Birds of Prey

Distributed By: DC Comics

Reviewed by Melissa Minners


               When Birds of Prey was originally released by DC Comics in 1996, it was a one shot deal – a successful one shot deal, which was followed by some mini-series and eventually became successful enough to receive full-fledged comic book status in 1999.  The characters and storyline of Birds of Prey were so popular in fact, that they inspired a television series, loosely based on the comic book series. 

            What makes the Birds of Prey so intriguing?  Could it be the title?  Most titles in the DC Comics listing are fairly to the point: Batman, Aquaman, Wonder Woman, The Justice League.  They are names of characters or organizations.  Birds of Prey is an organization of sorts, though they’re never really called the Birds of Prey in any way, shape or form throughout the series.  However, the concept is interesting.  Birds of prey in a traditional sense are hunters, such as the eagle, who spot their prey from afar and swoop down upon the prey with a speed and grace that never ceases to amaze onlookers.  Seen in this light, the title of the comic book series makes perfect sense.

            Perhaps, what draws readers to the comic and keeps them coming back for more are the characters.  The main heroes of the Birds of Prey are strong females who have all faced major adversities in their lives, yet refuse to give up.  Rather than wallow in self-pity and doubt, the heroes face the challenges of thwarting villainous characters all over the world - a thankless job at best. 

            Barbara Gordon lived a dual life – librarian by day, Batgirl by night.  Souring from rooftop to rooftop, Batgirl brought endless criminals to justice in the city of Gotham.  But a bullet fired by the Joker, a super-criminal with a particularly vicious streak, forced Barbara to look at the world in a new light.  Paralyzed from the waist down, Barbara Gordon was confined to a wheelchair.  Realizing that she was not ready to give up the life of crime-fighting, Barbara used her vast knowledge of the computer world to invent a new identity – that of the all-seeing, all-knowing Oracle.  As Oracle, Barbara Gordon now assists other crime fighters, supplying them with hard to find information regarding criminals, tipping them off to crimes discovered via cyberspace that would otherwise go unnoticed, and solving mysteries all while seated behind a network of advanced supercomputers.  From her headquarters, Barbara Gordon can access satellites, government sites, security cameras, and more all in the name of fighting crime.

            Dinah Lance was once a member of the Justice League of America, fighting crime alongside such superheroes as Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman, Green Lantern and more.  Known as the Black Canary, Dinah used her expertise in martial arts, combined with her superhero ability – a sonic scream known as the Canary Cry – to take down many members of the criminal underworld.  Yearning for a more normal existence, she and longtime lover Oliver Queen (AKA: Green Arrow) decided to settle down in Seattle.  They opened a flower shop, called the Sherwood Forest and prepared for a life more ordinary.  However, Dinah and Oliver had not completely been weaned of their need to fight crime.  They soon found themselves taking on and investigating cases when not working at the shop.  During one such investigation, the Black Canary was captured, raped and tortured by drug overlords.  As a direct result, Black Canary lost her ability to have children.  Lost to her as well was the Canary Cry.  The incident put a tremendous strain on Dinah’s and Oliver’s relationship and they soon went their separate ways.  Unable to return to her life as a florist – Sherwood Forest had been burned to the ground – Dinah was devastated.  Her life was a shambles.  Returning to what she knows best, Dinah resumes the role of the Black Canary, but her crime fighting lacks direction.  Enter Oracle.  Together, they become the crime fighting team known as the Birds of Prey.

            Helena Bertinelli was born into one of Gotham’s most prominent mafia families.  After surviving the assassination of her entire family, Helena made a vow to wage war on the criminal underworld.  Training in unarmed combat and the use of weapons, Bertinelli returned to Gotham as the Huntress – school teacher by day, vigilante by night.  Her methods were often scorned by Batman, who refused to let her into “the family” – his tight-knit network of crime fighters.  After finding herself embroiled in a case that the Black Canary and Oracle were already working, Huntress found acceptance and friendship.  Though the friendship was not always easy-going - Oracle doesn’t always approve of Huntress’ methods and Huntress has often accused Oracle of being manipulative - Huntress is soon made a member of the Birds of Prey.

         Over the years, DC Comics has found enough of a fan base to release numerous Birds of Prey trade paperbacks which contain compilations of the series, as well as some of the one shots and mini-series.   Let the links guide you:

Birds of Prey
Black Canary / Oracle: Birds of Prey
Birds of Prey: Old Friends, New Enemies
Birds of Prey: Of Like Minds
Birds of Prey: Sensei & Student
Birds of Prey: Batgirl / Catwoman & Catwoman / Oracle
Birds of Prey: Between Dark & Dawn



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