Birds of Prey The Complete Series Review

  • Series Title: Birds of Prey
  • Season: 1
  • Episodes: 13
  • Discs: 4
  • Network:  WB (Warner Brothers)
  • Cast: Ashley Scott, Dina Meyer, Rachel Skarsten, Shemar Moore, Ian Abercrombie, Mia Sara
  • DVD: R1, NTSC DVD

The WB’s Birds of Prey is loosely based on DC Comics various Birds of Prey comic book series. The series features three female superheroes: Oracle, Huntress, and Dinah, the teenaged daughter of Black Canary. Oracle is Barbara Gordon who was once Batgirl until she’s shot by the Joker and paralyzed (an event that is shown in the title sequence of every episode of this series). Barbara is a school teacher in this version of Birds of Prey, not a librarian and information specialist. Although she is an expert in computers, technology and information gathering (or as Alfred puts it in the introduction, “Master of the Cyberrealms”). She’s also dating Wade, another teacher from her high school. Huntress, Helena Kyle, is the daughter of Batman and Selina Kyle (Catwoman). In this version of the story, Selina gave up her life as a cat burglar when her daughter was born, but also raised her alone. Helena doesn’t even find out Batman is her father until after her mother is killed. Helena was young at the time of her mother’s murder, probably around eight to eleven (her exact age isn’t stated). Helena is also a metahuman. The intro on each episode describes her as “half-metahuman”, which doesn’t make sense – she has metahuman abilities so she is a metahuman, but I think they are using that term so the audience knows only one of her parents was a metahuman. Dinah runs away from her abusive foster family and finds the Birds of Prey. She has psychic powers including prophetic dreams and telekinesis, etc. As she’s young, she’s still learning her powers and Barbara and Helena take her in to train her. Alfred Pennyworth watches over the heroes, especially Barbara. Helena also meets the “one good cop” in the city, Reese, and they become uneasy partners, then friends, and finally somewhat romantically involved. The story takes place in New Gotham after Gotham City’s been destroyed in a disaster and Batman has disappeared.

All three women in Birds of Prey are awesome heroes and great fighters, yes, even Barbara. Helena’s fight scenes are always well-choreographed. Dinah is learning about her powers and how to be a hero and her abilities and confidence grow during the short series. Oracle is usually the voice in Helena’s ear, but she has the ability to take care of herself as needed. She’s given an arc with the development of her relationship with her boyfriend, Wade. Dinah’s mother, Black Canary comes back for one episode but is then killed. Mia Sara is Dr. Harleen Quinzel, who happens to be Helena’s court-ordered therapist, and a criminal psychopath trying to take over New Gotham – something of which the Birds of Prey are completely unaware.

The pilot introduces the characters, New Gotham, and the set-up for the series like any pilot. Individual episodes usually have a crime committed in Gotham that Reese is assigned to investigate. Helena works with Reese. The criminal usually turns out to be a Meta, so Dinah and Oracle help. The Birds and Reese eventually capture or stop the Meta. Often “stop” means the meta is killed, often by their own actions. There’s also a hidden Meta Bar at a place called No Man’s Land Collectables, with a bartender named Gibson who has the meta ability to remember every single thing he’s ever done, experienced, tasted, or seen, which is more of a curse than an ability. The “Meta crime happens, Reese and the Birds investigate, the Meta is stopped” formula is livened up by the continuing storylines for each of the Birds: Barbara’s relationship with Wade, Helena’s relationship with Reese, and Dinah’s coming to terms with her powers and later, losing her mother. There’s also some great fight scenes and the Metas that the Birds and Reese take on are interesting. There’s also the storyline of Helena opening up to her therapist, who happens to be Harley Quinn – opps.

In the final two-parter, first, the Birds go up against Clayface and a meta who turns out to be his son. Helena finds out it was Clayface who murdered her mother. Since Clayface is already in solitary confinement at Arkham, there isn’t anything more she can do. But she opens up to Dr. Quinzel, and this both sets up the final episode and causes lots of problems. In the final episode, Dr. Quinzel gets a scientist to develop a machine that transfers metahuman powers. Harley steals the power to deeply hypnotize people. She hypnotizes the scientist to jump out the window and the meta whose powers she took doesn’t survive the process. She’s learned from Helena about Barbara and Wade then hypnotizes Helena to do her bidding. She also kidnaps Gibson. Reese is called the investigate the double death of the scientist and the meta. There’s a disturbance at the metahuman bar, which the Birds investigate. Helena, under Harley’s influence, gives her information on the clock tower base and even Alfred ends up hypnotized. Harley kills Wade and brags about it to Oracle. She uses the tech in the clock tower to send a hypnotic signal to all the televisions in New Gotham and the city breaks out in rioting and craziness. However, Barbara comes up with a cure to the hypnotism and gets Helena back, and then develops polarized contacts to block Harley’s powers. Oracle, Huntress, Dinah, and Reese, with some help from a cured Alfred, are able to stop Harley and reverse her takeover of New Gotham’s televisions (and thus the city’s people). Harley is sent to Arkham. Alfred makes a phone call at the very end of the episode that’s really cool, which I won’t spoil, but if the show had a second season it could have led to something very interesting.

I enjoyed this show, though as this was my second watch through I noticed some of the show’s faults. Other than the pilot and the final episode, the general formula is there’s a crime, it’s a meta, the Birds have to figure it out, the Birds have to convince Reese it’s a Meta, and then they come up with a plan to catch the Meta. The continuing story and character development for two of the three main characters have them in a romance. But I actually enjoyed the story between Reese and Helena. And the story between Barbara and Wade didn’t shy away from her disability – especially in showing how against their relationship Wade’s parents were. It was a shame to see Wade fridged though. Overall, I like Birds of Prey and I can recommend it. This series dates from 2002 and aired on the WB Network which no longer exists. The DVDs also include Gotham Girls, a series of short animated adventures of Harley Quinn, Catwoman, Poison Ivy, and Batgirl.

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Favorite Female DC Heroes

The Mary Sue website recently published a list of The Ten Most Powerful Female Villains of the DC universe, then challenged readers to list their favorite female DC heroes. So here we go.

1 – Birds of Prey

The Birds of Prey are not a single hero, but a group. Specifically, they are a team of female superheroes. First created by Chuck Dixon in the 1990s. The original group included Oracle (Barbara Gordon who also gets a place on this list herself), Black Canary (yes, she also gets her own listing), Huntress, and others. The team was rebooted in the New 52 and again in Rebirth. The membership of the team tends to rotate, but Barbara Gordon, Dinah Lance, and Helena are usually members. The series has been written and drawn by women as well.

2 – Zatanna

Originally a “joke” character who appeared in Justice League International and cast spells by speaking backward, Zatanna has emerged as one of the most powerful magic users in the entire DC Universe. At one point in New 52 – John Constantine describes her as the most powerful magician on Earth because she can bend reality itself. This after John discovers she cast a spell on him to make him a better person. Zatanna has been a member of the Justice League and Justice League Dark. She’s also one of the main characters in the animated series Young Justice and a supporting character in Justice League Unlimited. Zatanna is also one of the main characters in the recent mini-series Mystic U.

3 – Barbara Gordon (Oracle, Batgirl)

My favorite version of Barbara is Oracle. After she was shot by the Joker in Alan Moore’s famous The Killing Joke, Barbara doesn’t curl up and die. She doesn’t become bitter and decide to be a villain. Barbara goes through intense physical therapy, learns to use a wheelchair, returns to grad school and gets her MLS – Master’s of Library Science, and gets a job at the Gotham City Library. All of that would make her an admirable character, and representative of a very under-represented group: those with physical disabilities. It is not easy to get a master’s degree. It is not easy to get a good job when one has physical disabilities – discrimination is alive and well. But for Barbara, this isn’t enough, she uses her computer skills and becomes Oracle – running the Birds of Prey single-handedly (for much of Birds of Prey the other Birds don’t even know who the “voice in their ear” is), she also became knowledge gatherer for Batman and his allies, especially Nightwing. Barbara is strong and admirable for all that. New 52 retconned her back to Batgirl, and personally, I felt that was a step back for the character. There are plenty of tough female superheroes, how many superheroes in a wheelchair can you name? Rebirth has Barbara as Batgirl, but back in charge of the Birds of Prey, and keeps her computer skills, so that’s something.

4 – Black Canary

Black Canary is more than the girlfriend/wife/ex-wife of Green Arrow. She has been a member of the Justice Society of America (back in the 1940s), then Justice League International, Justice League, and the Birds of Prey. Her main power is her Sonic Cry, which is strong enough to kill someone. She also is a gifted martial artist, and at times has lived in the dojo where she teaches self-defense to at-risk women. Dinah is strong in more ways than one, and she remains one of my favorite characters.

5 – Jessica Cruz, Green Lantern

Jessica Cruz is one of the newest female DC heroes on this list, as she was introduced in the Rebirth book, Green Lanterns, with her partner, Simon Baz (a Muslim man). Jessica is Latina and suffered such severe acrophobia that she didn’t leave her apartment for two years. This is the woman who gets a power ring for overcoming great fear. Although Jessica is at first unsure of herself, she grows and becomes the hero her ring knows she can be. She and her partner, Simon, have a great relationship that is entirely platonic, a refreshing change for a story essentially about two cops. Jessica also is, by default, a member of the Green Lantern Corps and the Justice League, meaning she also goes on missions in space, and world-saving missions, as well as her “normal” work as Earth’s Green Lantern.

6 – Batwoman

Kate Kane is Bruce Wayne’s cousin, a lesbian, and a kick-ass superhero. Raised in a military family, when she was young and the family abroad, she, her sister and their mother, were kidnapped. Her mother and sister were killed, and Kate was raised by her father. As a young adult, she enrolls in West Point – and is kicked out when it’s discovered she’s a lesbian. She goes wild for a year but then returns to Gotham as Batwoman. For much of Rebirth, Kate has been the leader of the Batfamily in Detective Comics, but after a few serious arguments with Bruce (lets just say Kate is more pragmatic than Bruce, and she doesn’t feel as strongly about his “no kill” rule as he does), she’s currently on her own. Kate is a strong fighter, has the intelligence common in Batfamily members, has military contacts through her father, and has her mother’s money. She’s basically Batman but a woman, which makes her awesome.

7 – Huntress

There are two versions of Huntress, and I really like them both. The Earth 2 version is the daughter of Batman and Catwoman. (Bruce and Selina both grow older, retire from their respective “night ” jobs, and then marry.) The newer version is the daughter of a mob boss, who gets disgusted by her family’s violence, especially after her boyfriend is killed. She seeks revenge by killing mobsters. Bruce decides to bring her into the fold and gets her to agree to non-lethal ways of curbing the mob in Gotham. Both versions of Huntress have the first name, Helena, with the Earth 2 version being Helena Wayne and the modern version Helena Bertinelli. Helena is usually in a purple costume (sometimes black), and has strong fighting abilities, intelligence, and loyalty. As mentioned above, she’s frequently a member of the Birds of Prey.

8 – Fire and 9 – Ice

Fire was a Brazilian woman who had green fire powers. Ice was a Nordic Ice goddess. Both were characters in Justice League International. Both really need to be brought back!

10 – Wonder Woman

What new can one say about Wonder Woman? Diana is an Amazon princess, originally she brought American airman Steve Trevor back to America during World War II (which was contemporary with the times of her comic which was first published in 1940), where she stayed to fight Nazis, evil, and supervillains. She has the strength of Superman and the intelligence of Batman. Diana is part of DC’s Trinity of superheroes (the other’s being Superman and Batman) and is a member of the Justice League.

Book Review – Birds of Prey vol. 1 (1990s – Chuck Dixon)

  • Title: Birds of Prey vol. 1
  • Author:  Chuck Dixon, Sherilyn van Valkenburgh, Jordan B. Gorfinkel, Dave Grafe, Gloria Vasquez
  • Artists: Jordan B. Gorfinkel, Gary Frank, Stefano Raffaele, Matt Haley, Jennifer Graves, Sal Buscema, Dick Giordano, Greg Land, Albert T DeGuzman, Phil Felix, John Dell, Stan Woch, Wade von Grawbadger, John Lowe, Cam Smith, Bob McLeod, Wayne Faucher, Drew Geraci
  • Line: 1990-Era (Early Modern Age)
  • Characters: Oracle (Barbara Gordon), Black Canary (Dinah Lance), Huntress (Helena Bertinelli), Catwoman (Selina Kyle)
  • Collection Date: 2015 (reprint)
  • Collected issues: Black Canary/Oracle Birds of Prey 1, Showcase ’96 3, Birds of Prey: Manhunt 1-4, Birds of Prey: Revolution 1, Birds of Prey: Wolves 1, Birds of Prey: Batgirl 1 (1995, 1996, 1997, 1998)
  • Publisher: DC Comics
  • Date Reviewed on GoodReads: 11/24/2015

Birds of Prey is DC Comics all-female superhero team. The team is lead not by a male hero nor a male mentor, but by a woman: Barbara Gordon who was once Batgirl but after the events of Alan Moore’s The Killing Joke is now Oracle. Oracle is one of my favorite DC characters – after being paralyzed by gunshot – she returns to college, gets her MLS and becomes a librarian. However, not only does she remain independent with an excellent job, she’s also Oracle – the information hub for all the DC heroes especially Batman and Nightwing – and she runs her own organization of female heroes.

Birds of Prey Volume 1 is a reprint of several early Birds of Prey comics from the mid to late 1990s, written by Chuck Dixon. I hope DC reprints the entire run, because this volume gathers a number of specials, the stories are slightly disjointed. A few characters reappear, but really each issue within this volume could be read as a stand alone.

Other characters featured in the volume include: Black Canary (who’s awesome, has a much better new costume, and has dumped Oliver Queen), Catwoman (Oracle warns against working with her – Canary and Huntress do anyway), and Huntress. Featured villains include Lady Shiva, Mad Hatter, Spellbinder (who’s female) and corporate hack Nick Devine.

I enjoyed this volume very much, but it does have a strong, “Good start, where’s the rest?” feel to it. I would very much like to see more.

Birds of Prey – from Batman: The Brave and the Bold

This vid is a little different from the music videos I normally post on my blog.  Normally, I concentrate on videos that show the remarkable creativity of fans and today’s young people.  When I find something that I really like, that is positive, I pass it along for others to enjoy.

This vid is actually a clip from the Warner Brothers animated series, Batman:  The Brave and the Bold, which is one of the few Batman animated shows that I haven’t seen in it’s entirety nor do I own it on DVD.  I’ve seen a few episodes here and there, but not the entire series.  However, a friend clued me in to this musical scene, and since I love it – I thought I’d share.  Enjoy!

Copyright is of course to Warner Brothers, Warner Brothers animation, and Bob Kane.  I’m not making any profit from this, and copyright law now allows for the use of short clips for educational purposes.

If you are wondering who the Birds of Prey are, Birds of Prey was a comic book published by DC Comics, which featured several female DC heroes.  There also was a short-lived, live action series called Birds of Prey, which I have seen and really enjoyed.  The live action version featured Barbara Gordon, once Batgirl, now a paralyzed librarian by day and Oracle by night – the information source for the entire DC universe of heroes; Dinah Lance, aka Black Canary, the hero originally from the book Green Arrow who had the superpower of a sonic scream; and Huntress the daughter of Selina Kyle (Catwoman) and Bruce Wayne (Batman).