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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Book Review – Birds of Prey vol. 3 (1990s – Chuck Dixon)

  • Title: Birds of Prey vol. 3
  • Author:  Chuck Dixon
  • Artists: Greg Land, Gloria Vasquez, Patricia Mulvihill, Dick Giordano,  Albert T DeGuzman, Patrick Zircher, John Costanza, Butch Guice, Drew Geraci, Jordi Ensign, Jose Marzan Jr.
  • Line: 1990-Era (Early Modern Age)
  • Characters: Oracle (Barbara Gordon), Black Canary (Dinah Lance), Power Girl, Nightwing, Alfred Pennyworth, Robin
  • Collection Date: 2016 (reprint)
  • Collected issues: Birds of Prey #12-21 and Nightwing #45-46 (1999-2000)
  • Publisher: DC Comics
  • Date Reviewed on GoodReads: 3/22/2017

This is the third volume of the collected Classic Birds of Prey written by Chuck Dixon and illustrated by Greg Land and others. First, Black Canary is out to stop the breakout of a number of super-villains from a prisoner transport train. She, the military officers protecting the train, and the villains are transported by Boom Tube to Apokolips. There, with the help of a weaker parademon that isn’t part of the hoard, they must all escape. Barbara meets Ted Kord at a technology conference – and discovers he’s the co-hacker she’s been chatting with on-line for months. Diana tries to help an abused woman in her apartment building but is too late to prevent her from killing her abuser. Barbara interviews the Joker from an unseen position. Finding out the Joker has sold nuclear cruise missiles to a terrorist group, she asks for more information. When she tells Joker he isn’t in Arkham but New York, he tells her the nukes are on missiles that will hit New York. Oracle calls in Powergirl, Black Canary, and even the US Military to stop the attack. Dinah (Black Canary) is sent on a humanitarian mission to Transbelvia to help refugees and victims of ethnic cleansing and war between Krasy-Volnans and Belvans. She helps a group get to a shelter, overall things do not go well. Meanwhile, Jason Bard calls Barbara from the hospital where he’s undergoing an operation to restore his sight. Barbara offers to get him some investigative work.

There is a flashback story of Barbara setting up her Oracle base with the help of Richard Grayson (Nightwing) and Robin. She ends up also having Ted Kord visit her apartment and meeting with Jason Bard as well (who discovers she is in the chair).

The final volumes collected in Volume 3 of Birds of Prey reprint Nightwing and Birds of Prey in order. Nightwing is captured by Blockbuster, but freed by Cisco Blaine, who turns out to be a Federal agent. However, while Nightwing goes to get the files to bring down Blockbuster, Nite-Wing (Tad) the not-that-bright vigilante kills Blaine. Grayson freaks. Meanwhile, Black Canary is being pursued. Alfred and Robin rescue Dick, and they race to rescue Oracle. Meanwhile, Blockbuster has hired Mouse, Giz, Stallion, and Lady Vic, to find and destroy Oracle. Alfred, Robin, Nightwing, and Black Canary rush to help Barbara (Oracle). Barbara survives but Dinah is captured by the bad guys who think she’s Oracle.

Birds of Prey Volume 3 collects Birds of Prey 12-21 and Nightwing #45-46. Note this is NOT the Gail Simone version of Birds of Prey – it’s the original Chuck Dixon version.

Book Review – Birds of Prey vol. 2 (1990s – Chuck Dixon)

  • Title: Birds of Prey vol. 2
  • Author:  Chuck Dixon
  • Artists: Greg Land, Gloria Vasquez, James Sinclair, Dick Giordano,  Albert T DeGuzman, Pete Krause, Nelson DeCastro, Tim Harkins, Drew Geraci, Mark Propst
  • Line: 1990-Era (Early Modern Age)
  • Characters: Oracle (Barbara Gordon), Black Canary (Dinah Lance), Ravens
  • Collection Date: 2016 (reprint)
  • Collected issues: Birds of Prey 1 – 11 and Birds of Prey Ravens 1 (1999)
  • Publisher: DC Comics
  • Date Reviewed on GoodReads: 4/18/2016

Goodreads has this book mis-identified, though I can see the confusion. The cover shown is for the Chuck Dixon, Greg Land, Drew Geraci DC Comics Brids of Prey Volume 2 graphic novel published (or rather re-published) copyright 2016. Gail Simone is author of the current New 52 Birds of Prey run. This is a reprint of the 1999 series, and features: Birds of Prey 1 – 11 and Birds of Prey Ravens 1. So either the wrong cover is assigned (I looked at the other Birds of Prey book listed in Goodreads and it has the wrong cover and only lists Birds of Prey 1 -2 for content.)

Birds of Prey are the female heroes and sometimes chaotic good characters (such as Catwoman or Huntress) of the DC Universe. This book also introduces the Ravens a group of female assassin characters. Volume 2 of DC’s collected reprint of the 1990s run of Birds of Prey focuses on Black Canary and Oracle. In the first story, Oracle sends Black Canary to Rheelasia on a rescue mission. It’s a set-up, but in the midst of the chaos, Black Canary does manage to rescue Jason Bard – Oracle’s former fiancé and a PI sent to rescue the rich and privileged hostages a villain named Pajamas has kidnapped. Although Jason is injured, they manage to rescue the hostages and shut down Pajamas operation.

The next story is a Ravens story and introduces the Ravens: Cheshire, Vicious, Termina, and Pistolera, assassins all – who are on a mission to prevent the terrorist organization S.I.M.O.N. from exploding a neutron generator – which produces a continuous stream of deadly radiation over a controlled area. The Ravens are betrayed by Termina who thinks the radiation from the generator will reverse her illness that makes her deadly to everyone around her. The other three Ravens escape.

In the next story, Black Canary heads to the Minnesota lakes country – only to run into the Ravens again as well as an honest-to-goodness lake monster, and Kobra (an international criminal syndicate) – throw in a little time travel and Canary’s vacation becomes a Busman’s Holiday. However, the story is fun, light, and very, very enjoyable. I loved it.

There is also a short story of Barbara Gordon (the real identity of Oracle) and Dick Grayson (Nightwing) going out on a date to Haly’s Circus. It’s a wonderful and sweet story.

Getting back to the Birds of Prey, Black Canary also is sent on an humanitarian rescue mission, only to discover the man she was sent to rescue is the stereotypical “mad scientist” and his experiment is a super-powered clone of Guy Gardner (one time Green Lantern). Evil Guy Gardner clone nearly kills Canary but he is stopped by a big and pleasant surprise!

Birds of Prey is an awesome series – and this graphic novel I found to be even more enjoyable than volume 1 because it focused on Oracle and Black Canary. The guest-starring Ravens were introduced with enough detail to make them understandable as characters – and to make this reader sympathetic to them, even with their rather shady profession. Still, assassins who kill the lowest of the low / scum of the earth types although considered evil or at the very least chaotic good in the DC Universe (where killing people is always bad no excuses) seem to have their place at least in Birds of Prey. It’s also wonderful to see a whole series devoted to the female heroes and characters of the DC Universe.

I recommend this graphic novel and the series.

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.