I've waited months to see the Birds of Prey cut loose, and that's what they do in the conclusion to The Death of Oracle. Out in the open, away from his keyboard, the Calculator is easy prey for field agents Huntress, Hawk, Dove, Lady Blackhawk and, especially, Black Canary. Dinah lets go with the sonic scream, a weapon which can take down even the mighty Mammoth.
Calculator is allowed to escape, believing that he's killed Oracle, information broker to the superhero community. Back at base, the very-much-alive (if not kicking) Barbara Gordon lays out her new MO to the Batman Family - Batmans I and II, Batgirl, Red Robin and Rob ... Misfit.
Who knows why she's with the inner circle, but she has a funny moment with Batgirl - I'm just glad to have the well-meaning wannabe heroine back.
And Babs' new MO? Not to help every superhero who asks for information. 'Oracle was more effective when she was in the shadows. I can't be these people's internet cafe and stay in the dark.'
'These people'? We're not talking folk asking Yahoo Groups for a doughnut recipe, they're superheroes in life and death situations. Noble souls whom she's encouraged to avail themselves of her services. I like the idea that if criminals think Oracle is no more, they won't see her coming, but Oracle has done so much good over the years that it's weird to see Babs remove herself from the frontline.
And won't the news that Oracle is still around get out soon enough, given that she's keeping a line open for the Batman Family? (Which, while including chatty little Misfit, is keeping Cassandra Cain out of the loop - apparently 'Cassandra's got enough to deal with right now'. Anybody?)
I'll just have to wait and see how this works out - writer Gail Simone is going somewhere with this, she has the talent to make it work. I just worry for the out-in-the-cold heroes. Oh, the superhumanity!
Simone's script is really rather excellent, with the narrative spotlight on Huntress, the wiliest of the Birds. Hawk and Dove are still a tad undersold, but if Dove, especially, were allowed to be the heavy hitter she is, this 'street-level' book would be unbalanced. I'm still hoping for a Hawk and Dove 'solo' book once the Brightest Day is finally over, and a departure from this comic.
Inaki Miranda offers dynamic layouts and first-class kineticism, drawing with a pleasing economy of line. This approach doesn't work so well with one or two characters, such as Hawk and the electricity-hurling chap, whose costumes are designed with little detail, but Nei Ruffino adds weight and modelling with her considered colours. Steve Wands letters well, as ever - there's not much more to say, comics calligraphy being one of those crafts you usually notice only when done badly. And one thing Steve Wands can't spell is 'sub-par'.
The cover, from Stanley 'Artgerm' Lau is simply gorgeous - that's the one that'll make the trade, kids.
And finally, the return of the BoP lettercol after years in limbo, complete with snazzy masthead (designer, make yourself known - Mr Wands?). Thank you, DC!