven’t seen Catwoman take on very often. And given the various skill sets of the Birds of Prey it could make the fights even more interesting if Catwoman stays as the antagonist for the majority of the story.
Roge Antonio artwork continues to give Batgirl and the Birds of Prey its own, distinct style. Antonio’s artwork was particularly strong when it came to the flashback scenes having a different tone, thanks to strong coloring from Allen Passalaqua. And with all the characters involved in the story having a wide range of emotions, Antonio was able to get across the sincerity of where each character was coming from.
The Bad: Nothing
Overall: Batgirl and the Birds of Prey #11 was a good start to a new story arc that places the focus the new Oracle, Gus Yale. Delving into Gus’ backstory helped create a better connection between the Birds of Prey and their new Oracle. Calculator and Catwoman’s involvement adds further interest in how the story may go as we get to see the team deal with the two villains at the same time.