Birds of Prey:
& Catwoman/Oracle

by John F. Moore, Darick
Robertson, David Ross
(DC Comics, 2003)

The characters of Barbara Gordon and Selina Kyle have changed dramatically over their many years of comics stardom. To see how sharply they have changed, you could cherrypick a few books from a few different decades and compare them. Or, you could buy this slim, Birds of Prey two-shot, both written by John Francis Moore.

In the first slim volume, Barbara is still relatively inexperienced as the masked heroine, Batgirl -- although she has, against all odds, earned tentative approval from Batman to patrol in Gotham. Selina, on the other hand, already has a few years of experience under her belt as the glamorous sneak-thief Catwoman, and her successes have made her cocky -- and with good cause.

Batgirl is on the trail of a killer of young girls. Catwoman is attempting to steal valuable black-market art when she runs afoul of the same killer -- and is unable to watch the new victim die. Inevitably, their paths cross, and Batgirl is of course outraged by the cat burglar's arrogant confidence and disdain for the law, but as usually happens, they decide cooperation is the key to catching the bad guy. And Batgirl realizes, to her dismay, that there are things she can learn from Catwoman, too.

In the second book, equally slim, five years have passed and Selina has, if not turned entirely legit, at least risen above her most basic larcenous instincts. Barbara, however, has been crippled by a villain's bullet and now, from her wheelchair, serves as Oracle, the DC Universe's top supplier of information.

Their paths cross again when a Catwoman look-alike is blamed for several brutal assaults in Gotham -- and the real attacker is linked to that five-year-old case. Now, while Catwoman has the mobility that Oracle lacks, it's Barbara who's calling the shots as she traces clues and unravels the mystery from afar.

Both stories are excellent, if short, reads, and Moore shows a deft hand at characterizing both women in their early and later careers. The artwork, split between Darick Robertson and David Ross, is clean, sharp and moody. I could easily have enjoyed this story at twice the length, and I'd urge this team to follow it up with something new -- but in a similar vein -- soon.

by Tom Knapp
29 April 2006