Due to how many DC Rebirth comics I was already getting when it started, Batgirl and the Birds of Prey got lost in the shuffle. After attending the DC Rebirth panel at WonderCon a few weeks ago the series got on my radar after hearing what Julie and Shawna Benson had to say about future stories. I was particularly intrigued by the idea of debuting a new meta-human Fight Club, as it is reminiscent to one of my favorite episodes of Justice League Unlimited. The first issue of this new arc did a good job in introducing the meta-human Fight Club alongside Roulette and Blackbird into the series staple of characters. With Black Canary being the one getting directly involved in the Fight Club will she be tough enough to survive? Let’s find out with Batgirl and the Birds of Prey #9.
Writers: Julie Benson and Shawna Benson
Artist: Roge Antonio
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: Blackbird hands over payment to Roulette to get another “student” who is broken and has something prove. Roulette has a good idea of who to show Blackbird as potential “student” and walks her to the arena.
At the arena Black Canary, using the alias “Nightingale,” is fighting Wolf-Man. Blackbird is impressed by Black Canary’s fighting ability and wants her to fight her fighter next.
Inside the ring Black Canary systematically takes down Wolf-Man and forces him to tap out with a Single Leg Boston Crab move. Roulette declares Black Canary the winner.
Before Black Canary can catch her breath Roulette announces her next opponent as Osmium. Black Canary does not show fear, rather jokes how she moved up in weight class. Roulette says since they don’t have any rules to just “FIGHT!”
Osmium instantly throws Black Canary into the corner. Black Canary gets back up unleashes a sonic scream but it does not affect Osmium. Black Canary turns to the audience to let them know they should cover their ears. Black Canary then unleashes a more powerful sonic scream, which knocks Osmium out.
Black Canary goes to check on Osmium. Osmium suddenly transforms back into Blackbird, who Black Canary quickly identifies. Blackbird gets up and asks Black Canary for her real name. Black Canary gives her name as “Donna.”
Blackbird asks Black Canary if she wants to learn what her powers can really do. Black Canary says yes and Blackbird has Black Canary follow her.
The next day Blackbird introduces Black Canary to her students that she will be part of. Blackbird tells her students how normal people are trying to control meta-humans with rules, giving Black Canary the idea Blackbird is building an army.
Blackbird has the four students show off their abilities. Blackbird notices one of the students didn’t show off their powers. The guy, named Owen, tells Blackbird to look at the other student Kimi, who he has mind-controlled to believe she is a dog. Blackbird tells the other students that Owen is an example of someone who is ready to graduate as he is getting full control of his powers.
Over the next few days Blackbird has Black Canary train her sonic scream to not just push objects but destroy them, using an apple for training. Blackbird compliments Black Canary on finally tapping into her full power and asks if she is ready to take it to the next level. Black Canary says she is.
Blackbird tells Black Canary to try using her powers to create enough pressure to fly. Black Canary starts training to do so but when she first does it her sonic scream just destroys the ground. Over the next few days Black Canary continues to train in using her sonic scream to fly but fails at every attempt.
Blackbird yells at her students about how if metas banded together humans wouldn’t stand a chance which is why she is training them. A few days later, as Black Canary continues to fail at trying to fly Blackbird tells her to use her unmatched determination to fly.
Black Canary unleashes another sonic scream and is finally successful in flying. Blackbird congratulates Black Canary on her success and dismisses the class.
Later that night, Black Canary walks the halls and hears Blackbird talking to one of her students, Felicity. Blackbird compliments Felicity on how she has overcome her fears and mastered her powers. Felicity is grateful for Blackbird’s teaching. Blackbird grabs Felicity by the head and says that she will take her payments with her powers. Blackbird then, to Black Canary’s horror, absorbs all of Felicity’s powers for herself.
Black Canary runs away to contact her teammates. Before she can do so she hears someone behind her and enters the nearest room, which happens to be Owen’s.
Black Canary explains that Blackbird is stealing everyone’s powers and they have to leave. Owen does not believe Black Canary. Black Canary says she saw Blackbird steal Felicity’s powers with her own eyes. Owen still does not believe Black Canary as Blackbird saved him.
In order to convince Owen, she reveals that she was once homeless as a kid, hiding out from skeevy guys and growing up learning to not trust anyone. It wasn’t until someone gave her a place to stay, eat and train in return for her trust. It was through that she learned to trust people again.
Black Canary tells Owen that Blackbird has just been using him for his powers and they need to stop her. Owen still does not believe Black Canary. Owen then uses his powers to control Black Canary so she will let him go speak with Blackbird. He then orders Black Canary to count to 100.
Owen confronts Blackbird and says he can’t sleep after what she did to Felicity. Owen tries to use his powers to make Blackbird return everyone’s powers and continue to help train metahumans. Blackbird reveals that one of her first students abilities was the immunity to the power of suggestion. Blackbird then grabs Owen by the head and steals his power.
Black Canary barges in to check on Owen but he just acts normal when asked how he feels. Blackbird then uses the mind control power she just gained to reveal she knows Black Canary’s name is Dinah not “Donna.” She then commands Black Canary to help eliminate the Birds of Prey. Black Canary agrees to help.
Elsewhere, Batgirl and Huntress are searching for Black Canary since she hasn’t checked in for two weeks. Oracle contacts them to reveal he found Gemini’s location a block away, and that Gemini is not alone.
Batgirl and Huntress arrive at the location and find Green Arrow interrogating Gemini for information on Black Canary’s location. Batgirl tells Green Arrow to stand down. Gemini reveals to the trio that Blackbird has stolen dozens of metahumans powers and agrees to tell them where Blackbird is hiding.
Green Arrow thinks they’ll need help. Huntress calls Nightwing, who is already heading to Black Canary’s location. End of issue.
The Good: Creating a new, threatening villain is no easy task when it comes to doing it within the universes of DC Comics and Marvel. With how long their universes have been around fans have connections with established villains that is hard for new ones to penetrate. But with issues like Batgirl and the Birds of Prey #9 writers Julie and Shawna Benson are ensuring that Blackbird is one of those villains that can become a bigger threat the more we see of her.
With Batgirl and the Birds of Prey #9 Julie and Shawna Benson kept the cast focus narrow as Black Canary and Blackbird were the stars. While there were other characters like the other Birds of Prey and Roulette in this issue, they were all supporting cast members to the two stars of this issue. In going with this route the Bensons were able to keep readers attention on Black Canary and Blackbird’s respective goals in this issue.
By focusing in on these two characters the Bensons were able to give us a clear idea of what Blackbird’s goals are with her teachings. Having Black Canary going in deep undercover by becoming Blackbird’s students also allowed us to see how an evil person like Blackbird can continuously recruit students. Seeing Black Canary going from guarded to excited about how Blackbird was teaching her how to further use her powers was a great way to show us how charismatic of a person Blackbird is.
It’s through that charisma that made her actions of draining both Felicity and Owen’s powers even more dastardly. The Bensons made sure to show us how both Felicity and Owen felt like they owed everything to Blackbird. And it is hard not to see why with how we saw all the students grow together over the course of two weeks. That connection made it so when Felicity and Owen both had their powers drained you sympathized with them and hated Blackbird for doing what she did.
These actions by Blackbird further establish how she is becoming an army of one. This army of one route that Blackbird is on helps give the Birds of Prey their own unique villain. It’s also good to see the Birds of Prey finally get their own villain that is not looking to work with others or is already part of a team. By being a villain that is on her own Blackbird can become an even bigger threat for the future.
Tying Black Canary into Blackbird’s plot help to spotlight where she currently is in her life. As one of the many characters that had her origin rebooted during the New 52 the Bensons did a very good job in explaining where Dinah came from. There wasn’t a lot of time spent but what we did get was quality use of time that created intrigue for readers to seek out Black Canary’s most recent solo series while not making it feel like you need to read more than what we got here if you don’t want to.
The backstory also helped to further show why Black Canary fell for Blackbird’s charisma. Though she won’t admit it and continued to say it was all part of her investigation, Dinah showed great excitement in the training. Seeing how she progressed over the two weeks was a good step forward, at least in the way she uses her powers. Adding the ability of flight as a way to use her sonic scream creates even more possibilities in how she fights future battles
The metahuman Fight Club that Roulette hosted was again nicely spotlighted in this issue. While not playing as big of a part in the overall story it was good to see how the Bensons worked Roulette’s fight club into Blackbird’s plotline. The fights that we did get to see Black Canary get involved in also help to create further interest in revisiting this corner of the DCU not just in this series but other ongoing comics in DC’s catalogue.
And with this issue being heavy on Black Canary and Blackbird it was good to see the issue end with what the other Birds of Prey are doing at the same time. It’s a reminder that they are also involved in investigating Blackbird. Having Batgirl and Huntress run into Green Arrow helped build on how Black Canary has taken this investigation on her own. Now adding Green Arrow and Nightwing into the mix there is a bigger even feel to this Blackbird story than if it was just Batgirl and Huntress looking for Black Canary.
Roge Antonio delivered very good looking artwork. Antonio’s ground approach to his artwork helped with delivering on the underground nature of Roulette’s Fight Club and Blackbird’s teachings. There was a shadiness that surrounded everything that was happening in this issue. That extended to all the sequences that had Blackbird’s students showing off their powers. There was something not right about how Blackbird was teaching her students and that aura was executed very well by Antonio’s artwork.
The Bad: The one minor problem with Batgirl and the Birds of Prey #9 is the fact we didn’t see what Batgirl and Huntress were doing during the two weeks Black Canary was missing. Since it was made clear that two weeks had past since Batgirl and Huntress heard from Black Canary it makes you question why they waited so long to search for their teammate. It’s not something that detracts from the issue’s overall story but it does leave you questioning when reading it multiple times.
Overall: Batgirl and the Birds of Prey #9 does an excellent job in building Blackbird as a serious threat the team has to contend with. Tying Black Canary’s evolution to the Birds of Prey newest villain helped amplify the horrible intentions Blackbird had when teach her students to use her powers. Bringing Green Arrow and Nightwing into the fold helps add to the threat level Blackbird presents to the Birds of Prey.